From the beaches of Hawaii to the ancient ruins of Peru, Larissa Macriello had traveled across the world.
But she never once stopped calling her family.
So when Macriello, 46, vanished without a trace from her North Miami-Dade home in June 2013, relatives immediately feared the worst. What unfolded was an exhaustive police investigation exploring financial records, surveillance videos and cellphone tracks. Together, they revealed unsavory pasts, a secret affair — and apparent murder.
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Eighteen months later, authorities have yet to find Macriello’s body. But they believe they have her killer: John Paul Garcia, a married ex-con bail bonds employee who counted Macriello as his mistress.
Prosecutors recently secured an indictment for first-degree murder against Garcia and a judge late last month ruled there was enough evidence to keep Garcia, 48, behind bars as he awaits trial.
Newly released evidence in the criminal case reveals a compelling but circumstantial case against Garcia — based on cellphone records that pinpointed his movements and evidence that he used her car and siphoned more than $40,000 from her bank account just after her disappearance.
In a video-recorded interview with police, Garcia denied ever having driven her car or having any business dealings with her. “Never,” Garcia told Miami-Dade Detective Juan Segovia in October.
But later, Garcia admitted to his angry wife — in a confrontation covertly recorded inside a police headquarters interview room — that he had indeed gotten the money. But Garcia claimed Macriello was simply paying her back money from a “job.”
“She owed me 20,” Garcia claimed.
His wife, Annalie Rivero, who had just been told by police of Garcia’s longtime affair with Macriello, exploded. “She owed you 20? And you can’t even give me $5,000 for a stinky car?!”
“I got nothing to hide!” Garcia insisted. “I haven’t killed anybody.”
His attorney could not be reached for comment Friday. At a hearing last month, the defense argued the evidence is weak and that Macriello could be alive and well, possibly overseas.
Missing-body murder cases are rare. But in Miami-Dade, there have been more than a few high-profile prosecutions over the past decade.
The most recent: jurors last year convicted Miami-Dade businessman Clifford Friend of murdering his wife, then dumping her body in the sea in 1994.
Another defendant headed to trial in the coming months is Kendrick Williams, accused of murdering New York law student Stepha Henry in 2007; her body has never been found, but her blood was found in his car.
As for Macriello, she vanished in a missing person’s case that attracted little attention at the time.
The Panama-born Macriello was an avid traveler and cook who had never been married or had children. Macriello moved to Miami in 2009 to enjoy the weather and Latin culture, said brother Roderick Mokillo.
“My sister was a very simple person. She wasn’t flashy or fancy,” he said. “She loved to laugh. She wasn’t the party animal.”
Macriello was independent and private. But she never failed to talk to her family on a regular basis. The last anyone saw her: June 3, 2013.
“My mother had called me one day and said, ‘I can’t get a hold of your sister.’ I tried reaching out through text, Facebook, e-mail,” Mokillo said. “Something in my gut felt funny. I knew something was wrong. She wouldn’t stop communicating with us.”
Mokillo, of Jacksonville, soon traveled to Miami to investigate and report her missing in person. Her little black Ford sedan was parked outside her efficiency on the 3100 block of Northwest 98th Street. Nothing appeared disturbed inside.
But clues soon emerged. Her landlord noted that the car had been gone for about one week but “she did not see who returned the vehicle,” according to police documents. The keys were missing.
The case was turned over to Miami-Dade homicide detectives, who soon learned that on June 5, 2013, a $20,000 check from Macriello was written to Garcia. The same day, a surveillance video showed Garcia using her card to withdraw $500 from Marciello’s account at a Brownsville Bank of America.
Five days later, another check for $20,000 was written to Garcia from Marciello. Two days after that, according to prosecutors, Garcia withdrew yet another $500 from a North Miami-Dade bank.
That’s not all. In June and July of 2013, someone transferred $5,000 from Marciello’s account to Garcia’s in five separate online transactions.
Records showed her phone was mostly shut off during that time period, but investigators theorize Garcia had possession of the cell.
Detectives noticed that for more than a month after she went missing, time and again, her phone would turn on to check the voicemail — always in the same location area as Garcia’s phone.
On June 5, 2013, at 3:50 p.m., Macriello’s phone was used just a few blocks away from the Brownsville Bank of America. Six minutes later, surveillance video showed Garcia – alone and in Macriello’s Ford – withdrawing $500 cash from her account at the bank’s drive-thru ATM.
On June 10, the day investigators believe he left her car back at Macriello’s home, his phone was used to call for a cab just blocks from her home. The cabbie later identified him as the passenger.
Two days later, her phone was located near a cell tower just a few blocks from the Bank of America on the 1100 block of Northeast 163rd St. Fifteen minutes later, surveillance captured him withdrawing money from the bank’s ATM.
Garcia, who worked as assistant for a local bail bondsman, certainly had a sordid past, including a 6-year prison stint for drug trafficking. His history included an arrest on murder charges in 1991. It was a suspected drug rip-off killing case that was eventually dropped.
At the time of Marciello’s disappearance, Garcia was also on probation for hitting his daughter during an argument. His family has been in the news before: his nephew, Andrew Garcia, was killed in a highly publicized boating accident on Biscayne Bay on July 4.
In Garcia’s home, they later found a letter — a suspected forgery — purportedly from Macriello giving him authority to have $20,000.
Investigators also uncovered some uncomfortable facts about Macriello. She appeared to be working as a masseuse and an escort. Her landlord mentioned “men frequently entering and leaving” the efficiency late at night.
During his voluntary October interview, Garcia also told detectives of Macriello’s secret job, though he claimed to have met her years ago on a dating website called PlentyOfFish.com.
In that interview, Detective Segovia played it casual and friendly, appearing to ask Garcia for help in finding Macriello while never revealing the phone and bank evidence.
Garcia admitted he’d kept his affair from his wife, but cast suspicion on Macriello’s ex-boyfriend or several mysterious clients, including an “Arab” from overseas and somebody with nebulous ties to Russia.
He insisted the last time he saw Macriello was sometime after July 4, 2013, when they met up for cannoli at a North Miami pizza joint. But at that point, she had already been missing for more one month — and Garcia had been siphoning her bank account for weeks, prosecutors believe.
Garcia admitted he’d never bothered to look for Macriello. “All this time I thought she was in Panama,” he said.
Key for detectives: Garcia denied ever driving her car or doing any business transactions.
But investigators never got to confront him with their evidence. Segovia noted police might have to interview his wife. “You’re putting me in a bad situation,” Garcia said testily. “It’s pretty much going to cause a separation.”
The interview ended abruptly when Garcia asked for a lawyer.
And so in another interview room, detectives revealed their evidence to Garcia’s seemingly stunned wife, Rivero.
Then they allowed her to visit him as the hidden camera rolled. He continued to deny the affair. “There was nothing amorous, there was not an affair,” Garcia said angrily.
Nearly hysterical, Rivero seemed unconvinced. “It’s very ironic she gives you, within five days, $40,000 and then she goes missing ... it looks suspicious.”
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Macriello can call Miami-Dade Police’s homicide bureau at 305-471-2400, or Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.