South Florida

Apartment complex sued for shooting death in its parking lot of Hialeah school teacher

Gabriela Marino, 51, a mother and second-grade teacher was on her way to work Wednesday, April 3, when Jeffrey Nicholas Garner, her ex-boyfriend, killed her inside the parking lot of their apartment complex.
Gabriela Marino, 51, a mother and second-grade teacher was on her way to work Wednesday, April 3, when Jeffrey Nicholas Garner, her ex-boyfriend, killed her inside the parking lot of their apartment complex. Courtesy of Bloom PR

The family of an elementary school grade teacher is suing a South Florida apartment complex for negligence after police say she was killed in the apartment’s parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, who also lived there.

Manatee Bay Apartments Corp., which owns the gated Manatee Bay apartment complex at 1632 N. Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, failed to provide the security to keep its employees and tenants safe, the lawsuit alleges.

Gabriela Marino, 51, was on her way to work the morning of April 3, when Jeffrey Nicholas Garner, her ex-boyfriend, shot and killed her during a dispute in the building’s parking lot, according to Boynton Beach police.

She was a second-grade teacher at Palm Springs Elementary in Hialeah.

Garner, who had a history of alcoholism, was leaving the scene — still shooting — when police arrived, according to the police report. Police shot and killed him when he refused to stand down. Marino was found dead in her car with multiple gun shot wounds, slumped over the front seat.

Marino’s daughter, Florencia Gutierrez, 27, told police her mother had kissed her goodbye that day before leaving for work. Several minutes later, she heard the gun shots. Garner lived in another unit.

“This tragedy has dramatically affected Florencia, who heard her mother being brutally killed, both physically and emotionally,” said Lee Levenson, Gutierrez’s attorney. “This was a horrendous, senseless and completely avoidable crime.”

The corporation never employed roving security and had “inadequate” surveillance, despite the complex being in a relatively dangerous area, according to the lawsuit. The gate is also “easily breached” from various areas, including where Marino was killed, the suit alleges.

Beside the lack of security, the company also didn’t enforce or conduct background checks on potential tenants and failed to warn police that tenants had notified management that Garner “who was armed, had been committing acts of violence, had been committing threats and acting in a bizarre manner,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuits also states Garner had a history of substance abuse and criminal violence. A check of Palm Beach and Broward county records, at the time of shooting, turned up no previous criminal convictions or domestic violence cases for Garner. An online source says he was convicted of domestic assault in Sikeston, Missouri, in 2007.

Thomas Roderick, another tenant who knew Garner, told police he and Garner had been drinking alcohol the night before the shooting. Garner was so intoxicated, Roderick offered to walk him home, according to police. They talked about the break-up but there “was no talk of any hatred or violence” against Marino, according to Roderick’s statement to police.

Manatee Bay Apartments did not respond to a request for comment. An attorney for the apartment told CBS12 that the apartments are not at fault.

“Manatee Bay Apartments takes pride in providing resort-style living to all of its residents. The safety and comfort of its residents and their guests are Manatee Bay’s highest priority. The brutal murder of Ms. Marino by her former boyfriend is truly tragic and a great loss to the entire Manatee Bay community and its staff,” the attorney said. “However, Manatee Bay denies all liability and denies that it had any ability to prevent this crime of passion committed after Ms. Marino terminated her romantic relationship with the assailant. Manatee Bay was not aware of Ms. Marino’s and the assailant’s romantic relationship.”

Daniel Gutierrez, 30, a South Florida resident and Marino’s son, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The pair is seeking at least $15,000 in damages.

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