Longform

A Sister's Sleuthing Unravels a Teenage Love Triangle Murder Mystery

Page 7 of 7

"That was the first time that I realized my brother was deceased," she says. "It really clicked. He's not calling me."

After the arrests, prosecutors built what Adelia believes is a strong case against Stacy and Cabrera, whose tangled relationship they say led to Savage's death. The text messages are the center of their case. "Stacy Goff claims to have been in a relationship and loved the victim but after he was shot, she did not call police or an ambulance," police note in her arrest affidavit. "[She] gave updates of her location and when she would be in the alley with the victim to Alex Cabrera."

Cabrera, at least, will try to convince a jury that he had nothing to do with the plot. From his cell block at the Broward Detention Center, he plunked down before a video screen in mid-December to speak with a reporter about the charges. Despite his hulking 200-pound frame and the tattoos climbing from his knuckles to his neck, a soft, friendly voice ekes out. "I was set up by Stacy Goff," he explains.

In Cabrera's telling, he never knew Michael Rivera and knew Stacy only through friends of friends. She stole his phone a few days before the shooting at a party on Hollywood Beach, he says, then intricately set up the whole murder. Stacy would never have messed around with someone like him, he says. "Stacy only dated older guys," he argued.

Goff has also pleaded not guilty; her attorney did not return calls from New Times. Stacy's mother, Margo, also declined to be interviewed. "It's not something I'd prefer to talk about," she says. (The case is still pending; no trial date has been set.)

When she returned to New Jersey from her meeting with prosecutors and impromptu visit to Michael's murder scene, Adelia found herself mentally replaying the footage from their childhood.

Could she have done anything differently? Pushed him harder to straighten out? Or did she shove too hard and send him careening off course? "I know he could have been so much better," she says. "I could have gotten him there. But they took that away from me."

Adelia has tried instead to focus on getting justice. She's told prosecutors that even if the death penalty is on the table, she'd rather not have Cabrera and Stacy pay with their lives if they're convicted. "I feel like it's three lives lost," she explains. "The only difference is if their mothers want to see them, they can go visit them in jail. I can't."

Though they were so different on the surface, the siblings' connection ran so deep that Adelia now feels Michael like a phantom limb — gone but still there. He's shown up at night in the dreams of other family members. Only days after the murder, his great-grandmother woke up talking about seeing Michael and a girl in her dream. Another morning, Adelia's 6-year-old son said he was visited by his tio.

Adelia hasn't had her own visit from Michael. Not yet.

"I'm begging my brother to come to me in my dreams to let me know he's OK," she admits. "When he knows I'm ready, he'll come."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson