Twelve jurors needed less than two hours to find Jeremy Macauley guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed robbery in the October 2015 execution-style shooting deaths of Tavernier residents Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz.
The crime originated with a large haul of cocaine found offshore by charter fishermen the summer before the murders and ended when Ortiz took his scheme to blackmail Macauley too far. Rosado got caught in the middle, prosecutors say.
“I just love my sister,” Katelyn Farley, Tara’s older sister, said Wednesday. “I’m glad she got a little justice today.”
Sentencing is in two weeks. Among those Rosado leaves behind are three young children, Farley and grieving parents.
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“My family can finally have some relief,” her mother, Gina Scalisi, said at the Plantation Key courthouse on Wednesday afternoon. “Tara will live forever in our hearts.”
The children were home, but physically unharmed, when their mother and Ortiz were shot. One of them, over the course of the night being alone with the bodies, sketched a crayon drawing of two grave stones with “RIP Mom” and “RIP Carlos” written on them. The children were found in their front yard by a next door neighbor the following afternoon.
The case was particularly brutal for the Upper Florida Keys, where murder, let alone a double-homicide, is rare. Because of the attention it has received, Farley urged the public to give Macauley’s wife, two children and his mother privacy as he faces life in prison.
“It’s a very sad way to get closure,” Farley said. “I hope his family is treated with kindness and courtesy because they did not commit this crime.”
Rosado was killed, prosecutors say, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was in her bedroom with her boyfriend, Ortiz, the moment Macauley, 34, walked in with a Colt .45 caliber pistol and shot him in the back of the head. According to autopsy photos shown during the week-and-a-half trial, Rosado was shot almost at the top of her head, meaning she likely tried to get down on the ground after seeing Ortiz felled, Chief Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes said during closing arguments Wednesday.
“She ducked down and got shot right at the top of the head,” Fernandes told jurors.
The motive of the crime was to silence Ortiz, who was trying to extort Macauley and others over what prosecutors say was more than a dozen kilograms of cocaine Macauley was selling by the gram with the help of friends, including Ortiz.
The cocaine, according to the detectives and prosecutors, was found offshore by Macauley while he was working as a mate on the Sea Horse charter fishing boat. The boat’s captain, Richard Rodriguez, has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the drugs and has not been charged or arrested. He did not return phone and email requests for comment about his name being mentioned several times by prosecutors during the trial.
Macauley still faces charges related to the cocaine.
Over time, Ortiz, who was also partners with Macauley in a fledgling tattoo and smoke shop, became increasingly erratic and began demanding Macauley and Rodriguez give him more money and drugs. If not, Ortiz said in a series of frantic text messages in the days leading up to the murders, he was going to the cops.
Macauley’s attorney, Ed O’Donnell, Sr., whose legal fees are being paid by Rodriguez, calls the theory that the captain had anything to do with the drugs “ludicrous.” He said Macauley came into the cocaine some other way, and went with the story about finding it offshore to cover for its real source.
“The is zero evidence Mr. Rodriguez had anything to do with this case except when he got a text from [Ortiz] and responded ‘stop texting me or I’m going to the police,’ ” O’Donnell said.
The night of the murders, Macauley responded to the texts with a texted photo of a stack of cash. He told Ortiz he’d give him money. They agreed to meet at Rosado’s Cuba Road house in Tavernier where Ortiz was living with Rosado and her children.
Adrian Demblans, a 36-year-old fixture in the local dope-dealing scene, drove Macauley to Rosado’s house that night in a Toyota RAV4 he borrowed from a reluctant housemate after he bribed her with about $100 worth of crack. That woman, Suhai Montenegro, identified Macauley as the man sitting in the passenger-side seat of her car the night she let Demblans borrow it.
Demblans pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of a capital felony last April and Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, the same judge presiding over the Macauley case, sentenced him to 10 years in prison. It was a deal. Demblans was looking at 30 years if his case went to trial. In exchange for the lighter time, Demblans agreed to testify against Macauely.
O’Donnell argued that Macauley was innocent of the murders and Adrian Demblans and his twin brother Kristian Demblans, who’s serving two years on unrelated cocaine and heroin dealing charges, were the actual killers. Ortiz bought drugs from Adrian Demblans, and he too, had reason for wanting him dead since he was advertising himself via text message as a snitch.
O’Donnell also said Macualey sold Demblans the Colt before the murders, but two men testified during the trial that Macauley offered the gun to them in late September and October 2015, respectively.
Macauley took the stand Tuesday and denied killing Rosado and Ortiz and said he never left his house that night. His wife, Nicole Mansueto, also vouched for her husband. But prosecutors pointed to several inconsistencies in her testimony, including when she said she called Macauley the afternoon of Oct. 16, 2015, to tell him about the murders while he was fishing. Cellphone records show Macauley’s phone was turned off shortly after midnight — after he made several calls to Rodriguez — and not active again until the evening of Oct. 17.
Fernandes said the purpose of the calls to Rodriguez was to let him know “he’s done the deed.” Fernandes said Macauley typically doesn’t call his boss late at night to discuss work, as Mansueto gave as the reason for the early-morning Oct. 16 calls.
“He’s doing it this night to let him know what happened,” Fernandes said. “It’s done. It’s taken care of.”
Demblans testified last week that after backing into Rosado’s driveway around 10:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 2015, Ortiz was waiting outside. Macauley and Ortiz walked inside the house while Demblans said he waited in the car. A few minutes later, Demblans said he heard “two distinct shots,” grabbed his Glock .45-caliber pistol and went to the door. Macauley signaled him to come inside, where Demblans was greeted with the sight of the bodies of Rosado and Ortiz lying in a pool of blood in between their bed and a vanity.
Demblans said he told Macauley they had to leave immediately. Macauley wanted to look for a cellphone. He already took an iPhone from Ortiz’s shorts pocket, but thought there were others in the house that Ortiz used to send the threatening texts, which if seen by police would show Macauley had reason for wanting him dead.
It turned out Macauley had good reason to worry about the other phones. An Asus Zenfone found on the couple’s bed did contain a text conversation between Ortiz and Macauley that took place before the shooting.
“You know from the texts Carlos was expecting Jeremy,” Fernandes told jurors.
Demblans said that after the shootings, he drove Macauley east down Ocean Bay Drive off mile marker 100 and slowed down over a small bridge, where Macauley tossed the Colt into the canal. He then U-turned and drove west over the bridge so Macauley could throw the iPhone into the water.
The gun was found in November 2015 by a woman snorkeling in the canal. Then Monroe County Sheriff’s Office divers looking for more evidence found the phone.
Macauley and Demblans never knew police found the weapon. Demblans, donning scuba gear and an underwater metal detector, went looking for it fruitlessly in early 2016 after finding out from Montenegro’s boyfriend that he was on detectives’ radar in the murder investigation, O’Donnell said.
“That’s why Adrian Demblans was looking for the gun,” O’Donnell said during his closing argument.