When his estranged wife vanished in 2012 without a trace, Jesus Maqueira mocked Miami-Dade police detectives, saying that without a body “there was little they could do to him.”
In the end, Maqueira’s own father unwittingly gave investigators the tip they needed to find her skeletal remains in an Everglades canal.
The defendant’s elderly father — confronted with car toll records — finally confided last week to detectives that on the night Raquel Calderin vanished, he had picked up his son from a gas station at the corner of Tamiami Trail at Krome Avenue, according to evidence released in the case Thursday.
That crucial admission narrowed the geographic search area. Police divers Monday night found his wife’s SUV submerged in a nearby canal. Inside the waterlogged Ford Expedition: Calderin’s remains, police confirmed Thursday.
Never miss a local story.
Also found in the vehicle: a serrated butcher knife and clothes believed to be Calderin’s with possible rip marks, according to law enforcement sources. The Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office, however, is still working to determine a cause of death.
Her purse and identification were found inside the Expedition.
The detective work bolsters what has been a circumstantial murder case — one without a corpse — against Maqueira, the last person seen with Calderin while she was alive.
Miami-Dade police arrested Maqueira, 56, in February 2013. Behind bars while awaiting trial, he is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated stalking.
His defense lawyer, Alex Michaels, could not immediately comment on the new evidence, only saying mockingly: “Really, it took cops two years to figure out how he supposedly left the scene?”
Calderin, a mother of three who had left Maqueira and filed for divorce, disappeared after leaving her job as a custodian at Gloria Floyd Elementary School in Kendall in September 2012.
Investigators say Maqueira was a jealous, violent stalker who admitted he had even placed a GPS device on her car to track her movements. He admitted to detectives that he showed up at the elementary school, accompanied by their 15-year-old daughter, and tried to persuade her to drop the divorce proceedings.
Hours later, as she left the school, Calderin was on the phone with her current boyfriend when the call was cut off, abruptly and mysteriously.
Investigators immediately suspected foul play. Her SUV had also vanished. Her credit cards and bank accounts were untouched.
According to evidence in the case, cellphone records place Maqueira with Calderin as she vanished. Witnesses contradicted his alibi that he was at a pal’s house that night in September 2012.
Maqueira also had told friends and family members that whoever killed his 43-year-old wife “would never be found because she was probably dead in a canal.”
A fellow jail inmate later told police that Maqueira confessed to hiding in the back seat of Calderin’s Ford Expedition and implied he had beaten her to death before dumping her corpse in a body of water.
According to police reports, cellphone towers pinpointed Maqueira’s phone in a curious location later that night — just south of Kendall Drive past Krome Avenue in rural West Miami-Dade.
Detectives searched the lakes and canals in that area, and did not find Calderin’s corpse.
But then homicide detectives pulled SunPass toll records for Maqueira’s father, 81-year-old Felix Maquiera. The records showed that the man’s car, about 11 p.m. the night Calderin vanished, had been on Florida’s Turnpike not far from Krome Avenue.
On June 11, a homicide detective interviewed Felix Maqueira at Miami-Dade police headquarters.
Prosecutors released a copy of the video-recorded statement to the Miami Herald on Thursday. In his interview, Felix Maqueira insisted in Spanish that he never left home that night.
“I wouldn’t tell a lie,” Maqueira told Detective Juan Segovia.
When Segovia confronted him with the SunPass records, he admitted that maybe he had been out for a ride with his wife. Then he paused.
“I’m going to tell you something — something you want to know,” Felix Maqueira said quietly.
He claimed that his son had called him, using a borrowed phone, and asked him for a ride “because he had run out of gas.”
Felix Maqueira drove south and picked him up at the rural Dade Corners gas station at Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue, across from the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming center.
There, Felix Maqueira claimed, he saw Maqueira on foot and Calderin’s SUV pulling out and driving south.
“You lied to me. That hurts me,” Segovia said. “I treated you like my grandfather.”
Segovia did not believe the elderly man had actually seen Calderin there, alive in her SUV. The detective pressed him: What about the car that Jesus Maqueira said supposedly ran out of gas?
“I didn’t ask,” Felix Maqueira asked.
“You know why you didn’t ask?” Segovia said. “Because in your heart, you know something happened and you didn’t want to know.”
Detectives did not press the elderly man further. The interview ended with chuckles and small-talk.
After the detectives left, they allowed Felix Maqueira’s wife into the interview room to wait with him.
As she began to say something to him, the video — which continued to run — showed Felix Maqueira lifting his index finger to his lips, as if to silence her. She said nothing, and detectives soon escorted them from the building.