Raquel Calderin, middle-aged mother of three and Kendall elementary school custodian, wanted a divorce from a husband she described as a jealous, violent stalker.
Then, one year ago, she vanished.
Miami-Dade detectives arrested her estranged husband, Jesus Maqueira, on charges of killing her — but it’s an unusual murder case, one without a corpse.
Still, prosecutors believe they have plenty of evidence: Cell phone records placed Maqueira with Calderin when she disappeared after leaving work at Gloria Floyd Elementary in Kendall, police said.
Witnesses contradicted his alibi that he was at a pal’s house that night in September 2012. To her friends and family, Maqueira, 55, also made cryptic remarks, according to police, even saying that whoever killed his 43-year-old wife “would never be found because she was probably dead in a canal.”
But it was not until recent weeks that detectives and prosecutors learned the details of what may have happened to Calderin: A fellow jail inmate told police that Maqueira confessed to hiding in the back seat of Calderin’s Ford Expedition and implied he beat her to death before dumping her corpse in a body of water.
The unnamed inmate at Metro West Detention Center, who is now a witness against Maqueira, also lifted two letters purportedly written by the suspect and tucked in his Bible. One is addressed to Calderin, the other to God. Both express agony, seemingly over the killing.
The letter to Calderin reads: “I destroyed my life because I was stupid and I ask you with all my heart to forgive me for all the pain and suffering I have put you through.”
The one to God reads: “I beg you to protect me from this torment. I haven’t the slightest idea what came into me that day. It is true that there exist demons that control you. I am human and we all make mistakes.”
Murder trials with missing bodies are unusual but not unprecedented in Miami-Dade. Besides Maqueira, three other defendants in Miami-Dade are currently awaiting trial in cases without corpses. Past prosecutions have been mostly successful in Miami-Dade, with three convictions since the 1970s.
On Monday, Maquiera — who is in jail while awaiting trial — will challenge the evidence from the informant and ask Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Eric Hendon to release him on bail. Miami-Dade prosecutor Luis Perez-Medina will argue Maquiera is a flight risk who should remain behind bars.
Defense attorney Alex Michaels insists his client never authored the letters, and he blasted the jailhouse informant as a “rat” trying to curry favor with prosecutors.
“My guy did not commit a crime. He did not kill his wife.’’ Michaels said, suggesting Calderin might still be alive.
“The wife has a history of disappearing. She may very well appear one day,’’ he said. “It sounds like a movie script but it’s not above the realm of possibility.”
Investigators say the informant, who bonded with Maqueira over games of checkers, knew details of the case that only could have come from Maqueira.
Calderin had been with Maquiera for more than 20 years. They had three children.
But according to evidence released by prosecutors, Calderin had long suffered under a dominating husband, who bristled if she even socialized with neighbors.