The Miami Herald
Mar. 06, 2002

Suspects arrested in Cuba for murder of Hialeah Gardens family

                      BY ELAINE DE VALLE

                      Cuban police have arrested the suspects of the violent roadside robbery and slaying in December of five people,
                      including a Hialeah Gardens couple who had flown to the island to visit family and their 8-year-old grandson.

                      The key clue was, according to relatives in Miami, a talking doll the couple had taken for a friend's daughter,
                      which the killers stole and later sold.

                      President Fidel Castro announced on state-run television Tuesday night that island authorities had arrested all
                      those involved in the ''especially repugnant'' crime. The comments came at the end of a lengthy discourse that
                      centered on last week's incident at the Mexican embassy in Havana and mark the first time the crime is reported
                      in Cuba.

                      ''The police worked very hard . . . it was a difficult case,'' Castro said. ``We found out every last detail.''

                      He did not provide any of those details, however, nor were they published in Wednesday's Granma, the
                      Communist Party's daily, which made a passing reference to Castro's comments.

                      But Osmani Placencia -- whose parents, young son and sister were killed in the attack -- said he got details from
                      his ex-wife in Santa Clara Wednesday morning.

                      ''My mother took a doll -- one of those dolls that talk -- and because of that doll they found the killers,'' said
                      Placencia, who had provided authorities a detailed list describing the luggage and items his parents had taken on
                      their trip.

                      He said he was told that two men, allegedly from the Oriente province, committed the crime.

                      Killed in the robbery were Placencia's parents -- Ada Lorenzo, 52, and Celedonio Placencia, 62 -- his son Daniel
                      Osmani Placencia, 8, and sister Yailen Placencia, 28. Also murdered: family friend Domingo Delgado, who picked
                      up the couple at Jose Martí International Airport and was driving along a dark stretch of highway near Matanzas
                      when the group was attacked.

                      The killers' motive: robbery.

                      ''They took everything. Every single little thing they could find,'' Placencia said, adding that the robbers did not
                      find some money his mother had hidden in her girdle.

                      ''They even went through my father's clothes as he lay there dead,'' he said. ``The only thing they left in my
                      father's pocket was 96 cents.''

                      On Wednesday, he said he was somewhat relieved that Cuban authorities had recognized the crime as a random
                      act. Cuban authorities had originally sought help from the FBI in Miami amid rumors that Placencia or his family
                      were involved in alien smuggling -- and that the killings were retaliation for a lost passenger in a clandestine trip.

                      ''The police have abandoned that theory. They now say they were strangers, people who did not know them, who
                      targetted them to rob them,'' Placencia said, adding that the two men arrested are suspected of another robbery
                      in which foreign tourists were killed a few months earlier.