Crime

Defense claims video exonerates Canadian teen in murder case

Marc Wabafiyebazu, 15, attends his arraignment on Monday, April 20, 2015.
Marc Wabafiyebazu, 15, attends his arraignment on Monday, April 20, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

In their mother’s black BMW with diplomatic plates, the Canadian teens pull up to the tiny Miami apartment. Jean Wabafiyebazu, 17, soon leaves the driver’s seat and enters the home out of view.

Moments later, in a surveillance video released by authorities on Monday, something happens.

His younger brother, 15-year-old Marc, pops out of the passenger side, pacing around the car. Later, he disappears off screen as gunshots, not recorded by the basic video camera, ring out. Minutes tick by. Suddenly a wounded man in a purple shirt — a suspected marijuana dealer shot in the arm — hobbles into view and climbs into a black Chevrolet Malibu.

Marc, a hoodie over his head, rushes toward him, trying to get into the passenger-side door. The car zooms off. Pausing briefly, the teen scrambles after the vehicle, with what appears to be a pistol in his hand. Not long after, Miami police officers rush into view, guns raised to detain Marc.

The video of the Canadian teens’ involvement, running less than 15 minutes, captures just a portion of the drug deal turned double slaying that has drawn widespread interest in South Florida and Canada.

Miami-Dade prosecutors released the surveillance video as Marc’s lawyers formally entered a plea of not guilty to charges of felony murder, attempted armed robbery and attempted murder. The video was released hours after his defense attorneys, having been allowed to view the clip, filed a motion declaring the footage “complete exonerates” Marc because he is not seen firing a weapon.

However, the video, taken from a neighbor’s outside surveillance system, does not show what happened inside the apartment, where Jean and suspected drug dealer Joshua Wright shot each other dead. Sources with knowledge of the investigation also say Marc told a police officer he fired at Rodriguez — and .40-caliber bullet casings found outside of the apartment, out of the camera’s view, support accusations that Marc fired at the fleeing man.

Marc is the son of Roxanne Dubé, Canada’s consul general in Miami. The family had only moved to Florida in January. A grand jury last week indicted Marc, a Palmetto High student.

In Florida, suspects can be charged with felony murder if they participate in a crime — in Marc’s case, attempted armed robbery — that leads to someone’s death.

In their court filing, the defense team is asking Circuit Judge Teresa Pooler to release Marc out on bond before trial. A hearing will be held in the coming weeks.

“Marc is a child and deserves to be treated as such,” the motion reads. “The truth is, Marc spent time with his older brother Jean because Jean was one of the only people Marc knew in Miami.”

Miami police say Marc and Jean arranged a deal last month to buy two pounds of marijuana for $4,800. But all along, they planned to rob the drug dealers at an apartment in the neighborhood off Coral Way on March 30, investigators believe.

The video shows that after Jean pulled up to the home in the 3600 block of Southwest 17th Terrace, he got out and tried to get into a car belonging to a suspected broker in the deal. Wearing a long orange shirt, baggy pants and black sweatshirt of the Miami Heat, Jean returned to the BMW, waited briefly then left for the home while holding a green book bag.

Moments later, suspected drug dealer Anthony Rodriguez emerged from the home to retrieve the marijuana from his Malibu parked yards away, the video shows, before going back inside.

On Monday, Marc’s defense team laid out its strategy in detail, saying the teen “did nothing more than sit in a car while his brother made a series of bad decisions which cost him his life.”

“He would be a very poor look-out or back-up for his brother in the event the alleged armed robbery went poorly,” lawyers Curt Obront and Michael James Corey wrote in an 18-page motion.

Inside the apartment, police said, a shootout erupted. Jean was killed, as was drug dealer Joshua Wright, 17, a former Coral Gables High student. Two others, Anthony Rodriguez, 19, and Johann Ruiz, 21, who ran the suspected drug-selling home, were wounded.

The video shows that Marc got out of the BMW with his hood over his head, paced around the car, looking around. He disappeared from view, returned to the car briefly and then walked toward the apartment, presumably after hearing the shots.

Police believe that Marc rushed in, grabbed one of his brother’s two pistols and — at some point — fired at Rodriguez as the man ran away.

The video shows Rodriguez, shot in the arm, staggered back to his Malibu before he paused, then drove off. Investigators believe Rodriguez took the marijuana and Jean’s second pistol.

The defense pointed out that the video “does not show Marc shoot at Rodriguez, threaten or even touch him.”

Rodriguez and Ruiz have also been indicted for lesser felony murder charges for allegedly participating in the drug deal that led to Wright’s and Jean’s deaths.

According to police reports, Marc confessed to his role in planning the armed robbery as a transport officer was taking him to the juvenile detention center. He also said he and his brother had committed robberies before and “had done the same type thing in Canada,” according to an arrest report.

Marc’s lawyers, in their court filing, blasted the Miami police’s arrest report, saying the supposed “spontaneous” admissions are not admissible at trial and are “highly suspect.” The teen was never read his Miranda rights informing of him he had the right to remain to silent during hours at the Miami police station, the lawyers said.

The defense strategy is clear: Slain brother Jean was to blame.

“Lost in all of the media attention surrounding this incident is the fact that Marc is a 15-year-old child. He is not a hardened gang member,” lawyers wrote. “He is a just a shy kid who did not know anyone in Miami other than his troubled brother.”

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