Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/9/2018 (1042 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — The widow of slain Canadian businessman Adam Anhang gave her account Wednesday of the night he was killed 13 years ago, insisting she didn’t know the killer and was not part of a conspiracy to end his life.
"He was a marvellous man, a very good man," Aurea Vazquez-Rijos told a packed San Juan courtroom. "I loved him very much."
She is accused of a murder-for-hire plot — along with her sister Marcia and her sister’s boyfriend, Jose Ferrer Sosa — that targeted the 32-year-old Winnipeg native in September 2005.
The hit man they are accused of hiring has told police that the day before the murder, the trio offered him $3 million to kill Anhang, because he was about to divorce Vazquez-Rijos and she would no longer have access to his $24-million fortune.
"I’ve been trying to forget this for so many years," she testified, her voice breaking as she talked about the midnight attack on a dimly lit street in Old San Juan, a site popular with tourists. "The last thing I remember was Adam fighting (with his attacker). He was telling me to run. He said to me, ‘Run baby, run.’"
Earlier that evening, she said, the couple had dinner at a restaurant called the Dragonfly. They left shortly before midnight and were walking hand-in-hand when two men approached them from out of the shadows.
One of them went up to Adam and said, "This is a holdup."
"I yelled trying to get help. It was horrible. It was so quick. Adam was fighting with this person and I was struck a blow (on the head). I had blood on my hands, and after that, I don’t remember."
An eyewitness has testified that the only one shouting for help was Anhang, and Vazquez-Rijos seemed to be composed.
Vazquez-Rijos said the attack left her wounded and traumatized for months.
The attacker was Alex "El Loco" Pabon, a drug dealer and well-known criminal on the streets of the Puerto Rico capital. He was arrested in 2008, and along with his confession, he named Vazquez-Rijos and the two other accused as being the plotters. He said never collected his fee.
Vazquez-Rijos’ decision to testify in her own defence came near the conclusion of the trial, and surprised most observers. Federal Court Judge Daniel Dominguez told her to consider her decision carefully, because she would face cross-examination by prosecutors and she was opening a "huge door, as high and fat as an elephant (because) the cross-examination could be enormous." He gave her five minutes to think about it, but she was adamant that she wanted to testify.
There was yet another delay, because Vazquez-Rijos’ mother Carmen appeared in court with the accused’s three-year-old daughter Dana, born while Vazquez-Rios was in a Spanish prison. The girl started crying and the judge ordered a marshal to escort her and Carmen out of the courtroom. He said he didn’t want a noisy child distracting the jury. The same thing happened more than three weeks ago during jury selection.
Vazquez-Rijos testified Wednesday that she and Anhang started dating after they met in an Old San Juan restaurant in 2002. Defence lawyer Lydia Lizarribar produced photographs of their wedding in March 2005 in which only her friends and family were present.
Anhang’s parents, who were not invited, learned about the marriage much later.
Also absent at the wedding was Anhang’s business partner, real estate developer Roberto Cacho. "He was my husband’s partner," Vazquez-Rijos testified, "but he detested me." They agreed not to invite him.
Cacho, she said, was upset by the terms of the couple’s pre-nuptial agreement. He felt it had conditions that would compromise the viability of the business. "As soon as we got married, when Cacho found out, he started approaching Adam, constantly harassing him (about the terms of the pre-nup)."
A month after the marriage, Anhang loaned her the money to start a restaurant/lounge which she called the Pink Skirt. She said she promised to repay the money from the restaurant’s revenue, which she said was substantial.
However, the constant pressure from Cacho, she said, began to affect their marriage. At one point she come across an email in which Anhang told Cacho he was "willing to do whatever it would take to protect our interest."
Soon after, Anhang started thinking about a divorce. The marriage was dissolving after only weeks and things were turning ugly. Two other witnesses have testified that Vazquez-Rijos asked them if they knew a hit man she could hire. In her testimony Wednesday, the widow denied it vigorously.
She was also asked about a meeting with the couple’s therapist the day before Anhang’s slaying in which he told her that he was filing for a divorce, and she replied: "Just try. I’m not going to let you go that easy."
Vazquez-Rijos explained that she was referring to the strong physical bond she had with her husband. "We had an active sexual life and it was a bond that was very difficult to break… We were being intimate almost every day." In fact, she added, they made love the night before Anhang was killed.
Despite the couple’s therapy session, she said, she felt positive about the relationship. "I felt that nothing had changed, that we would continue our lives as before."
On the night of the killing, she said, they had dinner to discuss her legal trouble. She was scheduled to appear in court the next day because she had struck somebody with her car. She testified that Anhang was helping her find a lawyer. After dinner, they headed for the parking lot where they had left their car. Anhang stopped in a pub along the way to buy cigarettes.
Minutes later, he was dead.
Also on Wednesday, a Puerto Rico doctor testified that when she saw Vazquez-Rijos three weeks after Anhang’s slaying, the widow still had discolouration from a blow to her head, and had trouble walking.
Dr. Beatriz del Valle said she prescribed pain medication, prepared a program of physical therapy and referred her to two specialists, including a psychiatrist. The doctor also recommended a walker.
The defence is attempting to prove that Vazquez-Rijos is a victim, and not a co-conspirator in Anhang’s slaying.
The prosecution’s cross-examination is set for Thursday.