Berenice Juarez was sixteen years old when she lured her mother’s boyfriend to a parking lot and fatally stabbed him. According to authorities Berenice Juarez would pretend to be her mother and sent a text message to the victim asking to meet her at a parking lot. When the victim showed up he was fatally stabbed by the teen killer. Did not take police long to figure out who was responsible for the killing and Berenice Juarez was quickly taken into custody. Berenice Juarez was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole however this would later be reduced to fifty one years
Berenice Juarez 2020 Information
|Initial Receipt Date:||09/14/2011|
|Current Facility:||LOWELL ANNEX|
|Current Release Date:||03/19/2059|
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Before Berenice Juarez became a convicted killer at age 18, the Delray Beach teen suffered the horror of childhood sexual abuse and witnessed violent attacks in her home.
Her resulting psychological problems should be a factor when she is re-sentenced for the Feb. 17, 2010 stabbing death of her mother’s boyfriend, Gildardo Ramos Paz, 47, argued Juarez’s attorneys on Thursday.
“If you grow up in an environment of fear, violence, trauma, stress, it changes the way you think,” said Assistant Public Defender Scott Pribble. “We believe the court can really gain insight into why she did this.”
It’s been almost a year since a state appellate court threw out Juarez’s life sentence because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life terms are unconstitutional for juveniles who commit murder. Juarez was 16 when she killed Paz.
Now, the decision is up to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Karen Miller about whether Juarez, now 21, still deserves a life sentence or a shorter term that gives her chance at freedom.
Miller said she will consider the defense’s new arguments — including remarks by Juarez and the testimony of psychologists during a four-hour hearing — before announcing her ruling May 7.
The Supreme Court still allows life sentences when a juvenile’s crime is so heinous and the possibility of rehabilitation is extremely slim.
Donis Ramos, daughter of the victim, says she hopes Berenice Juarez doesn’t receive a lesser sentence. With tears welling in her eyes, Ramos held up a photo of Paz with his grandson, who was only 2 months old at the time of the murder.
“Did she have compassion on my father?” Ramos said in Spanish, in remarks translated for the court. “She destroyed my life and that of my brothers and my mother.”
The minimum sentence required under state law is 40 years, which is what Pribble and Assistant Public Defender Mattie Fore requested in light of their client’s troubled past and prospects for rehabilitation.
But regardless of the new sentence, Juarez will be eligible to ask a court to review her case after serving 25 years in prison — or when she is 41 years old.
Aleathea McRoberts, chief of the homicide division at the State Attorney’s Office, asked Miller to impose another life sentence and leave it up to another court to reconsider the matter two decades from now.
The prosecutor said there “isn’t justification” for a reduced term, considering the “cold-bloodedness” of Juarez and her “sophistication” in plotting and then carrying out Paz’s murder.
Delray Beach police lead detective Jason Jabcuga, calling it one of the worst killings he’s seen in his career, urged the judge not to reduce Juarez’s sentence
“I have no doubt in my mind that Berenice is a killer, and if she gets out of prison she will do this again,” Jabcuga testified.
On the morning of the murder, Berenice Juarez lured Paz to a parking lot at Congress Avenue and Linton Boulevard by pretending to be her mother, Edith Martinez, and texting him to meet her at 6:40 a.m. that day. The teen said she disapproved of their relationship.
At her 2011 trial, Juarez testified said she didn’t intend for Paz to die, but wound up stabbing him with a knife she had recently stolen from a Walmart.
My emotions got to me, my heart was racing; I just got out of control,” she told the jury, adding she just wanted “to scare him off.”
The teen then walked away, wiped Paz’s blood from the blade onto her sock, ditched the knife in a trash can and continued on to classes at Atlantic High School.
“Day to day I live with the fact that I have taken someone’s life,” Juarez said in a statement she read to the court on Thursday. “I had no right to do what I did.”
Juarez also said she wants a “fresh start” and a “second chance.”
“I want to be accepted back into productive society,” she said, noting how she has obtained a high school diploma since entering prison and is no longer an angry person.
Jason Demery, a neuropsychologist who has reviewed Juarez’s case and interviewed her in January, said she is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“She has a significant trauma history,” he said, noting her sexual abuse at the hands of a cousin, and watching her mother being abused by a former boyfriend.
Sheila Rapa, a clinical and forensic psychologist, testified by phone that Juarez is an excellent candidate for rehabilitative treatment and is “100 percent open” to it.
Also providing testimony were Juarez’s mother, father, and two older brothers, all asking Judge Miller for leniency.
Francisco Juarez Sr., the felon’s dad, spoke through an interpreter.
“When [the murder] happened she was a minor and I know sometimes young people don’t think about things,” he said. “I ask that you reduce the sentence as much as you can.”
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The teenage girl, who lured her mother’s boyfriend to a Delray Beach parking lot and then stabbed him to death, goes on trial today.
Berenice Juarez, who confessed to the crime, is being tried as an adult for first-degree murder with a deadly weapon. The trial is expected to last four days.
Then 16, she tricked Gildardo Ramos Paz into coming to the lot at Congress Avenue and Linton Boulevard by posing as her mother, Edith Martinez, and texting Paz to meet her there, police said.
Paz and Martinez met at a Greek diner west of Delray Beach, where they both worked.
In her confession, Juarez told police that once Paz arrived at the parking lot, she approached his SUV and knocked on his window. She asked for directions to Florida’s Turnpike and then plunged the knife into his chest. The fatal wound was 5 inches deep.
“I didn’t want him dead. I was just like … stabbing him, but not on killing him,” Juarez told police.
She used her sock to wipe the blood off the knife she had stolen from Walmart, ditched the weapon in a trash can and went to school.
The motive: “She felt it was disrespectful that her mother should be dating someone, it looked bad upon the family, because she just got out of a current relationship with her baby’s father, and now she’s in a new relationship,” Delray Beach Sgt. Gene Sapino said in court documents.
“So I guess she thought it looked slutty or trampy. So that was her anger with him.”
Juarez was with her mother when she met Paz for the first time, just the night before his murder, at the laundromat in the plaza where she stabbed him.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case, spokeswoman Sarah Alsofrom said.
Defense lawyer Ronald Chapman said Friday that he had planned to argue that Martinez was in a prior abusive relationship and Juarez feared her mother might become a victim of domestic violence again.
However, Chapman said, Circuit Judge Karen Miller ruled that he cannot use that defense, calling the argument irrelevant.
Juarez’s brother, Danny Juarez, 20, said he is nervous about his sister’s fate, but he remains focused on the positive — recalling good memories and sharing photos of his 4-month-old daughter, who Berenice Juarez has never met — during visits to the jail.
He doesn’t want his sister remembered as a “cold-blooded” murderer, he said. And he feels like he’s grieving.
“I’d rather not think about it. I’m just being numb about it,” he said.
“I’m a little scared. Scared it could go either way,” he said.
Donis Ramos, Paz’s daughter, still struggles with her father’s death and the fact that he will not see his 20-month-old grandson grow up.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing is going to bring my father back to me,” she said. “I would have loved for my father to watch him run, for my dad to have played with him. There are times when I look at my little boy and I think about life and how different things have turned out.”
On Friday, she was preparing to buy flowers to place at the cross that memorializes Paz — at the site of his murder.
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