Prosecutors have abandoned their quest for a death sentence against the alleged triggerman in the 2013 murder of a 31-year-old man lured into a robbery after he answered an escort ad on Backpage.com.
The decision not to seek the death penalty against 24-year-old Ilmart Christophe in the shooting death of Gustavo Falsetti Cabral comes less than two months after another Palm Beach County jury took less than 15 minutes to reject a possible death sentence against Christophe’s alleged accomplice, Jefty Joseph.
In Joseph’s February trial, Christophe’s former girlfriend, Kroal Ben Shimon, told jurors she arranged to meet Cabral for sex at a Super 8 Motel in Pompano Beach after he responded to the ad titled “Belle Ayrab Barbie/Sexy Angeline Latina.” When he arrived, she said, Christophe and Joseph robbed him at gunpoint, kidnapped him and had Ben Shimon follow them in another car as they drove him to several ATM machines in an attempt to drain his bank account.
Cabral’s body was found in an abandoned home in the Indian Pines community of Lake Worth, near where both Christophe and Joseph lived. Both men were arrested almost immediately. Deputies spotted them in the area after someone reported the gunshots, and although Joseph surrendered immediately, Christophe was captured after a brief chase.
Although Assistant State Attorneys Aleathea McRoberts and Terri Skiles told jurors both men were equally guilty no matter who pulled the trigger, Joseph’s jury in their murder conviction against Joseph decided unanimously that he was not the one in possession of the gun when Cabral was killed — pointing by default to Christophe as the shooter.
Defense attorneys Scott Skier, Robert Gershman and Shaun Rosenberg had argued, among other things, that the husky Joseph was too heavy to fit through the narrow stairway that led to the abandoned attic where Cabral was murdered.
Ben Shimon, who said she didn’t know the men were going to kill Cabral and drove to Christophe’s home at his behest before the shooting, accepted a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for her testimony and is now serving a 10-year sentence on a kidnapping charge. As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped the murder charges against her.
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentence Joseph to three consecutive life terms in prison in February, after jurors opted to spare his life following an emotional sentencing hearing.
In Monday hearing on Christophe’s case, Kastrenakes reset his case for what is expected to be the final pretrial hearing on Oct. 10.