Friday, September 29, 2006

Jury hears how scheme to escape Cuba ended in murder

Posted on Thu, Sep. 28, 2006

Jury hears how scheme to escape Cuba ended in murder

For Caridad Pajon, it was a marriage of convenience, and a brief one.

When her best friend's son won the immigration visa lottery in Cuba, she
married him so she, too, could escape the communist island and join her
daughter in Miami. The couple divorced three days before they got on the
plane to the United States.

But Pajon's daughter told a jury Wednesday that Hanoi Hormachea wanted
more than a simple immigration marriage. He was in love with Pajon. He
couldn't stand to see her date another man. Though they had been married
only five months, she was ``his woman.''

So he killed her, said prosecutors.

Hormachea's attorneys argue he did so in self-defense.

Marina Sanchez, Pajon's daughter, wept Wednesday in the Miami-Dade
courtroom where Hormachea is on trial for the 2004 murder. She cowered
in the witness stand, quickly peering around the judge's bench to
identify Hormachea in the courtroom before retreating out of his sight.

She trembled as she struggled to describe the doomed relationship
between him and her mother.

''My mom used to be more of a friend to his mom,'' she testified. ``She
used to try to help him.''

She told the jury there was nothing ''romantic'' about her mother's
relationship with Hormachea.

''She treated him like a son,'' she said.

Pajon was 37 when she was killed. Hormachea was 11 years her junior.
Sanchez said that after the pair arrived in Miami, Hormachea became
jealous when her mother began dating and even tried to break up the

''He would get angry when my mom would go back with her boyfriend,'' she

''He said he was tired of her, and one day, she would see who he was and
what he would do,'' she added, barely able to control her tears.

Assistant State Attorney Herbert E. Walker III asked: ``What was his
demeanor when he said that?''

''In his eyes, you could tell he was angry,'' said Sanchez, recalling
Hormachea's behavior two weeks before he killed her.

At the time, Pajon's boyfriend, the one who made Hormachea so jealous,
was staying with her. He left on the afternoon of Oct. 7, 2004.

That night, Sanchez called her mother and was surprised to hear
Hormachea's voice on the other end.

''I told him, `who are you to be answering my mom's phone?'' Sanchez said.

Hormachea passed the phone to Pajon.

'She told me, `He's got me going crazy all day long,' '' Sanchez said.

It was the last time she spoke to her mother.

Hormachea, say prosecutors, cut Pajon's throat, stripped off her clothes
and left her naked in her own shower to bleed to death.

Hormachea is not disputing that he killed Pajon. His attorneys are
arguing that it wasn't a murder, but rather a less serious case of

He was fighting back after Pajon attacked him. She was angry at him
because he was using cocaine.

''She insulted him because he was using drugs,'' attorney Henri Rauch
said. ``Frankly, these people liked each other. I'm sure she felt bad
that he was using drugs.''

After twice denying he knew anything about the murder, Hormachea told
Hialeah police that he killed Pajon after she attacked him with a knife.

''He acts instinctively,'' Rauch argued. ``Nobody likes to get stabbed
with a knife. . . . In defense of himself, he did cut her neck.''

Rauch insisted that Hormachea was devastated by what he had done and
ultimately told police the truth because he was consumed by guilt.

''Everything that the state has in this case which points to somebody
committing a crime they have because Mr. Hormachea told them,'' Rauch said.

``After initially, obviously, not telling them the whole truth, he felt
bad enough that he told them what happened.''

Testimony is scheduled to continue today.

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