By Michael E. Miller
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By Chris Joseph
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"All-ages is no longer a winning game for clubs," Vidal says.
In Pablo Torrealba's house on SW 144th Place, Jaclyn's bedroom remains almost exactly as it was when she lived there. There's a bed, a nightstand, and a cabinet that holds an old, bulky TV set. A dresser and a desk are each covered in family photos and Beanie Babies. On the sea-foam-green walls hang more photos from all stages of Jaclyn's life: childhood, high school, and trips with her father to New York City, Disney World, and Alaska. As he picks up a digital photo frame and watches picture after picture of Jaclyn go by, he wonders whether he could have done more to save her.
"I wish I'd gone to him," Torrealba says of Portieles. "I wish I'd kicked down his door, shown him my face. But I didn't, because I never thought anything like this could happen."
In Vilma Castro's home on SW 147th Path, portraits of Jaclyn adorn every room. The girl's bedroom at this house also has light-green walls, but aside from photos and some trophies on a shelf, it sits empty. Castro didn't buy the place until December 2009; her daughter had helped her pick it out but had never gotten the chance to spend a single night in the room she had chosen.
Almost three years passed between Portieles' confession and his trial, while the State Attorney's Office compiled mountains of text and forensic evidence. The DJ's defense tried to paint Jaclyn as a party girl who drank and did drugs, and alleged the crime had been an accident in the heat of passion. But after three days of testimony and only four hours of deliberation, the jury didn't buy the excuses. It found Portieles guilty of first-degree murder. The next day, he received his sentence: life in prison without parole.
Jaclyn's friends and family rejoiced. But both Pablo and Vilma noticed that, when the verdict was announced, Portieles simply stared straight ahead, eyes empty. During the sentencing, he began to apologize but threw in several long discourses on how true love would conquer all. When Pablo took the stand to address Portieles, he held nothing back.
"I told him that he had destroyed the most wonderful thing I had in my life without remorse or regret," he says. "I told him that I pitied him. I had something good for 18 years, and he is never going to know what it's going to be like to have a child or be a father. He's going to miss out on a love he'll never understand."
Eduardo Portieles believes there is a true life beyond this world for his son. "He told me he was facing two judges," Eduardo says, "one on Earth and one in heaven."
His son has converted in prison and talks every day on the phone with his father about spirituality. To this day, Juan Carlos has never told his parents why he killed Jaclyn or even what happened that night. "There is no justification for what he did," Eduardo says. "He killed a girl I loved like the daughter I never had."
But the two lives he believes were lost have created something more powerful. "This girl's death saved my life," he says. "Jaclyn was the sacrifice of the lamb. Without her death, I would not be a believer." He begins to cry. "She is in my heart, and I know the Lord has her in a safe place."
Then he falls to his knees. "Every night, I pray for her, just like this." He clasps his hands and thrusts them toward the sky. Tears still running down his cheeks, he rises to his feet. "Hopefully this monstrous crime will bring light to the world."