Juan Carlos Portieles watched Tuesday, the final day of his first-degree murder trial, as a Miami-Dade prosecutor slumped face-down on a car seat in front of jurors, showing how Jaclyn Torrealba might have died.
But only Portieles saw exactly how his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend died three years ago.
Tuesday, Judge Victoria Brennan sentenced Portieles, now 33, to life in prison without parole. Jurors deliberated for four hours before finding him guilty of planning and causing Torrealba’s death.
Family members and friends of Torrealba, a Florida International University freshman, embraced outside the Miami-Dade County Courthouse afterward. Torrealba’s parents shared a tearful hug moments after the sentencing of the man who killed their only child.
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“He took our daughter’s life,” said her mother, Vilma Castro. “ He shouldn’t have a life, either.”
On the evening of Oct. 11, 2009, Portieles, of Hollywood, told police he had killed the Kendall teen after an argument the night before. He said her body was still in the car.
Portieles, known as DJ Seasunz in the Miami nightclub circuit, had driven around for hours with Torrealba’s beaten, bitten and strangled body. He visited a friend and a business colleague to ask for advice. By 6 p.m., Portieles decided to turn himself in to police.
Defense attorney Herbert Smith agreed with prosecutors on two points: Torrealba is dead, and her death was caused intentionally by his client. However, Smith argued, the act was not premeditated.
Just hours after he killed Torrealba, Portieles waived his Miranda rights, provided DNA, and agreed to go to the murder scene with police after telling them that he and Torrealba had gotten into a drunken fight after leaving Club Space, a downtown Miami nightspot.
“Last night was a blur,” he told police.
Jurors took a week to examine the evidence presented by prosecutors: forensic photos of a battered Torrealba and the bloodstained car in which she died. Other factors taken into account were testimony from crime scene investigators, the medical examiner and the officer and detective who heard Portieles’ confession.
According to prosecutors, Portieles drove Torrealba to a secluded area, beat her, bit her seven times, and choked her. Then, he rested for half an hour.
Witness Isabel Cangate said earlier in the trial that when Portieles arrived at her home to ask for help from her then-boyfriend, Portieles said he was “winded” and was complaining about his hands being sore.
Defense attorney Smith said the desperate visits showed his client had not planned things out.
But prosecutors reminded jurors Tuesday that the actions that caused Torrealba’s death were not immediate.
“This is a murder with one’s bare hands,” prosecutor Deisy Hernandez said in her closing argument. “This takes intent to kill. It takes thought.”
Torrealba’s mother said the sentencing did her daughter justice, but that closure would be difficult to find.
“Any bereaved parent knows that when a child dies, that’s it. I don’t have anything anymore.”