During re-sentencing hearing, killer teen explains why he ended the life of 11-year-old sister

Salazar is first juvenile convict in Miami-Dade to have re-sentencing hearing stemming from 2012 Miller v. Alabama U.S. Supreme Court case

MIAMI – It was witchcraft, Ronald Eric Salazar said. 

His parents, Samuel and Nuvia Salazar, went to a witch in El Salvador, who said Salazar had inherited a  "voodoo" curse from his father.  When his parents decided to make the journey to the United States without him in 1991, they left him with his grandparents who were poor.

His grandmother, he said during his emotional testimony in court Monday, was the only person to show him "what love is." There were times during his testimony when he couldn't stop crying and was removed from the witness stand to collect himself.

He said he endured years of abuse from his grandfather, who also testified in Miami-Dade County court Monday.  Salazar said he was sexually abused when he was seven. He had been involved with violent gangs in El Salvador when his grandmother died, his defense attorney said.

Salazar thought his grandmother was his biological mother, he said, and was shocked to learn his biological parents were living comfortably in the U.S. His biological parents helped him finance his illegal journey to Miami.

Salazar told a psychologist he was angry and jealous when he arrived to the family home, 11945 SW 173 Terrace, in South Miami Heights, and met his siblings. His biological parents didn't know how to get the 14-years-old under control.

He often threatened he was going to kill them and kill himself, records show. Ten days after a Department of Children and Families investigator deemed him a "low" risk rebellious teen, his parents worst nightmare came true.

Marina Salazar was 11 years old.
Marina Salazar was 11 years old.

The teen killed his sister, 11-year-old Marina "Estefani" Salazar. He grabbed a kitchen knife, strangled her in her bedroom, slid her throat and raped her corpse, police said.

"She started to struggle. She was trying to get away and she wasn't able to break free of him," Miami-Dade Detective Chris Stroze said during the trial. "Eventually, she stopped moving."

He used a Winnie the Pooh comforter to cover her body. And he cleaned the knife and put it back in the kitchen.  At first, he told police that two armed men were to blame. But he later confessed to the July 25, 2005 homicide.

He was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to two life terms in prison Oct. 20, 2009.

On Monday, Salazar tried to appear remorseful. He said he had inappropriate relations with his sister and felt like "a robot" before the day of the murder. He cried and added that he was suicidal after his arrest.

"It had finally dawned on me what I had done," Salazar said in court.

Prosecutors said Salazar threatened to kill his parents from behind bars and said he was an admirer of Michael Hernandez, who at 14 used a knife to kill his friend 14-year-old friend Jaime Rodrigo Gough at Southwood Middle School in Palmetto.

Now Salazar and Hernandez have more in common. The juvenile defendants qualify for re-sentencing under a law that states scientific findings show juveniles tend to be more susceptible to violence, because their brains are not fully developed.

In the case of Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 25, 2012 that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of murder cases was unconstitutional, because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. 

On Monday, Salazar, now 24-years-old, sat in a courtroom in front of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer. Salazar's potential for rehabilitation was a determining factor for the judge considering re-sentencing him to a term of less than life in prison.

Local 10 News photographer Mario Alonso contributed to this story.

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