Teen's killer sentenced to death

Joel Lebron convicted of killing Ana Maria Angel in 2002

MIAMI - A judge sentenced Joel Lebron, who was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering Ana Maria Angel in 2002, to death.

Judge William Thomas choked up as he made the ruling Thursday.

"This court finds that the aggravating circumstances -- clear and convincing -- outweighed the mitigating factors," said Thomas.

During sentencing, defense attorneys argued a childhood car crash resulted in a brain injury for Lebron, but Thomas dismissed that as a mitigating factor.

"Even the life challenges, outlined above, can not begin to excuse or reasonably explain the murder of Ana Maria Angel," said Thomas.

Both Margarita Osorio, Angel's Mother, and Nelson Portobanco, Angel's boyfriend at the time, attended the sentencing.

"At last, this week, we have completed justice," Osorio said.

She also thanked the court and reporters for "remembering our fight in this case all through the years" and for giving her such support.

"It's a big door to close to help move forward," said Portobanco. "It has been very hard but I'm very happy with the results today... It's for Ana -- this is justice for her."

"I believe Mr. Lebron stands at the absolute pinnacle of culpability for this terrible crime. The abduction, kidnapping, gang rape and personal execution of this innocent young woman and that's the penalty he deserved," said prosecutor Reid Rubin.

Jurors found Lebron guilty of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, sexual battery and sexual battery on Sept. 28.

Those same jurors recommended the death penalty for Lebron, voting 9-3.

"It was Hector's idea to initiate the sexual crimes against Ana Maria Angel," said defense attorney Jeffrey Fink, referring to Hector Manuel Caraballo, one of the men accused in the crime. "It was Hector's idea that Ms. Angel should be killed. And yet, he's got 50 years in prison while Mr. Lebron has been sentenced to death, There is something not just about that."

The defense is expected to appeal Lebron's sentence. Lebron was also sentenced to six life sentences.

According to investigators, in the spring of 2002, Angel, 18, was out celebrating an anniversary with Portobanco, her boyfriend at the time, when five people kidnapped them and forced them into their truck at gunpoint.

As they rode north to Orlando where the defendants where from, prosecutors said Angel was repeatedly raped and Nelson was beaten.  Portobanco was eventually thrown out of the truck along Interstate 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.

Prior to Lebron's conviction, three of the five defendants had already been convicted. Two were sentenced to life in prison; one is awaiting a second sentencing hearing after his death penalty sentence was overturned.

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