The Chef and the "Amigo"

A rape shines a harsh light on life at Palm Beach's oldest country club.

Jones, who worked as a broiler cook, had a friendlier relationship with some of the dishwashers. One short, mustached man seemed to know that Jones and Melissa were a couple. "Where Melissa?" Jones said the man sometimes asked in his limited English. "She beautiful."

One afternoon, the man saw Jones walking toward his truck with his fishing gear. "Where Melissa?" the man asked, and when Jones explained that she was working, the man asked to be Jones' fishing partner. "I come?" Jones remembered him saying.

They got in Jones' truck and dropped lines off the center bridge to the island. Jones testified that he showed the man how to fish, but then the conversation died. "The language barrier," Jones explained. They fished silently for about 20 minutes before returning to the club. Nothing was biting.

Cardona was convicted but is appealing with the help of the Innocence Project.
Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post/Newscom
Cardona was convicted but is appealing with the help of the Innocence Project.
A club member was punished for bringing Estee Lauder to a party
Newscom
A club member was punished for bringing Estee Lauder to a party

The whole afternoon, Jones testified, he never bothered to ask the man's name. It would be months before he learned it was Esdras Cardona.


For Cardona, the Everglades Club was a foreign universe. He grew up in Guatemala as one of nine siblings and immigrated to the United States several years ago to work in a jewelry factory near his sister's home in Rhode Island. He was a quiet, humble guy who was shy around women and didn't drink or smoke, according to his sister Amalia Pineda and other friends. The season before Melissa arrived, he took a job at the Everglades Club because three of his brothers worked there.

Cardona enjoyed the work, dutifully sending a slice of his $7-an-hour paycheck back home to Guatemala to help his sick mother. Free time was spent riding his bike, relaxing at the beach, or going to church. He was dedicated to his faith, often showing up at Iglesia Cristiana Fuente de Poder in West Palm Beach three times a week — prayer night on Tuesdays, youth night on Fridays, and of course Sundays — said a friend from church, Nilsa Arias.

Arias and her husband would give Cardona rides to church and invite him to their family events. Cardona was timid and polite, Arias says. "He never talks; he never says anything," Arias remembers her teenaged daughter saying. "Unless you approached him, he would never approach you."

Later, his bondswoman, Alma Mariles, would remember that Cardona never looked her in the eye, keeping his gaze down in what she took as a sign of respect.

It's unclear exactly how well Cardona knew Melissa. At his criminal trial, he first testified that he knew her from working at the club. Then he said he had never seen her around campus until the night before the attack, when he saw her drinking with a friend in one of the dorms. Later, he said, "I would see her going into different buildings. I did not know where she lived."

He did, however, know who she was dating. He testified that when the police told him she was friends with Ryan Jones, he "told the police that she was not a friend of Ryan's, that she was his girlfriend."

The night before Melissa was attacked, Cardona said he got off work around 11:30 p.m. After that, his account of events is confusing. His lawyer, Michael Amezaga, posed questions that were translated into Spanish, but Cardona either didn't understand them or gave conflicting answers.

"What did you do after you got out of work?" Amezaga asked.

"I went to my room," Cardona replied.

"And what did you do in your room?

"I was about 50 minutes. I was about half an hour."

"What did you do during that half an hour?"

"I was watching wrestling with my brothers," Cardona said.

"What did you do after that half an hour?"

"I went to my room," Cardona replied.

"Weren't you in your room already?" Amezaga asked.

"No, I was in my brother's room watching TV."

After he left his brother's room, Cardona said, he went back to his own room for a while, then up to a friend's room to listen to music and help the friend pack some boxes, for "approximately an hour and a half."

Then, "I told my friend it was late and I was going to my room," Cardona testified.

He fell asleep. The next thing he knew, he was awakened by a knock on his door. It was his boss and a swarm of police officers telling him "that I was suspected of raping a woman underage."


The morning of the assault, Melissa's boyfriend, Jones, woke to find her outside his door, screaming. "There was no calming her down," he later testified. "I mean, she was shaking and crying, and she didn't want to be touched. You know, I'd never seen her like this. She was a mess."

He called 911 and waited for police to arrive. They found Melissa huddled in the fetal position on the dorm floor.

"I just remember being curled up in a ball and just staying there and crying. And I remember the police trying to talk to me, and I just couldn't stop crying," Melissa testified in a deposition.

She told the cops that her attacker was a Latino man about five foot four inches tall, very thin, wearing dark-blue shorts. She recognized him as a dishwasher from work, according to a probable-cause affidavit. The police showed her pictures, provided by the club, of 16 men who worked as dishwashers. Melissa swiftly picked Cardona's photo.

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30 comments
abovethemall
abovethemall

"It is plesant, when the winds are high and dashing the waves about, to watch from the shore the struggles of another"

DDDuane
DDDuane

This sounds like a great club!!!You mean there is still a place that allows Freedom of Association for Whites?The girl is White...The defence should have been: "SHE RAPED THE POOR DEFENSELESS ILLEGAL ALIEN...."

It's really miraculous that the "poor but HONEST equadorian didn't knife herso she didn't report him....

Guest
Guest

Racist shithole and I would'nt spend a dime in a place like this

atosha
atosha

1.How did he get in her room?2.Why didn't she smack him round the head with the lamp shade?3.Rape is rape it has no colour.

Holy ghost
Holy ghost

Yeah, guy's a scuzz no danger. Where he needs to be now.

morgino
morgino

So my mom just fired her mexican maid for stealing....then today she called me because the mexican that she hired to paint her house was stealing my dead grandfathers shit out of her garage......yeah, they are just all hard working salt of the earth people

Scgoodegg
Scgoodegg

Wow. Anyone thiink of Who Killed a Mockingbird ? in this shit. What fucking racists. They're segregated and shit.. This is SUCH bullshit !

susan
susan

That girl is such a damn liar!!!! She probably stole the toothbrush out of that guys room and planted it in her room. Her and her boyfriend planned this bogus rape to sue the club and get money. Her attitude and statements during and following the alleged rape, is not sufficient to the way she acted afterwards. How does she going from calling him a sick fuck while he is raping her to lying in the fetal position crying????? What bullshit. Someone needs to help this innocent man get out of prison and file charges against her for filing a false police report and lying while under oath!!!!!

timm1955
timm1955

the problems with the illegal immigrants is going to come to a head soon. these people come from a DIFFERENT CULTURE. in mexico, rape isn't considered much of a crime. even rape of children. and this moron posting as viva la raza is an example of why they need to go. lying sob. hispanics come here not only to work, but a huge portion of them see coming here as a great opportunity to commit all manner of crimes and if caught, simply make a run for the border, get new i.d and come back in a year or so and start again. they have come to look at americans as gullible and naive. if an american went to a south american country and behaved in a similar manner, breaking numerous laws, they would find themselves in a prison with very inhumane conditions. these people are simply less civilized, and have come to realize that america is truly the land of opportunity. an opportunity to rape, rob, steal, and murder. get rid of ALL of them. "we only want to come here and work" my aching ass.. i hope you democrat super libs are ashamed.

KillAllSpicGarbage
KillAllSpicGarbage

Hispanics are the garbage remnants of the DNA chain. Kill 'em all, Let God sort 'em out. It's not o coincidence that feces and Hispanics are both bown colored. Filthy animals.

Leslie
Leslie

I find it ironic that statements decrying racism are being posted by someone with the username "Viva La Raza" or "Long Live the Race." Clearly the Everglades club is racist. But apparently you are, too.

Viva La Raza
Viva La Raza

Please continue to bring in the illegal immigrants! we are good people not criminals! only racist people accuse

Viva La Raza
Viva La Raza

Please keep hiring the illegal immigrants! we good for America! we not here to commit the crimes. only racist people accuse us!

Roxy
Roxy

It is sad how racial, classist, and sexist barrier stand in the way of justice.

NatTurner
NatTurner

What does a tootbrush with DNA prove if that brush came from his dorm after his arrest? One must assume that police have never ever in the history of America planted evidence...and the fact that the Club protected their reputation like it was prestine 1960 plantation leaves me to believe they would so anything to get this case solved an off the front pages. If the accused insist on more detailed DNA that he must pay for, I will always believe those test prove his innocense!

$10,000 a year per member and the club doesnt even pony up for the 40K test. This makes this case stink to high heaven. A man rots in a jail on circumstantial evidence!

Luba
Luba

The facts are all there: a toothbrush with DNA, a t-shirt, where-a-bouts not established, story changing and the victim's quick and easy identification. As far as the perpetrator's feverish devotion to his religion, used as a ploy of innocense by the his counsel, "religious addiction" comes to mind. As a licensed psychotherapist, that is also a Certified Multiple Addiction Professional, as well as a Certified Sexual Addiction Professional, various religions (especially Catholicism) have certainly seen the negative quality that Carl Jung spoke of, as the shadow/dark side of their leaders. The perpetrator's counsel would be doing this man, and society at large, a service in suggesting that he be placed in a treatment program during his prison term, which is, sadly, highly unlikely. Or to be mandated into treatment upon his release as a sex offender. And since his U.S. citizenship was not identified, deportation may be indicated. As far as the victim, my heart goes out to her! she can also be advised of available treatment. Sadly, many human beings suffer fom all types of traumas in their lifetime. Traumas, such as emotional, sexual and physical, are rampant, unfortunately. The good news is that there are some wonderful psychotherapists that are trained in trauma resolution and PTSD. A good professional would certainly be able to assist a "willing" person in their healing process to transform from victim to empowerment. There are many contemporary tools that are effective in treatment today, such as a "rapid eye movement" modality called EMDR. Finally, as far as "clubs," such as The Everglades in Palm Beach, being exposed for their "crimes to humanity," all I have to say is loud "hooray!!" That this is still exsists in our day and age is mind-blowing! However, sadly, I'm sure there are others that pepper cities in the U.S., as well as all over the world. Now that The Everglades Club in Palm Beach has been exposed as the home to the "faux-elite," I hope that other people in Palm Beach County will take note and stand for the truth. Ignorance breeds prejudice! Case Close. If anyone seeks consultation and/or treatment for any of the disorders that were mentioned, please email or call Luba: loveluba@netzero/#954-701-5822.

Rights4whites
Rights4whites

Why don't you go get fucked in the ass and try to defend yourself? Geez, if you live, you must be guilty...

NOLADarling
NOLADarling

@morgino Maybe you're mom should stop trying to hire people who have little options but to work for slave wages, while expecting them to not try to make up the difference elsewhere. I've hired people of all races to do work for me and find that you wind up paying the same amount one way or another so you might as well pay up front.

Keeley
Keeley

maybe theyre stealing because theyre poor or immoral not because theyre mexican

Belg1986
Belg1986

Your mom sounds like she has money... Maybe she should pay to educate you a little more, as you sound completely ignorant...  

Randy
Randy

"Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project, said he's not questioning whether Melissa was raped, just whether Cardona committed the crime."

You are a complete moron. No one connected with the investigation or the criminal trial doubts the woman was raped. Your ignorant and stupid ranting reflects why sexual assault is vastly under-reported and often difficult to prosecute.I practice criminal law and I've seen how rape victims behave after being raped- from within a few hours of the assault to months later when they testify in court. Just what knowledge and experience do you base your stupid, ignorant, bigoted lie upon?

Hello
Hello

SAME OLD WOMAN-HATING VICTIM-BLAMING BULLSHIT!!!! WHAT DID I EXPECT WHEN I READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO WAS BRUTALIZED AND THE AUTHOR - TOTALLY PREDICTABLY!!!- TURNS IT INTO A SOB STORY ABOUT AN ILLEGAL ALIEN. FUCK ALL OF YOU.

liz2282
liz2282

Wow, the amount of ignorance in the bullshit you spewed all over this page is unbelievable! "Simply less civilized"?! You sound like fucking Hitler. Lastly, while trying to make a point on how supreme your race is, you might want to learn how to write and use correct grammar and spelling, because it's just showing how stupid you actually are.

liz2282
liz2282

"Remnant of the DNA chain"? That doesn't even make sense, you fucking idiot.

jrserna92
jrserna92

@KillAllSpicGarbage go fuck yourself stupid ass gringo. hijo de mil putas. eres una mierda. tell that to a hispanic in the face and see what happens fucking piece of shit.

Mas
Mas

 Your screen name says it all about you.

Belg1986
Belg1986

wow... I'm going to use part of your name to describe you: Garbage. You sound like the remnant of the DNA chain to me... How idiotic are you? What makes me even more disguisted by your stupid comment is that you have the nerve to use the word God... Jackass! 

 
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