Teenage girl suspected in father’s murder appears in court
After Evelio Gainza was shot to death inside his South Miami-Dade town house last fall, police arrested his teenage daughter and her boyfriend on murder charges.
But for months, the sensational case was marked by mystery. Who actually pulled the trigger and why?
Miami-Dade prosecutors believe they now have the answer: Gainza’s own daughter, Eveline. They believe Eveline shot her father multiple times in the back, then staged a break-in to make it look like a burglary gone wrong , according to police documents obtained by the Miami Herald.
And the documents suggest a motive: Eveline, then 17, had been feuding with her dad because he refused to give her government-assistance payments she believed belonged to her.
The revelations come via her boyfriend, Demar Turruellas, 19, who recently agreed to testify against Eveline, now 18. He pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact, and will serve five years in prison, plus 10 years of probation.
His turn raises the stakes for Eveline, who faces life in prison if convicted of her father’s murder. Eveline, who will appear in court on Friday for a routine hearing, has pleaded not guilty.
Her defense lawyer, Antonio Valiente, declined to comment on specifics of Turruellas’ sworn statement because of the ongoing criminal case. But he pointed out that Turruellas, days after the body was discovered, gave police two different versions of what happened before settling on a final account that helped him get a generous sentence.
“We obviously can’t discuss Ms. Gainza’s defense but if you need any proof of the problems with the government’s case, just look at the plea used to buy the co-defendant’s testimony,” Valiente said. “The testimony of an admitted liar and perjurer who’s now given three different sworn statements to police.”
Turruellas, accompanied by defense lawyer Karen Ruiz, gave his sworn testimony earlier this year at Miami-Dade’s homicide bureau. This is the story he told:
He met Eveline through a friend about a year before the murder. She was attending Robert Morgan Educational Center, a public school that offers programs for troubled students. Her parents had split. Eveline’s mother was struggling with substance abuse, so the girl mostly lived with Gainza, her father, in his town house, 16141 SW 141st Ave., in the neighborhood known as Richmond West.
Turruellas recalled Gainza, 63, treated his daughter well, even buying her a Jeep when she was 16.
“Would you consider Eveline to have been spoiled by her father?” prosecutor Rebecca DiMeglio asked.
“Yes,” Turruellas replied.
But the father-daughter relationship frayed. She missed school, smoked marijuana and hung out with teenage boys in a small-time neighborhood gang.
The tension escalated on Feb. 10, 2018. Gainza had dozed off on the living-room couch when he felt two blows to his head. He sat up and saw Eveline “standing over him with an aluminum bat,” according to a police report.
Turruellas had dozed off on the couch too. He awoke to see the commotion. Gainza grabbed the bat from his daughter. She hid in a bedroom, and then tried hitting him a third time before he wrestled the bat away.
The girl ran out of the house. Gainza, his face covered in blood, suffered a swollen eye and forehead.
But Eveline was not charged with aggravated battery. Gainza told authorities he waited two days to report the incident because “he did not want his daughter arrested,” according to a police report.
Instead, Eveline was committed to an involuntary psychiatric evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act law. She later told Turruellas she attacked Gainza with the baseball bat because her father “raped her.”
Turruellas didn’t believe her. Neither do detectives.
Gainza refused to allow his daughter back into his home. She moved in with Turruellas in Lehigh Acres for a couple months.
Eventually, Eveline returned to Miami. Her mother had been telling Eveline that she was entitled to “social security” payments, money her father had been collecting because she was a minor. It’s unclear why Eveline was receiving the benefits.
Eveline’s mother, Turruellas said, wanted her daughter to get the money directly and give her half.
“He said no, he wasn’t going to give her no money,“ Turruellas recalled.
Along with Turruellas, Eveline crashed with her maternal grandparents at his apartment near Doral. Gainza was still refusing to give her money, but agreed to come pick her up that night so she could grab some clothes from his town house.
Eveline and Turruellas took some Xanax pills. In their bedroom, Miami-Dade police originally said, Turruellas got into an argument with her and fired a handgun into the wall. No one was hit. He claimed he didn’t remember how the gun went off.
The gunshot startled Eveline’s mother and grandfather. Turruellas hid the gun in a drawer. In the commotion, Gainza arrived to pick up his daughter. It was only after she left that Turruellas realized that she had swiped the .40-caliber gun from the drawer.
The missing gun alarmed Turruellas and Eveline’s mother and grandfather. “The mother said that she thinks that Eveline is capable of killing her father and it’s not safe,” Turruellas told investigators. “We all called the father to like, warn him, and he did not pick up the phone. We all called her. She did not pick up the phone.”
It was later that night that Eveline returned to her grandfather’s house, driving Gainza’s Mercedes. She called Turruellas down and made the admission. “That she killed her father,” Turruellas said. “She told me all the details.”
Turruellas told authorities that Gainza asked for her help reviewing surveillance footage in an upstairs room; he’d recently been the victim of a burglary. He was tinkering with the system. “She noticed her father still wasn’t paying attention to her. He even had his back to her, and she shot him, multiple times,” Turruellas said. “In the back, around the spine area.”
“She waited. She poked him a couple times, and then she realized he was dead, she took the car keys from his pocket. Then she left the house and came to me.”
Once they were back at Gainza’s town house, Eveline calmly got bleach and paper towels and began cleaning up, Turruellas said. He admitted he helped her drag the body to the bathroom.
A little later, Torruellas overheard Eveline telling a tenant who lives in an attached efficiency that her father had gone to Cuba. Eveline and Torruellas drove away, to South Beach to hang out on the sand, then went to a friend’s house.
Eveline told everything to that friend, Kerderick “Capo” Reese, 19, who agreed to go trash the town house in an attempt to stage a burglary. When Eveline and Torruellas went back to her mother’s house, police officers were waiting there — to arrest Torruellas for the earlier shooting inside the bedroom in which no one got hit.
Eveline later picked up Torruellas from jail after he posted bond. Hours later, as Torruellas was trying to figure out how to sell the gun, police detectives pulled them over.
As Torruellas was being led away, he mouthed the name “Capo,” which he hoped would signal to her to blame the murder on Reese; he is now serving a 15-year prison term for an unrelated crime in Georgia.
By that time, Miami-Dade police officers had already discovered Gainza’s body inside the town house.
In an interview room at the homicide bureau, Torruellas immediately blamed Reese. But Eveline blamed Torruellas. When he found that out, Torruellas finally admitted to detectives that she was the true killer, he said.
Both were charged with second-degree murder.