The victim, Naum Mendez, 34, was a cross-dresser from Mexico. According to news reports, Mendez went missing in 2008 and was last seen wearing a red dress and a blonde wig. Mendez is said to have worked as a dancer at a club in Greenacres, where he went by the stage name “Gaviota.”
After the case was reopened this past April, detectives were able to poke holes in Camacho’s story using cell phone GPS data and phone records. When he was confronted by investigators with this information, Camacho is said to have confessed.
According to news reports, Camacho admitted to having sex with Mendez one time, but denied being gay. He also said that he stabbed Mendez after Mendez attacked him during a fight. Camacho then led police to an area off the Bee-Line Expressway where he claims to have dumped the body, although no remains were found.
From a defense lawyer’s perspective, this case may prove very defensible. First and foremost, if the police did not properly advise Camacho of his rights – in a language he understands – then all evidence obtained thereafter will be thrown out. This rule is especially applicable in this case because Camacho was interviewed at the Palm Beach County Jail where he was detained for another unrelated offense.
Second, without a body or another witness, it sounds like prosecutors will have a tough time proving that Camacho did not act in self-defense. To determine how strong or weak the prosecutor’s case may be, it will be necessary to review the details of Camacho’s statement.
Assuming it is admissible, prosecutors will need to prove that Camacho’s description of the stabbing was inconsistent with self-defense. For example, if Camacho stabbed Mendez to death because Mendez slapped him, prosecutors will have an easy time proving that deadly force was unlawfully used. However, if the lines are not drawn so neatly, it may be very difficult to prove Mendez acted inappropriately. For example, if Mendez admitted to planning the murder or going to Camacho’s house for the express purpose of killing him, a self-defense theory may not hold water.
The fact that Mendez covered up his actions is completely inconclusive. Dumping a body and lying about the encounter only proves Mendez was scared. While such behavior showed poor judgment, it does not conclusively prove consciousness of guilt. Certainly a murder conviction must rest on far more evidence than that!
When most people read about this case in the news or see it on television, they will presume Camacho is guilty. However, the fact that he killed Mendez does not mean he murdered Mendez.
What if he really did act in self-defense? What if he panicked and in an act of rash judgment decided to dump the body? Guess what… it has been done before by people who have killed but who did not murder.
At a minimum, Mendez’s family will be able to have closure. When a person goes missing, it is a tremendous strain on the family because they simply do not know what happened. At least this way, there can be and end to the wondering.
I hope Mendez’s family is at least able to have closure and maybe suffer a little less.