Edwin Febonio says it didn't pain him to see his son's alleged murderer in court this morning. "I wanted to see him," Febonio said simply, referring to Jose Alfaro, who stood shackled, wearing a gray and blue prison uniform just feet from where Febonio was sitting with his friend Michael Pampillonia. Febonio hadn't set eyes on Alfaro since he watched him drive off with his son Stephen in August of 2007. Febonio never saw his son again.
Febonio says he plans to attend every court date in what may turn out to be a drawn-out legal battle. Alfaro stands accused of murdering Stephen Febonio because of a dispute over a $10,000 debt and burying him inside a freezer at a Delray Beach marijuana grow house. It took police two years from the time of Stephen's disappearance to discover the body: By that time, Alfaro had fled the state. He was apprehended and extradited back to Florida last December. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Michael Cohen took over Alfaro's case from his public defender last month; at this morning's disposition hearing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, he asked Judge Amy Smith to set a hearing date for July 30, remarking that he had at least 50 witnesses to depose and that the process might take a "long time." He told the judge that Alfaro's mother would be paying his legal fees.
Alfaro sat expressionless for the most part, his mouth in a thin line, occasionally displaying mild impatience or talking to the prisoner shackled next to him. He did not look at Mr. Febonio and Pampillonia.
When asked about how he felt about seeing Alfaro, Pampillonia was less sanguine. "It was all I could do not to jump over there and strangle him with my bare hands," he said.