Circumstantial evidence can only take investigators so far in a crime when speculating whether a suspect is the actual perpetrator. This was the case in the 2003 murder of Gladys Jorge who was savagely beaten to death in her home in mid-July.
At the time of the homicide, Jorge shared a home with her boyfriend Eugenio Fariñas. According to her family their relationship was rocky to say the least, but they still coexisted in the same residence for quite a long time.
The victim’s body was found by Jorge’s mother, who lived door during the summer of 2003. According to police records she had a key to her daughter’s house. When officers were dispatched to the residence where they were met by Jorge’s mother and sister, they were advised that she was inside and unresponsive. Paramedics quickly pronounced her dead after entering the home.
The only other person who had a key to the residence was Fariñas. He turned it over to investigators when he was first questioned directly after the killing took place.
Fariñas had been investigator’s prime suspect from the beginning yet they only had circumstantial evidence. The fact that his DNA and fingerprints were found at the premises didn’t make the case a slam dunk since he lived there, and the presence of his DNA and other physical evidence would be common.
So, let’s take a look at the other circumstantial evidence assembled by police at the time of Jorge’s death in reference to Fariñas’ actions:
First off, he never returned to the home after the homicide; not even to pick up his possessions. Secondly, he didn’t attend the funeral of his domestic partner. After the homicide occurred the killer locked the door upon his exit. There was no sign of forced entry when detectives first investigated the crime scene. Taking into consideration that only three people had the key to the home the evidence pointed sharply toward Eugenio Fariñas. Police also received an anonymous phone call the following day from a person who told them that “someone might be injured” at Jorge’s house.
When police traced the call it was found to have originated from the law office of Allan Knight. Further investigation of Knight’s clientele showed that he represented Fariñas in a previous divorce case. It was also alleged that Ms. Jorge and Fariñas had a conversation about ending their relationship and that she had decided that she wanted him to move out of her place.
Taking all of this into consideration, if this was a movie or a TV show it’s more likely than not that the viewing audience would believe that there’s no doubt who the killer would be. But in reality, everything listed above is only incidental causing a District Attorney to choose not to bring a case forward against Mr. Fariñas.
Even though the circumstantial evidence to this point didn’t lead the authorities to charge Fariñas with the murder, the case was never closed or dropped by investigators who kept on digging for more than a decade from the date of this horrible unsolved attack.
With advancements in DNA testing over the next decade improving substantially investigators continued to look deeper into the physical evidence on hand leading them to connect bloody items found at the crime scene which previously weren’t totally linked to Farinas’ genetic material. In December 2014 cold-case detectives ordered another analysis of the DNA samples taken from bloody socks, underwear and a towel found at the scene of the crime.
With this new genetic evidence acquired, clearly detecting Fariñas genetic material on them Detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homicide Bureau believed they had the missing link and used what they considered the smoking gun to charge and arrest Fariñas on August 14, 2015.
Fariñas defense team was able to get the judge to suppress two key items mentioned above that the prosecution was relying on to prove their case decisively.
Jurors were not allowed to hear about the details of the 911 call received by police the morning after Jorge was murdered tying him directly to the attorney who had a direct connection to the defendant, as well as not being allowed to be advised that Jorge had told her family that she’d asked Fariñas to move out; which are included in the original detective’s statements and transcripts.
The defense was also able to narrate a totally different picture relating to the relationship between Jorge and Fariñas going outside the available forensic evidence relying on the victim’s alleged lifestyle.
Speaking to the jury, one of Fariñas defense lawyers in an attempt to exhibit reasonable doubt stated that there were at least three other former lovers who could have been to blame for Ms. Jorge’s murder. He went on to tell them that one of them was “madly in love” with the victim, who previously had him arrested after the alleged lover stole her credit card and ran up her debt using it recklessly. The attorney continued by telling the jury that this particular romantic interest of Ms. Jorge “…showed up at the scene of the murder within hours of the body being discovered”. He also stated that there was no possible evidence that nobody else had a copy of the key to the Jorge residence.
He continued by stating that the DNA results were not precise enough to implicate his client and continued to point out that Fariñas genetic material was found on the premises because he lived there. “DNA doesn’t prove when it got there, how it got there,” the defense attorney asserted.
The prosecution’s case took a small hit when they were questioning Jorge’s sister, Sylvia Ortega, who told jurors that her sister and Fariñas had a “rocky relationship.” The comment was stricken from the record due to the judge ruling that the woman did not directly personally witness any friction between the couple.
However when laying out their case, the prosecution relied on the newly detected forensic evidence of the bloodied items encompassing the defendant’s genetic material along with the circumstantial case that they easily pieced together for the jury to ponder. The prosecution indicated that the weapon used to bludgeon Ms. Jorge to death was a dumbbell found broken inside one of the bedrooms.
Jorge’s daughter, former Broward assistant public defender Jennifer Jorge, testified under oath when called to the stand as a witness said that besides the slain woman’s mother, only Fariñas had a spare key disputing the defense’s assertion that other keys may have existed.
After considering the cases presented by the prosecution and the defense it took just about an hour before a verdict was returned by the jury in the week-long trial.
Fariñas, who is presently 76 years old was convicted of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon. The verdict ended a week-long trial. Leaving the now convicted defendant facing up to life in prison when he is sentenced in the weeks to come.
When questioned by those covering the case for local news publications, Jennifer Jorge, the victim’s daughter, said she was upset that the defense depicted her mother “to be this floozy” and was alarmed that the jurors were not allowed to hear the key evidence disallowed by the judge. However, in the end she was happy to share her thoughts when she stated “Justice was served at the end of the day… the jurors understood, they cut through the B.S.”
Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney whose expertise in criminal defense is extensive. As a former Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the government, Mr. Cohen clients receive the best sought possible outcome refuting any charges alleged by the State of Florida or the Federal Government. Working for the prosecution prior to founding his criminal defense practice in the private sector has given him a superior advantage that will result beneficially for those who seek his help. If you, a family member or close friend is charged with any type of homicide, call Mr. Cohen at the earliest possible time for a free case evaluation.