Detectives visited the unresponsive woman at the nursing home two more times, according to the warrant. They also interviewed Z.G.’s sisters, one of whom said the woman is terminally ill and “cannot write, comprehend or communicate.”
The second sister, Olga Gomez, said she had recently been helped by Cabrera to fill out her absentee ballot. Gomez said Cabrera, whom Gomez said she has known for a couple of years, asked for and took her ill sister’s blank absentee ballot.
El Nuevo Herald identified Z.G. as 81-year-old Zulema Gomez, who went into the Miami Springs nursing home five months ago after suffering from a brain tumor.
Zulema Gomez’s ballot included a handwritten, misspelled note in Spanish saying, “This lady is my sister. I sign like this because she has arthritis and she has difficulty signing. Thank you.”
Olga Gomez denied filling out and signing her sister’s ballot, or writing the note.
The 31 ballots linked to Cabrera have been segregated at the Miami-Dade elections department. According to the arrest warrant, detectives have attempted to interview all of the voters involved.
Several of those voters, interviewed Thursday by Miami Herald reporters, said they had spoken to police officers, who in some cases showed them their ballots and photographs of Cabrera.
Bernarda Sosa, 90, initially told a reporter that she filled out, signed and mailed her ballot herself. When pressed, however, she admitted she watched Cabrera fill out the ballot.
“She filled out the ballot, but I voted for who I wanted, not who she wanted,” Sosa said. Then, Sosa said, she closed her own envelope. “I put it in the mailbox,” she insisted.
But somehow, the ballot ended up in Cabrera’s hands.
Another voter, 88-year-old Blas Hernandez, said Cabrera has long assisted him in voting. He said he marked his ballot for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and let Cabrera fill out the rest because the other races “didn’t interest” him. He told her to vote for Republican candidates — though some races are nonpartisan, and others pit two Republicans against each other in a primary.
He signed his own ballot, Hernandez said.
“She said, ‘Since you can’t walk, if you want, I’ll take it and put it in the mail,’” he said. “She put it in an envelope, and she took it. Since she has been doing this for years, I thought she was doing this legally.”
A third voter, Ana M. Perez, 56, said she filled out and signed her ballot, and put a stamp on it, before Cabrera came to pick it up.
Cabrera, whom Perez said she knows as an acquaintance from Cuba, approached her about a month ago, offering to collect the ballot. Perez, who said she does not drive and suffers from a variety of ailments — including a brain tumor, high blood pressure and nerves — agreed as a matter of convenience.
Now, however, Perez said she feels betrayed and regrets trusting Cabrera with her ballot.
“How could she do this to me?” Perez said. “She did me wrong. What a mess.... I don’t even want to see her face anymore.”
A Herald reporter inspected the 31 sealed envelopes containing the ballots at the elections department Thursday morning and found many of them filled out in similar handwriting. They all had similar stamps. And about half misspelled Hialeah on the return address as “Hialiah.”