By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"That's when I knew Gloria was telling the truth," McCully says. He ordered the case reopened. And Theresa Torso's remains, kept for a quarter-century in the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's "bone room" — an air-conditioned closet stacked high with cardboard boxes full of skeletons — were brought out into the daylight for the first time since that April morning in 1985.
Gloria eagerly gave investigators her DNA. Suddenly she could imagine bringing her father to justice. "I want him caught alive," she says. "Right now he thinks he got away with it. I want to see him in court when the jury says he's guilty. I want to see his face when he realizes that he's fucked."
Her sister, however, wanted nothing to do with it. "What is catching him going to bring me now?" Bernisa says. "It's not going to bring my childhood back. It's not going to fix anything for me. It's just going to cause me more anger and pain."
But she gave detectives her DNA anyway. "I did it for Gloria," Bernisa says.
On March 9, 2012, the DNA results arrived from the laboratory at the University of North Texas. They were a match. (The other body found in the water in April 1985 has never been identified. Cops now believe it might have been a male friend of Nilsa Padilla's whom Nuñez killed the same night.)
"We were ecstatic," says Sandra Boyd, an investigator at the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner. "To hold onto these remains for 25 years and then all of a sudden get a match, all of us in the department jumped for joy."
New technology is finally cracking open some of the county's most vexing mysteries. "It's very tough to get DNA out of 25-year-old bones," Boyd says. "The results were remarkable."
But Gloria's elation over being able to bury her mother was undercut by a call from the Miami-Dade Police Department. Cops had issued an arrest warrant for her father. But it wouldn't be easy to catch him. Nuñez had been deported to Peru in 2004.
Gloria was furious. "He was still in the country when I first approached the detective," she says. "If she had believed me, my father would be in jail right now." Instead, Gloria was left to obsess over a single question: Now how are we going to catch him?
In fact, it wasn't even clear if Nuñez was still alive, Det. Jim Gallagher told her. Nuñez's Peruvian identification number had expired in 2010 and had never been renewed. "He's either living out in the jungle or he's long dead."
Bernisa Davis didn't want to dig up the memories of her mother's murder. She didn't want to sift through the fear and pain of living with a monster. She doesn't even care if that monster is caught. But she knows that by telling her story to New Times, she is finally speaking out. And that could be dangerous.
"We're the bait," she says of the Miami-Dade Police Department's plan to publicize her and her sister's story. "I think my father is still alive. And he's coming to get us."
Fourteen years after they last saw Nuñez, the wounds he inflicted upon the two sisters have largely healed. Both women have families and jobs. They live in the same city and speak nearly every day on the phone. But the sisterly bonds that were severed by abuse have yet to fully mend. And they are still bitterly divided over their mother's memory.
"Gloria forgives our mother," Bernisa says. "But I don't even want to hear her name."
Sitting in her shoebox apartment in north central Hollywood, Bernisa says that if she's angry with anyone, it's her mother, not Nuñez. "She picked a drunk and a drug addict," she says.
Much of Bernisa's bitterness has come in the past seven years, since she had her own daughter. She relented to her husband's demands for a child, only for them to divorce last year. "Living with someone else is being trapped," she says of her marriage. "I never wanted to have a kid. I saw my baby sister die in my hands. I didn't want to have a daughter die in my hands as well.
"But my daughter is my twin," she says, pointing to a photo of little Bernisa on the refrigerator. It is the only photo in the narrow one-bedroom apartment, which is dominated by a giant cardboard castle. The only other item on the bare white walls is a crucifix, hung above the castle turret like a morning star.
"I just want to take my daughter to the park, help her with her homework," Bernisa says, "the usual stuff that I never had."
Three miles west, near Florida's Turnpike, the walls in Gloria's apartment are covered with pictures and plaques. There is a mechanic's award for Milton and photos of Gloria's two sons. Like her sister, Gloria has overcome so many horrors that her proudest achievement is simply keeping those horrors from touching her own children.
"Half the people out there prostituting themselves or using drugs have not gone through the stuff that I've gone through," she says. "I didn't turn to drugs. I didn't turn to prostitution. I'm really proud of that. I'm a survivor."