Juan Carlos Portieles, right, is charged with first-degree murder of his girlfriend Jaclyn Torrealbas. His defense attorney Herbert Smith, left, sits next to him during opening statements Thursday, July 26, 2012.
State prosecutors in the first-degree murder trial of a Hollywood man who confessed to beating and strangling his teen girlfriend, painted a portrait of a young girl on Thursday who was in a hurry to grow up, but never got the chance.
Jaclyn Elisse Torrealba went missing in the early hours of Oct. 11, 2009 after she was seen at a downtown club with a man with whom she had been romantically involved. The next day, Juan Carlos Portieles turned himself in to Miami-Dade police. He said his dead girlfriend was in the car.
Her face was pummeled and bitten. Strangulation marks could be seen on her neck.
Torrealba was 18.
The recent high school graduate was described as a girl who loved to dance. Her interest in music led her to the all-ages nightclub scene in Miami, where -- at the age of 15 -- she met a man 12 years her senior. Juan Carlos Portieles, now 33, was a popular DJ who went by the nickname “Seasunz.” Portieles won Torrealba’s affection with gestures like sending flowers cross-country for the girl’s 16th birthday.
Her parents frowned on the relationship and grounded the girl for three months. The disciplinary measure seemed to put distance between the two.
Her father Pablo Torrealba took the stand Thursday, remembering his only child as a sweet, well-rounded girl who had dreams of being a lawyer. She graduated among the top 10 percent of her class at Braddock High School.
“She was so ready for college,” Torrealba said, his voice cracking as he struggled to maintain his composure. Torrealba had just started taking courses at Florida International University at the time of her death. She was a popular girl with a large circle of friends, her father told the jury.
On Oct. 10, 2009, Torrealba was trying to find a ride for a night out of dancing. She called Portieles, with whom she had maintained a friendship without her parents’ knowledge. He was going to be at Club Space, a downtown hotspot for youth. She asked for a ride from her Kendall home. He agreed. Friends met up with Torrealba at the club, who was last seen at around 2 a.m. with “DJ Seasunz”.
Later that night, the two got into Portieles’ car. Torrealba never got out.
Prosecutors told the jury an argument inside the car escalated into a physical fight between the 100- pound Torrealba and the 220-pound Portieles. The struggle ended in a chokehold that lasted for as long as six minutes, prosecutors said.
“She didn’t have a prayer,” prosecutor Rachel Walters said during the first day of the trial.
Torrealba had already been reported as missing by the time Portieles made his confession. He drove with the corpse in his car for hours, from early morning to dusk the next day, visiting friends, confessing to the killing and seeking advice, according to prosecutors. Those witnesses are expected to testify in coming days.
Defense attorneys for Portieles told jurors that the issue wasn’t whether Portieles killed Torrealba; that confession was made. Defense attorney Madeline Acosta argued that he is guilty of manslaughter not premeditated murder because the act was done “in the heat of passion.”
Before the jury was dismissed for the day, they were shown juxtaposing photos of Torrealba. One was of a smiling long-haired brunette in her May 2009 senior high school portrait. The other was a series of forensic pictures of the teen as she was found in the passenger’s seat of Portieles’ car just a few months later.
The trial will continue Friday.