Was Baby Lollipops' fate sealed before he was born?

 

MIAMI HERALD STAFF WRITER

Baby Lollipops might have become a pampered boy of privilege, innocently basking in illicit wealth, except for what happened outside a riverfront saloon late one Sunday night four weeks before he was born.

That night -- Sept. 20, 1987 -- Fidel Figueroa was out on the town. He was a flashy guy with a $10,000 diamond-studded Rolex on his wrist, driving a blue $45,000 Mercedes while bodyguards followed in a white Eldorado Biarritz.

As he drove away from the gin mill, another car came alongside and someone in it shot Figueroa in the head. The bodyguards moved his body from the front seat of the Mercedes to the back seat of the Cadillac, drove a mile and a half to a restaurant, parked and called the police.

The crime is still unsolved and the motive unknown, although presumed to be drug related. Paul Ohanesian, the Metro- Dade homicide detective who investigated, said Figueroa was a distributor on Northwest 17th Avenue:

"He was known on the street as Pepito. He was pretty popular on the street. Everybody knew him. There were hundreds of people at his funeral."

Though only 28, Figueroa had done quite well since riding the 1980 wave of immigration from Mariel. He kept two women in separate penthouse apartments at the Charter Club, overlooking Biscayne Bay, and he fooled around with others.

One of the penthouse women already had borne Pepito a son. The other, Anna Maria Cardona, was pregnant. Her baby was going to be a boy, named Lazaro Figueroa.

He would live three years and two weeks in pain and squalor. Four days past the end, the wreckage of his starved and battered body would be found in Miami Beach -- unknown but by a nickname, inspired by the design of the T-shirt he wore.

Baby Lollipops, it seems now, had been doomed even as a healthy unborn, on the night Fidel Figueroa was killed, at the start of Anna Maria Cardona's ninth month of pregnancy.

The penthouse must have been hard to lose. Ohanesian saw it when he went to see Cardona about Figueroa's murder.

"It was on two floors, very big and lavishly decorated, " the policeman said Thursday. "The rent alone must have been at least a couple of thousand a month.

"For someone who had been in the country for only a few years, their life style was just amazing."

Cardona already had two children when Lazaro was born on Oct. 17, 1987. For two months in 1988, she left him and one of the others with a baby sitter.

Without Figueroa, Cardona lived in small apartments and a trailer park; at least one landlord says he evicted her.

It is not certain when she became involved with Figueroa. William Castro, a Miami lawyer who successfully defended Cardona against armed robbery charges in 1982 and 1983, does not think they were together then.

In 1983, Castro also became the lawyer for Lazaro Quintana, arrested June 22 on a Greyhound bus leaving Miami.

"This was a Border Patrol check for immigration status, " Castro said Thursday. "Quintana was charged with trafficking in cocaine and possession of marijuana."

Quintana, born Dec. 17, 1953, was really Figueroa, born July 5, 1959. The border patrol also arrested his companion, Maria Valencia -- occupant of the other Charter Club penthouse. The charges against them were dropped, not that it was a bad case.

"If I recall correctly, the lead officer had died, in a motorcycle accident, " lawyer Castro said.

Figueroa was arrested again in 1985, this time as Raul Victor Figueroa, born Aug. 26, 1966. The state attorney's office decided not to follow up with formal charges.

With no convictions on Figueroa's record yet, his lawyer was able to get the record sealed -- something Castro said he tries to do for every client whose charges are dropped or dismissed.

He did that for Anna Cardona, who was arrested in 1982 with three men for a home invasion robbery in Hialeah. Castro said he won pre-trial dismissal of the charges. Although declining to explain in detail, he said the situation essentially was that Cardona was present at the crime but not a participant.

Cardona was arrested again, for armed robbery and burglary, in 1985. Castro said the state dropped the charges. He is not sure if she had been arrested again before she was charged Thursday with killing her son.

"It wasn't until several years after I had defended Anna, and was representing Figueroa, that I found out they not only knew each other, but that she was carrying his child or had one prior to that, " Castro said.

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