Defense attorneys for Jeremy Macauley, accused in the 2015 shooting deaths of Tavernier couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz, say their client is innocent based largely on the supposed sale of the murder weapon a month prior to the slayings.
But testimony Monday from two witnesses place doubt that sale ever happened.
Macauley’s lawyer Ed O’Donnell, Sr. argues the real killers are twin brothers Adrian and Kristian Demblans, 36, who are known Upper Keys drug dealers and convicted felons.
O’Donnell said on day-one of the trial last week that Macauley, 34, sold Adrian Demblans the Colt 1911 .45 caliber pistol that Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime technicians matched up with shell casings lying next to the bodies of Rosado, 26, and Ortiz, 30, inside Rosado’s Cuba Road house on Oct. 16, 2015, the day after they were killed.
But charter boat captain Christopher Scott, whose vessel is docked at the same Whale Harbor Marina where Macauley worked as a first mate aboard the Sea Horse charter boat, testified Monday that Macauley still had the weapon in early October 2015. Scott knows because Macauley asked him if he or anyone he knew would be interested in buying the gun.
Scott, who owns several firearms, declined because he said had just bought another handgun that September.
“I had just spent a bunch of money on a gun,” Scott said. “I’m not that crazy about them.”
But he sent a photo of the pistol to his boss, the owner of Dog House Charters, via text. His boss was interested in the World War II-era firearm, but declined to buy it after he noticed the pistol grip had been changed, Scott said.
Scott was reminded of the gun after reading about Macauley’s and Adrian Demblans’ arrest in March 2016 and that the murder weapon was a Colt .45 1911 like Macauley wanted to sell.
Likewise, testimony given by Allan Snapp and texts containing photos of the gun from his phone shown in court Monday indicate Macauley still had it as of Sept. 27, 2015, 18 days before the murders. The men knew each other from a local boat yard. Macauley sent Snapp a photo of the Colt asking if he wanted to buy it or trade another gun for it — or if he knew someone else interested in the weapon.
Macauley also sent Snapp a photo of a Glock .380 with the message, “Just got this one the other day.”
Snapp’s father had some interest in the weapon, but ultimately turned down the offer.
Snapp said he saw Macauley in the boat yard a few days after the murders and he asked him about the gun — not suspecting Macauley and/or his gun may have been involved in the deaths of Rosado and Ortiz. Macauley said he ended up finding a buyer, according to Snapp.
Like Scott, Snapp became concerned about the gun after reading in the news a few months later that a Colt 1911 was used to shoot Rosado and Ortiz.
“I read it in the paper and I saw it was a Colt 1911,” Snapp said.
Adrian Demblans was charged with accessory after the fact of a capital felony. He’s accused of driving Macauley to and from the the scene of the crime. In April of this year, he agreed to plead guilty, and Monroe Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, the same judge presiding over Macauley’s trial, sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
He was looking at 30 if he fought the case in front of a jury. In exchange for the lighter time, Demblans agreed to testify in open court that Macauley shot Rosado and Ortiz each once in the head because Ortiz sent a wave of texts threatening to turn Macauley and others into the police for dealing cocaine — a large amount police say Macauley found floating offshore the summer before the murders while he worked on the Sea Horse.
Ortiz was one of at least two people Macauley enlisted to help break down the drugs and sell it by the ounce to increase profits. But Ortiz soon began demanding more money, claiming he was already a paid snitch for the police with a “handler” that could be brought down on Macauley and his boss, Sea Horse captain Rick Rodriguez, at any moment.
Texts shown in court show Macauley agreed to meet Ortiz at Rosado’s house with some money. One text Macauley sent included a photo of a stack of cash with a $100 bill on top. He said it was half the money the two invested in a fledgling tattoo and smoke shop together. After 10:30 p.m. that night, all activity from Ortiz’s phone ceased. Detectives say that’s when he and Rosado were killed.
Rosado’s three young children were in the house that night, now retired Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Detective Vince Weiner testified Monday.
They were found by next-door neighbor Travis Kvadus the following afternoon physically unharmed. But Weiner said there was evidence the children witnessed the aftermath of their mother’s death, and one of them drew a crayon sketch depicting a gravestone with the words “Mom and Carlos” written on it.
Demblans said last week that he stayed in the Toyota RAV4 he drove to Rosado’s house while Macauley went inside to talk to Ortiz. Demblans said he was legitimately under the impression Macauley was going to give Ortiz at least $1,600 hoping it would stop his blackmail efforts.
But shortly after Macauley entered the house, Demblans said he heard “two distinct shots.” He went inside and saw the couple’s dead bodies. Macauley grabbed an iPhone from Ortiz’s shorts pocket, wanting to get rid of it because it likely contained the threatening texts he sent Macauley, which would show detectives and prosecutors Macauley had motive for wanting Ortiz dead.
Macauley wanted Demblans to help him look for more phones that could contain texts about the threats, but Demblans testified that he told Macauley that they needed to leave the house immediately.
Demblans said he drove Macauley away from the crime scene and traveled down Ocean Bay Drive off mile marker 100 in Key Largo and slowed his vehicle while going over a small bridge so Macauley could throw the gun into the water.
Demblans then turned the car around, heading west on Ocean Bay Drive, slowed down on the bridge again, this time so Macauley could throw Ortiz’s cell phone into the water. The phone bounced off the bridge’s railing and landed on the sidewalk. Macauley had to get out of the car and toss the phone into the canal.
In the end, Macauley was right to suspect he grabbed the wrong phone. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office divers found the Apple iPhone 5 from Ortiz’s pocket near where a snorkeler found the pistol in November 2015, but police and federal agents with the U.S. Secret Service weren’t able to activate the waterlogged smartphone.
The damning text messages, it turned out, were on the Asus Zenfone lying on the couple’s bed, in plain sight.
Also Monday, Suhai Montenegro, one of the two women living at Adrian Demblans’ Atlantic Avenue house back then, testified that the RAV4 was her car. As well as being Demblans’ temporary roommate, she also bought drugs from him. She did not want to let Demblans use the car, but she relented after he agreed to give her around $100 worth of crack at no cost.
Early into the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the murders, Montenegro picked Macauley’s photo out of a page of six mug shots shown to her by detectives as being Demblans’ passenger in her Toyota. Asked by Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes how she was so sure, Montenegro said Macauley stood out to her that night.
“I though he was cute, so I noticed him,” she said.
O’Donnell insinuated she actually saw Kristian Demblans get into the car with Adrian, not Macauley. But she insisted it was Macauley riding shotgun.
“Kristian was not in the car,” she said.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204