Life in prison for Jersey man who murdered retired Miami police captain

Marisel Yee, widow of Robert Yee, cries at Miami criminal court on Friday as the killer of her husband was sentenced to life in prison.
Marisel Yee, widow of Robert Yee, cries at Miami criminal court on Friday as the killer of her husband was sentenced to life in prison. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.comB

A New Jersey man will serve life in prison for the murder of retired Miami police Capt. Robert Yee at a marina in July 2009.

A Miami-Dade judge on Friday handed down the sentence for Rafael Toirac-Aguilera, 39, who was convicted last month of first-degree murder. Jurors convicted him thanks to DNA and fingerprints found on an orange-juice bottle used as a homemade silencer found at the crime scene.

The sentence was no surprise — under Florida law, a conviction for first-degree murder carries an automatic life prison term.

Yee spent 25 years as a Miami cop, retiring in the mid-1990s after a decorated career that included leading the department’s horse mounted patrol. Friday’s sentencing was marked by tearful words from former colleagues and family, including his widow and his daughter, who is a police officer in Doral.

His widow, Marisel Yee, tearfully recalled her “rock” who took his job in law enforcement seriously.

“I feel closure, at least a little bit. Justice was done,” Marisel Yee said afterward.

The sentencing was also significant for retiring Miami homicide Detective Andy Arostegui, who worked on the case — and counted Friday as his last day on the job after 37 years on the force.

Back in 2009, Yee had returned to work, overseeing daily operations at the self-service Hurricane Cove Marina on Northwest North River Drive. Prosecutors said Toirac-Aguilera, in a rented silver car he drove from New Jersey, pulled up and shot the 61-year-old as he was riding in the golf cart he used to patrol the grounds in July 2009.

Prosecutors believe the killer was dispatched by someone — exactly whom remains a mystery — upset that the retired officer was telling federal agents about illegal activities at the marina.

The key clue was the Tropicana orange-juice bottle, wrapped in black tape that had been used as a homemade silencer. The bottle blew off the barrel of the gun and landed near Yee’s body.

Finger and palm prints, plus DNA on the lip of the bottle, matched Toirac-Aguilera — a New Jersey man who had been arrested in a domestic-violence case there a few months after the shooting.

At trial, Toirac-Aguilera’s ex-girlfriend testified that in July 2009, the two drove a rented silver Toyota Corolla to Miami. She believed he was coming for some unspecified work. Multiple eye witnesses told police that the gunman drove a silver Corolla.