Three years ago, murder suspect Jesus Maqueira mocked Miami-Dade police detectives, saying “there was little they could to do" to him unless they found the body of his estranged wife, who went missing in 2012.
They finally found her skeleton in the summer of 2014 in her SUV in a canal adjacent to the Everglades. And with a wealth of circumstantial evidence against him, Maqueira was convicted Monday of murdering Raquel Calderdin.
Jurors deliberated just two hours before convicting Maqueira, 58, of first-degree murder. He will be sentenced on Aug. 19, but Florida law dictates an automatic punishment for the crime: life in prison.
With no cause of death, Maqueira’s lawyers suggested that perhaps Calderin died in an accident, or at the hands of someone else.
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.
At trial, jurors heard that Maqueira was a jealous, violent stalker who admitted he had even placed a GPS device on Calderin’s 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 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.
At trial, prosecutors Christine Hernandez-Baldwin and Annette Del Aguila showed that cell records placed Maqueira with her when she vanished, and again in the area where she was found. He was arrested for murder before police ever found the body.
Then Maqueira’s elderly father — confronted with car toll records — unwittingly helped detectives find the body after he admitted he had picked up his son from a gas station at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue. Police divers found the SUV nearby.
His glasses were also found inside the water-logged SUV, which was in neutral as though it had been pushed into the canal. A butcher knife believed to have been used in the killing was also found in the SUV.
“It only took the jury a short period of time to see through Jesus Maqueira’s inconsistent and self-serving statements as he tried to avoid responsibility for the disappearance and death of his wife, Raquel Calderin,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
“Good police work and good prosecution brought all of the pieces together for the jury. Sadly, this family was shattered by rage and jealousy.”