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Clever suspect is back behind bars

For a big guy, Carlos Garay vanishes easily.

Before he was arrested in 1993, he used a red Corvette to slip away from a series of West Kendall cat burglaries and assaults.

Caught and convicted, he was sent to prison. But his 17-year sentence was commuted for good behavior, and, police say, he resumed his night stalking.

Earlier this month, two Miami-Dade detectives pulled him over in West Kendall as a suspect in two burglaries with sexual assaults. He escaped by stealing their car.

Garay was recaptured one week ago -after sneaking into his home past police surveillance - and the story of his alleged crime spree is still unfolding.

Detectives have charged him with seven more burglaries in West Miami-Dade. He may be fingered in more.

His family is rallying to his defense. They say he's no night stalker and charge that police nearly killed him during his recapture.

For them, he is Carlos, the quiet little boy whose political-prisoner father left Cuba for Miami during the Mariel boatlift in 1980.

"He completely lost his mind when I left, " Carmelino Garay recalled. "There's no trauma worse than losing your father, especially one you were so close to."

In Cuba, Carlos Garay was diagnosed as schizophrenic. At 8, the sullen child, his mother and brother moved to Miami, reuniting with his father.

He struggled with grades and fell into the wrong crowd.

First, they stole birds for fun. Then, cars.

Enrolling at a military school helped little. A meaty five-foot-eight, Garay found respect by lifting weights. He bulked up. Got a girlfriend. Had a son at 18. Worked odd jobs.

Around that time in 1993, a man began entering houses in the Hammocks by sliding open unlocked glass doors between 3 and 6 a.m.

Sometimes, he'd take off his clothes and masturbate in front of a sleeping woman.

The break came when the burglar stole a pager detectives tracked to Garay. DNA was also left on a nightgown.

"The guy's really dangerous. He weighed abut 265 pounds; he was huge. He was into the whole voyeurism thing." retired Miami-Dade Detective Mike Crowley recalled.

EARLY RELEASE

Garay was charged with various counts of burglary and assault. His family says he was wrongfully accused. He languished in the county jail's psychiatric wing before accepting a plea: 17 years in state prison.

Garay's high school girlfriend left, but another girlfriend, Yesenia Ruiz, continued to see him. They married in a prison ceremony.

He earned his high school equivalency degree, commuting 60 days from his sentence.

In fact, he earned 3,135 more days of "gain time" for good behavior, cutting nearly nine years off his sentence, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

In 1995, a law was enacted requiring convicts to serve 85 percent of their sentence - Garay was exempt because his crimes occurred in 1993. Corrections officials could not detail what exactly Garay did to earn his gain time, but he walked out of Everglades Correctional Institute a free man Dec. 8, 2001.

"I think the public needs to get an answer as to why this guy is out, " Crowley said.

His family says Garay mellowed in prison. One thing didn't: His love for women.

After his wife left him, he dated often.

He met Maricelys Perez, his future common-law wife, at the mall. She moved into his West Miami home, gave birth to Carlos Jr., now 2, and one-year-old Jezebel.

In recent months, he also dated Giannandrea Gonzalez, 35, showering gifts on her teenage sons.

ASSAULTS INCREASE

During the past year, an intruder began sneaking into homes in the Hammocks, Kendall and Midwest districts. Sometimes, he fondled the women. Other times, he just watched.

He struck between 3 and 6 a.m.

"It appeared random, with him going primarily through unlocked sliding-glass doors, " Midwest Detective Barbara Nelson said.

Station detectives and the sexual-crimes unit began sharing information.

In at least one case, detectives got a key break.

On Sept. 3, a 22-year-old woman woke up with a man holding her wrists down.

"The subject engaged in a casual conversation with the victim and told her he was going to perform oral sex on her until she reached orgasm, " according to an arrest warrant penned by sexual-crimes Detective Jonathan R. Sabel.

He sexually assaulted her and escaped.

Detectives found a Miller Lite beer bottle, which did not belong to the woman.

On April 12, DNA from the bottle came back positive to their suspect: Carlos Garay.

His family maintains he would have no reason to break into homes and that the beer bottle doesn't prove he was the burglar.

A day later, Miami-Dade sexual-crimes detectives Nelson Andreu and Juan Carlos Castro staked out Garay's home on the 14000 block of 46th Terrace.

As he left in a pickup, the detectives pulled him over.

Cuffed, Garay was put in the back of their unmarked Intrepid as the detectives searched the truck.

Suddenly, the car zoomed off.

Scared to go back to jail, he broke the handcuffs, he later told family.

"He left two cops - two officials - standing in the middle of the street, looking like asses, " Carmelino Garay said chuckling. "What an embarrassment."

Miami-Dade Cmdr. Linda O'Brien said the detectives have clean records, although they may face discipline for the episode.

"They're both excellent detectives, " she said. "These two detectives virtually worked nonstop until his capture."

Garay ditched the car and called his father, who begged he turn himself in. He also called girlfriend Gonzalez, who, with friend Lucelena Slyper, hid him.

Slyper dropped him off at a gas station that night. Detectives arrested Gonzalez and Slyper for aiding a fugitive.

STAKED OUT THE COPS

On Friday, Garay called home several times from nearby gas stations. He cased his parent's house, watching the police cars on surveillance.

On Sunday morning about 5 a.m., Garay hid; where is unclear. But he watched an officer doze off, he later told family, and dashed into the backyard to bang on the door.

Despite his parents' pleas to turn himself him, Garay took refuge in the attic.

His parents, who think Garay is innocent and was framed by someone else, aren't sure who tipped off the police, but officers soon stormed the house.

Dressed only in boxers, Garay crawled across to an empty efficiency attached to the house, crashing through the ceiling.

Officers George Perez and Kevin Thomas chased him into a bathroom, where Garay took cover inside a shower.

The officers fired their Taser stun guns to subdue the struggling man.

His family claims the officers ran the shower over him. Garay was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital because he was feeling ill.

He will not vanish anytime soon - he's isolated in cell 506 of the county jail.

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