The state is expected to rest its first-degree murder and armed robbery case against Jeremy Macauley by Tuesday, and then his defense attorneys will call witnesses to back up their argument that Macauley’s innocent and twin brothers Adrian and Kristian Demblans are the real killers of Tavernier couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz.
The first three days of testimony revealed a reality of the Upper Keys that lies beneath the surface of images of palm trees, snorkeling, fishing and sun-soaked laid-back leisure.
Co-existing with all that is a world occupied by drug dealers and their junkie clients who go by nicknames like “Twin,” “Los,” “Country” and “Fatboy Jeremy,” and who christen their charter fishing vessels with names like the Reel G, and who do time with people like “Bama.”
It’s a ruthless scene that prosecutors say resulted in an aggressive extortion attempt over a cocaine-dealing operation in the fall of 2015 and ended up with Rosado and Ortiz shot to death, both dying from bullets to their heads.
Rosado, who was 26, left behind three young children and a grieving older sister, mother and father. Prosecutors say she was killed simply for being in the same house with her boyfriend, Ortiz, 30, who was trying to blackmail Macauley into giving him money and drugs.
According to a series of threatening texts sent by Ortiz to Macauley in the days leading up to the shooting, Ortiz told Macauley to give in to his demands or be turned in to the police for dealing cocaine — up to 15 kilos detectives say Macauley found offshore while working as a charter fishing boat mate the summer before the murders.
Adrian Demblans, 36, charged with accessory after the fact of a capital felony in March 2016, pleaded guilty in April this year and agreed to testify against Macauley in court, which he did Thursday. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, who’s presiding over Macauley’s trial, sentenced him to 10 years in prison. He faced 30 if he took his chances with a jury trial.
According to the state’s case, Macauley, 34, enlisted the help of Demblans, a Key Largo man named Enos Mitchell and Ortiz to break the coke down and sell it by the ounce. Mitchell testified on Day 2 of the trial that he did indeed sell some of the cocaine for Macauley. Each of the crew was banking about $600 from every ounce they sold while kicking $800 to Macauley. But Ortiz, who was also Macauley’s business partner in a fledgling tattoo and smoke shop, wanted more and ratcheted up his extortion attempts as the days went by.
He made it seem in the texts that he was already a confidential informant cooperating with law enforcement and could turn the whole crew in to the police, including Macauley’s boss, Rick Rodriguez, captain of the Sea Horse charter boat. Although prosecutors say the drugs were brought to shore on Rodriguez’s boat, he’s not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the cocaine.
Starting Oct. 14, 2015, Ortiz sent text after text to Macauley demanding thousands of dollars or up to a kilo of the cocaine. Finally, around 9:20 p.m. Oct. 15, 2016, Macauley responded to Ortiz that he was willing to give him $6,800, which was half of what the two had invested in the tattoo shop. According to messages shown in court, he texted Ortiz a photo of a stack of cash with a $100 bill on top. In a subsequent text, Macauley asks where Ortiz wanted to meet. Ortiz responds, “My house.”
After 10:30 p.m. that night, all communication from Ortiz’s phone ceased. Prosecutors and detectives say that’s around the time Ortiz and Rosado were slain — each shot once in the head.
Demblans testified Thursday that Macauley called him the night of the murders and asked him to pick him up at his house on Norwood Avenue off mile marker 106, where he lived with his wife and children. There, Macauley showed Demblans the texts from Ortiz.
“He asked me to give him a ride,” Demblans told Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts. Demblans said Macauley actually only had $1,600 on him, but he honestly thought the purpose of the trip to see Ortiz was to give him the money hoping he would drop the extortion attempts.
However, Demblans also said before the men left, Macauley loaded his Colt 45-caliber pistol. Demblans, a convicted drug dealer, said the sight of Macauley with a firearm didn’t concern him because he also typically carried a weapon, especially when doing business.
According to Demblans, before going to Ortiz’s Cuba Road in Tavernier, they stopped by Demblans’ home on Atlantic Avenue off mile marker 100. He said he didn’t want to take his pickup truck to Cuba Road, off mile marker 92, because it had recently begun to overheat.
But Macauley’s attorney, Ed O’Donnell Sr., argued the reason for Demblans not wanting to drive his truck had nothing to do with its condition.
“If that truck was seen driving away from these two brutal murders, it would come right back to you,” he said.
Demblans had two women living at his house back then, both junkies, he said, and wanted to borrow one of their cars — a Toyota RAV 4. The woman didn’t want to lend him the car at first, so he had to negotiate with her. She relented when he gave her about $100 worth of crack cocaine.
“I bribed her with drugs and she accepted,” Demblans said.
The two men headed south on U.S. 1 and turned left onto Burton Drive, east toward Harry Harris Park and finally to Cuba Road. Demblans, security video shot from the house next to Rosado’s shows, drove past the house slightly, then backed into the driveway.
According to Demblans’ testimony, Ortiz met them outside and Macauley went inside the house. Demblans, who was armed with a .45 caliber Glock pistol, stayed outside with the car. He insisted, even on cross examination by O’Donnell, who called him a “lookout,” that he merely “chauffeured” Macauley to the house and did not expect violence to break out.
“When Jeremy entered the house, it was my intention that Jeremy was going to pay Carlos the money and hopefully he would accept and we would leave,” Demblans said.
He thought wrong.
“I heard two distinct gunshots,” Demblans said. “I stepped out of the vehicle and pulled my weapon out.”
He said Macauley signaled him to come inside, where he saw the bodies of Rosado and Ortiz lying next to their bed. Macauley grabbed a phone from Ortiz’s pocket but was nervous because he didn’t believe it was the one he used to send the threatening texts, which, if seen by police, would provide motive for Macauley wanting him dead. He asked Demblans, according to his testimony, to help him look for more phones, which it turns out, were plainly visible. One was on the bed and the other on the floor next to Rosado’s body.
But Demblans said he never saw the other phones because all he wanted to do when presented with the sight of the bodies was leave quickly.
“I saw the bodies and immediately turned around to Jeremy and said, ‘We gotta get out of here,’ ” he said.
According to court documents, Macauley had good reason to be worried. He took an Apple iPhone 5 from Ortiz’s pocket, but police retrieved the damning text messages on the Asus Zenfone lying on the bed.
Demblans never mentioned Rosado’s children in his testimony. They were in the house that night, in another room. Next-door neighbor Travis Kvadus found them safe in their front yard the following afternoon.
O’Donnell argues that Adrian and Kristian Demblans, both convicted felons and drug dealers, committed the murders without Macauley’s involvement. Kristian Demblans is serving a two-year state prison sentence for an unrelated cocaine and heroin dealing case.
O’Donnell said Ortiz knew the identical twins sold drugs. He bought heroin on several occasions from Adrian Demblans, so his willingness to snitch posed a danger not only to Macauley, but to them, as well.
“Two of the people that Carlos knew for certain were dealing cocaine were you both,” he said.
During his testimony, Adrian Demblans explained how he and Kristian grew up in an affluent family with “great parents” in Cutler Ridge in Miami-Dade, excelled at high school wrestling and both went on to graduate with bachelor’s degrees from Florida International University. But their experimentation with marijuana escalated to cocaine by the time they graduated college, and Adrian said he began dealing soon after.
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204