The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information; however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.
CABALLERO, Luis (W/M)
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County Case # 95-15295-C
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Susan Lebow
Attorney, Trial: Deborah Carpenter & Pedro Dijols – Special Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Lewis Fishman – Private
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Roseanne Eckert & Celeste Bacchi – CCRC-S
Date of Offense: 07/13/95
Date of Sentence: 02/15/01
Circumstances of Offense:
On 07/15/95, the body of Denise O’Neill was found dumped in a canal near the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County. Her body was covered by a sheet and was bound with black shoelaces, a multicolored dog leash, and electrical cords attached to heat rocks. Her clothing had been cut in the crotch area.
Police canvassed O’Neill’s apartment complex, looking for neighbors with reptiles and dogs as pets, since the body was bound with a dog leash and electrical cords attached to heat rocks, which are used in reptile tanks. Investigators learned that Luis Caballero lived next door to O’Neill and owned snakes and a dog. Caballero accompanied detectives to the police station for questioning.
At the police station, Caballero confessed to O’Neill’s murder, but stated he only served as a lookout while Isac Brown committed the robbery and murder. According to Caballero, on the day of the murder, Caballero saw O’Neill carrying a laundry basket up the stairs. As she reached the door, Brown pushed her inside Caballero’s apartment and shoved her to the floor. Brown and Caballero restrained her with towels from her laundry basket and gagged her with a sock. O’Neill gave Brown and Caballero credit card and banking information, which the two used to withdraw $700 from her credit card account.
O’Neill was assured by Brown and Caballero that she would be dropped off somewhere after dark, but Caballero was wary that she would be able to identify him as her neighbor. Caballero then planned to murder O’Neill, but could not agree as to who would carry out the murder. Brown said he would kill O’Neill if he received a larger share of her money. Caballero initially denied participating in the actual murder, but later admitted to helping Brown carry out the crime. Brown first tried to strangle O’Neill with an electrical cord, but the cord broke, so Brown used a second cord while Caballero covered O’Neill’s mouth. After ten to twelve minutes, O’Neill died. Caballero then cut a hole in the crotch of O’Neill’s shorts and had sex with the body and ejaculated.
Later that night, Caballero and Brown wrapped O’Neill’s body in a sheet and tied the sheet with black shoelaces and electrical cords. They loaded the body into the trunk of her car and dumped the body in a canal near the Sawgrass Expressway. After dumping the body, Brown and Caballero again used her credit card to withdraw $400 from her credit card account. They split the money while eating breakfast at an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) restaurant.
Although Caballero never mentioned the involvement of another codefendant, Robert Messer, he was arrested during the investigation of the murder. Messer was implicated in the crime when an IHOP waitress noted that a third man accompanied Brown and Caballero. Messer’s fingerprints were also found in O’Neill’s car.
Caballero’s codefendants, Isac Brown and Robert Messer, were tried separately and convicted of offenses related to the murder of Denise O’Neill.
Isac Brown was convicted of one count each of Second-Degree Murder, Kidnapping, and Robbery and was sentenced to Life Imprisonment, 30 years, and 15 years, respectively.
Robert Messer was convicted of one count of Manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years, nine months imprisonment. He was released from prison on 06/01/02.
09/07/95 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Kidnapping
Count III: Robbery
Count IV: Burglary
Count V: Sexual Battery
02/28/00 Jury returned guilty verdicts on Counts I – IV of the indictment
Trial court granted a directed verdict as to Count V
03/28/00 Jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4
02/15/01 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: Kidnapping – Life Imprisonment
Count III: Robbery – 15 years
Count IV: Burglary – 15 years
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
851 So. 2d 655
03/22/01 Direct Appeal filed
07/10/03 Convictions and sentences affirmed
08/07/03 Mandate issued
Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion
10/04/04 Motion filed
12/06/04 Motion amended
02/27/06 Motion amended
04/12/07 Motion amended
Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition of Sentence:
The case progression appears to be within acceptable time parameters.
Caballero filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 03/22/01, citing the following errors: allowing improper comments by the prosecutor as to Caballero’s right to remain silent; finding that the capital felony was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner; failing to consider Caballero’s age as a mitigating factor; admitting testimony as to the codefendant’s Second-Degree Murder conviction; disproportionate use of the death penalty; and unconstitutionality of Florida’s death penalty statute. On 07/10/03, the convictions and sentences were affirmed.
Caballero filed a 3.851 Motion with the Circuit Court on 10/04/04 and amended the motion on 12/06/04, 01/23/06, and 04/12/07. The motion is pending.
DATE DAYS VIOLATION LOCATION
03/16/01 0 LYING TO STAFF FLORIDA STATE PRISON
01/31/02 30 POSS OF CONTRABAND FLORIDA STATE PRISON
12/05/02 30 MAIL VIOLATIONS FLORIDA STATE PRISON
05/12/03 24 ATTEMPT TO CONSPIRE FLORIDA STATE PRISON
Report Date: 07/27/04 JFL
Updated: 09/03/09 KKR