“I am grateful for justice”: Maurice Spagnoletti’s widow speaks after guilty verdicts

The content originally appeared on: El Nuevo Día

“I am grateful for justice.”

Marisa Spagnoletti let out the phrase in a short sigh. She unburdened herself deeply with those five words that summarized an almost 12-year wait for the outcome of her husband Maurice Spagnoletti?s murder case, who was an executive at Doral Bank.

“I cannot leave Puerto Rico without telling the people how grateful I am for the love I have received during all this time and how much I love my husband and my daughter Lucy,” said Marisa Spagnoletti in an exclusive interview with El Nuevo D?a after a jury in the Old San Juan Federal Court issued guilty verdicts against two of the three defendants.

After three days of deliberations – and 23 days of trial with 49 witnesses – last Thursday, a federal jury found two of the defendants guilty of the banker’s murder on the night of June 15, 2011.

Yadier Serrano Canales, a.k.a “Motombo” and Rolando Rivera Solis were convicted, while Luis Carmona Bernacet, a.k.a “Cano Cumbre,” was acquitted on the murder charge. Alex Burgos Amaro, a.k.a. “Yogui,” was also charged with the murder of Maurice Spagnoletti, but will face trial separately in the summer due to a personal problem with his lawyer.

After waiting for long hours, once in the courtroom on the fifth floor of the Federal Court in Old San Juan, jurors handed out the verdicts and an officer read each charge against each defendant.

With the last charge, which was Rivera Solis’ “guilty,” Marisa Spagnoletti lowered her head and then leaned on the left shoulder of a friend who was with her on the first bench of the courtroom. After the hearing concluded, she could not hold back her tears as she hugged prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel there.

“I live in hope,” Marisa Spagnoletti told this newspaper. “I knew this day would come.”

“I have to say that I am very grateful to the entire FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) team and the District Attorney?s office. I can’t put the outstanding work they did all these years into words,” she added.

She particularly expressed her gratitude for “Kelly Zen?n and her team,” as well as for the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge for the District of Puerto Rico, Joseph Gonz?lez “because he was with this case for many years and never forgot us”.

She added that she will continue her work with the foundation and the store she established in New Jersey, after her husband’s death, to help people in need.

“It’s called Lucy’s Gift, after my daughter and 100 percent of the profits go to charity. That’s my purpose in life, to help sick children, victims of hate and crime,” she said. “My dream is to take these stores to Puerto Rico and to all the states in the U.S., to help more people”.

With her voice cracking at times, she recalled: “When my husband was killed, my daughter had health problems, she was very sick, but she wanted to help others and had no way to donate money to people in need.”

“I had a job, but it was so much more I wanted to do. So I started selling handbags to help people in need. Then, we opened a store. Since then, that’s been my mission in life,” she said.

“We are fighting for all the victims. Together we can do it,” she said. “My dream is to end hate, crime, and violence, in memory of my husband who died as a hero”.

Spagnoletti was murdered, shot four times in the head, shortly after 7:00 p.m. on June 15, 2011, after ordering the cancellation of Doral Bank’s inflated contracts with janitorial services company SJ Tropical and the construction corporation Max Construction, both linked to Rivera Solis.

The District Attorney?s Office alleged that Rivera Solis requested Spagnoletti’s murder and that that night, Burgos Amaro called when the banker left Doral’s main building, while Serrano Canales shot him while he was driving on the De Diego Expressway (PR-22), in the direction of the Minillas Tunnel, shortly before reaching the exit to Old San Juan.

The prosecution’s theory was that they all belonged to a drug trafficking organization. For conspiracy to traffic drugs, the jury found all five defendants guilty: Carmona Bernacet, Serrano Canales, Rivera Sol?s, Alan Lugo Montalvo, and Fabiany Alm?stica Monge.

As for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, the jury found four of the five guilty: Carmona Bernacet, Serrano Canales, Alm?stica Monge, and Rivera Sol?s. Meanwhile, Lugo Montalvo was not convicted for this charge.

Although he was not convicted for the banker’s murder or the murder of Ren? Cruz Cuadrado, the jury did find Carmona Bernacet guilty of the murder of William Castro Vidot, a.k.a “Willie Libra”.

They now face life in prison for murder. The sentencing hearing was scheduled for next August 11. The defense announced today that they will appeal on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the convictions.