A Miami-Dade judge denied bond Wednesday to a man facing a first-degree murder charge in a November Miami Lakes murder.
Police said they believe Jonathan Rico, 23, conspired with two other people to kill 42-year-old Rafael Villafane-Rivera on Nov. 14, a few weeks after a first attempt on the victim’s life.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis denied Rico bond in court Wednesday, finding probable cause. Rico also faces charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and tampering with a witness in the case, online jail records said.
Rico invoked his right to counsel. A public defender said the conspiracy charge was baseless.
"This is purely circumstantial evidence. There's nothing in the affidavit alleging what the basis for the allegations of conspiracy are," the public defender said.
Villafane-Rivera took his final breaths at the TownePlace Suites at 8079 NW 154th St. on Nov. 14, Miami-Dade Police said. He was betrayed by the woman he was dating – Lisania Quintero, 23 – and two others, according to police.
Police said the story began on the night of Oct. 28, when the initial attempt was made on the victim’s life. The couple was in Villafane-Rivera’s car near Flamingo Road and Pines Boulevard when Ysrael Granda, 24, shot into the windshield of the car, but no one was injured, Pembroke Pines Police said. Granda and Quintero have a history together, as he is the father of her child, according to police.
Granda was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder. Villafane-Rivera agreed to testify against him – and that's exactly why, police said, he was murdered about two weeks later.
Police said they believe Rico, 19-year-old Wilber Granda — the brother of the Pembroke Pines shooting suspect – and Quintero conspired together to shoot and kill the 42-year-old man. The victim would have been the sole witness in the attempted murder case.
In February, Rico was arrested on an unrelated warrant for charges that included petit theft and carrying a concealed firearm, authorities said.
At that time, authorities questioned Rico about the Miami Lakes case. According to the arrest affidavit, Rico said he had been across the street from the hotel, fueling his car at the gas station. He also said he had never been to the hotel, nor did he know the victim, according to police.
Authorities said Rico's DNA was found inside hotel room 123 on a flashlight. The arrest affadavit claims the victim's girlfriend left a hotel window unlocked. That's how Rico got in, and then shot the victim, according to police.
Rico's heartbroken father, who did not want to give his name, is standing by his son.
"My son has his faults and personality the way that he is, but a murderer, I do not believe my son is capable of doing that,” he told NBC 6.
Fighting tears, Rico's father said the 23-year-old has a family who loves him, and that will continue to support him.
"I'm behind him 100 percent, and Lord willing this will open and the light will shine on him, he's not guilty of this,” he said.
All three suspects in the case are behind bars. Wilber Granda and Quintero face charges that include conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and tampering with a witness, court records show.
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