It began, police say, with a stunning act of betrayal. Teenager Luis Mir set up the heist of over $600,000 of his uncle’s cash, stored in a safe inside his own family’s West Perrine home.
That led to a bizarre chain of events that ended in an amateurish but brutal kidnapping, a night of vicious torture and Mir’s half-naked escape through the streets of South Miami-Dade.
The final violent plot twist: Miami-Dade detectives, rushing to the rescue, fatally shot Damaris Jaramillo, 21, a kidnapper’s girlfriend who brandished a revolver as police stormed the hostage stash house.
The previously unknown back story of the outlandish tale of greed and violence is laid bare in police files released last week in the pending criminal cases against the alleged kidnappers.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Awaiting trial: Alain Perea, 19, Roman Villacres, 19, Dexter Marshall, 27, Carlos Morillo, 26, and Joe Manuel Cotte Vazquez, 18. They have all pleaded not guilty.
The men are charged with armed kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap and felony murder. In Florida, someone who commits a felony in which someone dies can be held responsible for that death.
The ringleader, according to investigators, was Perea, a South Dade High dropout who was out for vengeance against Mir, not just for a double-crossing in the safe cash grab, but seemingly also because Mir repeatedly flirted with his girlfriend.
Perea’s lawyer, Fred Moldovan, said it was too early to comment. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened in this case,” he said.
The drama revolves around Mir, 19, a former student at West Kendall’s John Ferguson High. While he was the victim in the kidnapping, Mir is also a defendant after his unrelated arrest in March for burglary, grand theft with a firearm and criminal mischief.
Early last year, Mir met Perea through a mutual friend, Miguel Romero. In May 2012, he told them that his uncle, who was involved in marijuana grow houses, had $300,000 stashed in a safe at the family’s South Miami-Dade home.
And with his uncle in Cuba at the time, only his grandmother and 8-month-old baby sister would be inside the house.
“He told us all the little information, every detail about his uncle, his family,” Perea said. “Where it was located and what time to go in, who was inside the house, everything. He told us the coordinates.”
With Mir waiting a few blocks away, the band — wearing masks — broke into the house. Perea and Villacres pushed away the grandmother and lugged the heavy safe into their van.
Back at Perea’s house, the group used a piece of iron to smash the cheap lock. Inside: about $640,000 in neatly organized bundles.
They decided to split it evenly. But Mir wound up keeping most of the money, the youths believed.
Mir told cops he took only his fair share. To relatives, Mir feigned surprise at the burglary — but they grew suspicious when he soon showed up driving a gray 2010 Infiniti.
Mir was unemployed.
After the heist, Mir and Perea stopped talking. Word soon got to Mir that Perea was “surveilling” him.
“I didn’t pay him no mind,” Mir said.
But the opportunity for revenge presented itself Aug. 8 at a teen pool party hosted at a South Miami-Dade apartment complex attended by Perea’s girlfriend. Halfway through the party, Mir and a friend, Xavier Valdes, 17, of Ferguson High, drove to a nearby McDonald’s for ice cream.
Perea’s girlfriend sent Mir a text: A girl back at the party wanted to meet him. Mir returned. The girls then asked him for a ride home.
The trap was set. After the party, Mir dropped the girls off. Two pistol-wielding young men suddenly rushed them.
One man smashed Mir on the head with a pistol. “They took the T-shirt that I had on, wrapped it around my head, and then wrapped tape around it,” Mir recalled.
Forced into a car, the hostages were driven to an abandoned home, then later to Marshall’s home at the Homestead Coco Walk Trailer Park, 220 NE 12th Ave, where he lived with Jaramillo.
The kidnappers bound Xavier, then threw him into the bathtub. “I didn’t let him get beaten up,” Perea insisted later. “I apologized to him, you know, he was in the wrong time and place.”
But Xavier told cops he was beaten, including a sucker punch by Perea. Meanwhile, the youths bound Mir’s legs and arms, tied him to a chair and laid him atop a garbage bag on the floor.
Perea lashed Mir with a white Comcast cable wire. “The only thing he said to me, ‘This is because you were flirting with my girlfriend,’ ” Mir recalled.
The kidnappers stripped him of his pink rosary, wallet and cellphone. They called his mother to demand $250,000 in cash, plus the titles to the cars bought with the stolen money.
Their instructions to her: dump the cash in a trash can off Krome Avenue and Southwest 242nd Street.
“Alain did call my mother and told her that this was not a game,” Mir recalled. “As a matter of fact, Alain picked up a pipe, yellow in color, and hit my foot, which made me scream.”
Unbeknownst to the kidnappers, Mir’s mother and stepfather rushed to the Kendall District Police Station to report the abduction.
Miami-Dade narcotics bureau quickly assembled its “Alpha” major case squad, which fanned out across the neighborhood looking to Mir’s Infiniti. Officers soon spotted, then stopped two of the kidnappers driving the car.
Back at the trailer park, the night melted away. The other kidnappers bought fast food. And smoked weed. One of them pointed the gun at Mir, asking if he knew how to play Russian Roulette.
The kidnappers drifted off into slumber. About 8 a.m., Mir managed to loosen his bindings in the bedroom. He tip-toed through the living room, where two kidnappers dozed.
Mir burst out of the trailer. A neighbor driving through the park refused to stop to help. He ran to a nearby cafeteria, then used a payphone at the Diaz supermarket to call 911.
Detectives rushed in. Mir led them the trailer. “He said, ‘There’s three subjects in there. They’re heavily armed and they have my friend in there. They’re also beating him up,’ ” Miami-Dade Sgt. Jose Ramirez recalled.
The detectives burst into the trailer. They quickly arrested Perea. But in the back room, according to officers, they found Jaramillo armed with a revolver.
“The police were forced to utilize deadly force,” according to an arrest report.
Crime scene photos show the revolver at the feet of the slain woman.
Two other guns and marijuana were also discovered in the trailer.
As in all police shootings, prosecutors are investigating whether officers were justified in using deadly force.
Jaramillo had but one major blemish on her criminal record: a 2010 guilty conviction for selling marijuana by a school. But her mother, Maria Jaramillo, insists that police acted “in the most dirty way,” she said in an interview.
Her lawyer, Ricardo Corona, said Jaramillo had “poor choice of boyfriends” but did not believe she was armed.
“If the police are investigating a legitimate crime, it doesn’t give them carte blanche to shoot up the place,” Corona said.