Jurors to deliberate in death penalty trial for 2013 escort ad murder

A Palm Beach County jury will soon begin deciding the death penalty murder case of a Lake Worth man accused of participating in the 2013 robbery, kidnapping and murder of a man lured to a Broward County motel room through an escort ad on Backpage.com.

Attorneys in the trial for Jefty Joseph on Friday delivered their final arguments to jurors who have been listening to evidence since last week in the shooting death of 31-year-old Gustavo Falsetti Cabral, but Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent the panel home afterwards and asked them to come back Monday to begin deliberating after a few more final instructions. If jurors convict Joseph, prosecutors will ask them to vote unanimously to sentence him to die.

Before court adjourned for the weekend, Assistant State Attorneys Terri Skiles and Aleathea McRoberts asked jurors to reject defense attorney Scott Skier’s arguments that Joseph was merely a drug dealer whose sole purpose was to sell drugs to Cabral at his request when he met escort Koral Ben Shimon at a Super 8 Motel in Pompano Beach.

Ben Shimon testified Thursday Joseph was an equal participant with Ilmart Christophe, her pimp and boyfriend, in a robbery and kidnapping of Cabral. She said she set up the meeting in the early hours of Dec. 1, 2013 after he answered her ad and asked to meet for sex. Investigators found Cabral’s dead body hours later in an abandoned house in unincorporated Lake Worth.

Skiles and McRoberts on Friday described Cabral’s decision to answer the ad as the worst decision the married father of two could have ever made. They reminded jurors of Ben Shimon’s testimony that Cabral was so scared of the men when they held him at gunpoint inside the hotel room that at times he appeared to be near tears.

“He’s terrified. He told them, please don’t hurt me, I have a wife and kids. He said here, you can have all my money. But that wasn’t good enough for him!” Asistant State Attorney Terri Skiles told jurors, pointing to Joseph.

In fact, prosecutors said, it was just the beginning of the final terrifying hours of his life. They recapped for jurors Cabral’s journey with his trio of alleged kidnappers to his car, where Christophe and Joseph allegedly drove him to several banks in the hope of draining his accounts with Ben Shimon trailing in another car before they finally drove him north to the abandoned house at 7236 Ithica Circle West in the Indian Pines community of unincorporated Lake Worth.

Prosecutors said Cabral complied with the men’s demands because he thought it was the only way he would survive, but Skier in his final words repeated to jurors his claims from the start of the trial last week that Cabral’s failure to yell, run or call for help when the group had him out in public was a sure sign that there never was a kidnapping.

Skier, leading Joseph’s defense team with Shaun Rosenberg and Robert Gershman, said the only desperate person in the case is Ben Shimon, who accepted a 10-year plea deal with prosecutors last year in exchange for her testimony against Joseph and Christophe. Prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty against Christophe, who is still awaiting trial.

Each man claimed the other went into the abandoned house alone with Cabral before his death, but Skier reminded jurors that Christophe was the only one who ran from deputies when they tried to stop the pair as they walked along Eddy Court a short time later.

As for Joseph’s claims in a two-hour interrogation video that he met Cabral at a casino and that Cabral was a close friend of his older brother and had watched him grow up? Skier had no rebuttal for the fact that Cabral was born and raised in Brazil and had only been in the United States a year before his death, but implied in his closing arguments that Joseph could have simply been mistaken and really believed that Cabral was the family friend.

Skier said it was Christophe who killed Cabral — without Joseph’s knowledge or consent.

Nobody deserves what happened to Gustavo Cabral,” Skier said. “And there will be justice for that, but that’ll come through Ilmart Christophe. There will be justice, because what the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt in this case is that Mr. Christophe was responsible for the death of Gustavo Cabral.”

McRoberts, like Skiles, used her final words to jurors to take them back to the final moments of Cabral’s life. According to testimony in the case, Cabral and his killer walked up a ladder to the attic of the abandoned home, where a single gunshot shattered the 31-year-old’s skull and sent him falling through the attic floor, killing him instantly.

“Despite his best hope, despite his best wishes, he had to know he was going to die,” McRoberts said.

At the sound of those words, a male juror seated on the front row turned his face to the court gallery where Cabral’s wife, Christiane was seated, and stared.

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