When Miguel Ventura was stabbed repeatedly to his death at his downtown DC restaurant in November 2010, it was a robbery attempt gone awry. Soon it will be up to jurors to decide whether that makes sense, and whether one of the men prosecutors say is responsible for the crime, is guilty of murder.
In a trial that has lasted one week, prosecutors have argued that that man, Alexander Gomez-Enamorado never planned to let Venture walk out of Izalco, Ventura’s restaurant, alive. Gomez-Enamorado and accomplice, Jose Reyes, had been planning the robbery for four days, they said, and have charged Gomez-Enamorado with three counts of felony murder while armed, conspiracy, robbery, burglary, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. The suspected accomplice,Reyes, is believed to be in Mexico.
Jurors in the case heard these closing arguments from prosecutor Wednesday after one week of testimony; arguments from the defense are expected Thursday morning.
In the arguments, prosecutors reminded jurors of testimony, in part from MPD Detective Sean Caine, that Gomez-Enamorado, though he spoke frequently with law enforcement, was not always truthful. The night of the murder, prosecutors said, Gomez called 911 from L’Enfant Plaza Metro station and told operators that he had information about a murder. That day, Gomez-Enamorado told detectives that Reyes stabbed Ventura in the restaurant kitchen, that Gomez-Enamorado didn’t have his cell phone that night and that Reyes forced Gomez-Enamorado to rob Ventura.
In a second interview, detectives asked Gomez-Enamorado about phone records showing Gomez-Enamorado calling Ventura and Reyes hours before the murder.
During the trial, Special Agent Paul Timko testified that he spoke with Gomez-Enamorado on May 24, 2013, shortly before Gomez-Enamorado was arrested. Timko said that during this interview, Gomez-Enamorado told him that, together with Reyes, the two men had planned to rob Ventura for four days. But Gomez-Enamorado told Timko that when Gomez-Enamorado and Reyes reached the restaurant, Gomez-Enamorado “didn’t want to go through with the robbery at all” in his mind.
Jurors also heard from Gomez-Enamorado’s cellmate, who testified as part of a plea agreement. That man, Romulo Portillo, said Gomez-Enamorado spoke of the murder, saying that he and his “classmate” Jose Reyes convinced Ventura to take them to his restaurant on November 8. At the restaurant, Reyes chased Ventura with a knife, in an attempt to rob him, Gomez-Enamorado told Portillo. Then, Gomez said that Ventura managed to take the knife away from Reyes and began running toward Gomez-Enamorado, who was seated at the bar, Portillo testified. Gomez-Enamorado grabbed Ventura from behind and held him until Reyes took the knife and began to stab Ventura in the neck, face and eyes.
In opening statements last week, defense attorneys argued Gomez-Enamorado had no idea that Reyes was going to kill Ventura. They say he was simply seated at the bar that morning when Reyes charged from the back of the restaurant holding a knife to Ventura’s throat.
The defense’s closing arguments will begin Thursday in Judge Canan’s courtroom.
Ivan Natividad contributed reporting to this story.