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Opening statements begin murder trial for second time

Joel Lebron accused of killing Ana Maria Angel in 2002

MIAMI – Opening statements were heard for the second time in the trial of Joel Lebron, one of five men accused of kidnapping, raping, and murder Ana Maria Angel in 2002.

Jury selection in the case began Wednesday. Last Thursday, the judge overseeing the case declared a mistrial after Miami Beach Police Detective Larry Marrero referred to a defendant who had already been convicted in the case.

On Friday, the second jury heard from prosecutors as the trial began.

"Ana Maria is forced to walk to her death to the side of that highway," said state attorney Laura Adams. "She is ordered to comply. She is forced onto her knees, and in that desolate area, the defendant, Joel Lebron, takes that gun and pulls the trigger."

Her boyfriend at the time, Nelson Portobanco, took the stand on Friday, where he described the rape and kidnapping of the two.

"Proceeded to rape her, had sex with her anally, oral sex, vaginal sex," said Portobanco.

Magarita Osorio, Angel's mother, wept as forensics experts recounted the physical evidence. She later took the stand and spoke about the agony of not knowing where her only child was.

"Because we had the hope that maybe they had Ana," said Osorio said in Spanish. "And we were begging them to not doing anything to her because she was the only thing I had in my life."

Angel was 18-years-old in the spring of 2002, two months from graduating South Miami High, when she was out celebrating an anniversary with Portobanco on South Beach when five people kidnapped them and forced them into their truck at gunpoint, said investigators.

As they rode north to Orlando where the defendants came from, Angel was repeatedly raped and Nelson was beaten, said prosecutors. Police said Portobanco was eventually thrown out of the truck along I-95 and left for dead.

The five are accused of killing Angel execution-style at the side of I-95 near Boca Raton to keep her from identifying them. Police said Lebron, now 33, was the gunman.

Three of the five have been convicted. Two were sentenced to life in prison; one is awaiting a second sentencing hearing since his death penalty sentence was overturned.

If convicted, Lebron could face the death penalty.