Even after the jury spoke and he listened to the mournful words of his grieving daughter, Jesus Maqueira bristled at his murder conviction.
“There is no proof I killed anybody,” Maqueira insisted in court Friday, waving his shackled hands, while lashing out at police, prosecutors and even his own children.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Richard Hersch was unmoved. “There was more than enough evidence to show you killed your wife and disposed of her body,” the judge replied.
And with that, the judge sentenced Maqueira to life in prison for the 2012 murder of his estranged wife, Raquel Calderin, whose skeletal remains were found two years later in a submerged SUV in a canal near the Everglades.
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“There is an evilness and maliciousness to this gentleman that is disturbing,” Hersch added.
Friday’s sentencing capped a unique investigation that led Miami-Dade homicide detectives to arrest Maqueira for murder even before the body was discovered.
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.
Prosecutors painted Maqueira, 58, as a jealous, violent stalker who admitted he had even placed a GPS device on Calderin’s car to track her movements.
The day she vanished, Maqueira 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.
Cell records placed Maqueira with her when she vanished, and again in the area where she was found. He was arrested for murder in 2013.
Later, 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.
Maqueira’s 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.
His defense attorneys, at trial, suggested that the death might have been an accident because the Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine a cause of death.
Miami jurors, in June, deliberated less than two hours in convicting Maqueira of first-degree murder.
The conviction hasn’t made life easier for Calderin and Maqueira’s three children, who have now lost both of their parents.
“I love and miss her deeply,” Melissa Maqueira, now 18, said in a letter read by prosecutor Christine Hernandez-Baldwin. “ I encourage everyone to never go a day without reminding your loved ones how much you truly value them.”
The lead detective on the case, Juan Segovia, even chimed in during Friday’s hearing.
“He laughed at me, telling me that without Raquel’s body, I could not arrest him,” Segovia said. “He laughed during the trial, made faces and comments, and called the jury corrupt. Well, today, I hope Raquel is the only one smiling from heaven because justice was served.”