SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — The man hired to kill Winnipeg native Adam Anhang in 2005 was told to make the murder look like a robbery, part of a deal he made with Anhang’s wife, a San Juan court was told Thursday.
Derek Osterman, a friend of convicted killer Alex Pabon, testified that after the killing around midnight of Sept. 22, 2005, the two men met and Pabon told him "it was a very big contract and he was going to earn more money than in the movie Assassins"—a Sylvester Stallone film shot in Puerto Rico.
But first, Pabon asked if the two men could return to the scene of the crime together to make sure Anhang, a 32-year-old millionaire businessman, was really dead. The killing happened on a street intersection in Old San Juan, a popular tourist area
"He (Pabon) told me that the person who hired him was the owner of the Pink Skirt," Osterman said. The Pink Skirt was a popular restaurant/lounge that Anhang bought for his wife, Aurea Vazquez-Rijos, after they were married. She is is accused of hiring Pabon for the contract killing.
Pabon confessed in 2008 that he was promised $3 million to kill Anhang, in a conspiracy that included Vazquez-Rijos, her sister Marcia and a boyfriend, Jose Ferrer Sosa. All three were in court Thursday.
Osterman also told the court that Pabon was a marijuana dealer, and that he was seen selling drugs to the three accused in the Pink Skirt a day before the murder.
Osterman’s testimony was the strongest evidence yet at this trial linking Vazquez-Rijos to the killing. Previous testimony has shown that she was angry at Anhang after he told her he was filing for divorce.
Osterman said that Pabon telephoned him after the killing and asked if they could get together and use Osterman’s car, a Honda Civic, to make a reconnaissance of the crime scene. "He told me he had just done a job," Osterman told the court. "He was excited. He was going to be rich." But he would only be paid if Anhang was dead.
The job was meant to be "professional," Osterman testified. But Pabon had made a serious mistake. It was meant to seem like a robbery but the killer had forgotten to take Anhang’s wallet before fleeing.
The killer also told Osterman he’d had to "improvise" because he was unable to secure a gun. Instead, he used a kitchen knife and a cobblestone. Anhang died of a severe head injury.
As part of the plan to make it look like a robbery, Pabon also struck Vazquez-Rijos, who was accompanying Anhang at the time of the attack.
Osterman, who was given immunity by U.S. justice officials, later offered Pabon a hiding place at a property owned by his mother in another part of town. He had to go into hiding because word was circulating on the streets that he was the killer.
When he was approached by a homicide investigator days after the killing, Osterman testified that he lied and and said he knew nothing about Pabon’s whereabouts.
"I was saving my best friend’s life," he said. "Because if he was arrested and sent to jail, he would no longer exist. . . . He told me ‘if I go to jail, I wasn’t going to live because there’s a green light for me in jail’."
It’s believed he was referring to a possible reprisal because the murder of Adam Anhang had not been "authorized" by the San Juan underworld, in a city where attacks on tourists are rare.
While in hiding, Osterman said, Pabon wrote letters to the three accused demanding payment of the $3 million bounty he was promised. The letters were hand-carried to the Pink Skirt by one of Osterman’s friends. But the money was never paid.
Pabon was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008, but he will not be sentenced until the conclusion of the Vazquez-Rijos trial.