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This article was published 15/3/2019 (312 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico’s notorious "Black Widow" was sentenced to life in prison Friday, 13 1/2 years after she plotted the midnight killing of her Winnipeg-born husband on a cobblestone street in historic Old San Juan.
Aurea Vazquez-Rijos barely flinched when the judge handed down the sentence for the murder- for-hire of her millionaire husband, developer Adam Anhang, a Winnipeg native. Vasquez-Rijos hired a hit man to kill Anhang in 2005 for a promised $3-million fee that was never paid.
But before the judge delivered the life sentence, there was a sharp and electrifying exchange between Vasquez-Rijos, in chains, and the father of the victim, 80-year-old Abe Anhang, who had pursued his son's killers for more than a decade.
"I hope you’re happy now," Vasquez-Rijos told him from the defendant’s table. Glaring at the woman who had his son killed, Anhang snapped: "Shut up!" He returned to his seat visibly shaken.
Also sentenced to life was a co-conspirator, Vasquez-Rijos's sister Marcia. Vasquez-Rijos was hoping to inherit $8 million from Anhang’s estate.
A third accused, Jose Ferrer-Sosa, also got life. Ferrer-Sosa introduced the hit man to the two Vasquez-Rijos sisters, and took part in the conspiracy.
Lawyers for both women said they intend to appeal. The judge recommended that the sentences be served at a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas.
The life sentences handed down by Judge Daniel Dominguez do not include the possibility of parole, although the sentence can be reduced or reversed on appeal.
Friday’s hearing unfolded before a packed courtroom, and spectators heard impassioned victim impact statements from members of the Anhang family and Vasquez-Rijos herself. Barbara, the victim’s mother, spoke in a quiet deliberate voice about how the family’s hopes and dreams "were destroyed in a single stroke" when Adam was killed.
"We remember the beautiful and beloved person that he was, despite being returned home in a box, stabbed, bludgeoned and disfigured—an image that haunts us until today . . . " She noted that the defendants showed "neither remorse nor contrition."
Rebecca, Adam’s younger sister, pointed to the defendants and said: "My family’s nightmare will never end. . . In our religious tradition, it is taught that when someone kills a single person, it is as though he has destroyed an entire world. . . When these defendants killed my big brother Adam, they destroyed my family’s whole world. They deserve nothing less than life in prison."
Given a chance to speak before sentencing, the diminutive widow, dressed in green prison garb, asked if the U.S. marshal could remove her handcuffs. Then she launched into a bitter attack on Abe Anhang, accusing him of character assassination and unrelenting persecution while she was living in Europe. She denied that she left Puerto Rico in 2007 to escape justice.
"You lost (a son) but I lost too," she said to the Anhang family, her voice rising. "I lost a man I love. I was murdered. A part of me died. . . I am innocent and time will prove it. That is all."
Vasquez-Rijos was at Adam’s side when hit man Alex "El Loco" Pabon attacked him at midnight on September 22, 2005, on an intersection in Old San Juan. Adam’s last words to his wife were "Run, baby, run." He was unaware of his wife’s role in the conspiracy to have him killed. Testimony revealed that Adam was preparing to initiate divorce proceedings against the defendant.
A Puerto Rico jury found her guilty of conspiracy to commit murder last fall in a trial that galvanized this US territory. Vasquez-Rijos Friday called the trial a "theatric show."
Friday was the final chapter in a long pursuit of justice by Adam’s father Abe, who always believed that Vasquez-Rijos was behind his son’s murder. He encouraged the FBI to investigate the widow even after the wrong man was convicted of the homicide, and Vasquez-Rijos fled to Europe.
Leaving the courtroom, Adam’s sister Rebecca told reporters: "Tonight will be nearly the 5000th night that we’ve slept without Adam in our lives and we’ll never recover from that but we’re really pleased and relieved that justice has been served."
Asked if the sentencing meant closure for his family, Abe Anhang said, "We will never forget our son. It’s closure, perhaps on this earth."