Father awaits justice in son’s 2005 murder in Puerto Rico
WATCH: A Father’s Justice on this week’s episode of 16×9
In the days before he was bludgeoned to death on the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2005, Winnipeg-born Adam Anhang had a bad feeling.
“I’m a little scared right now,” he emailed a friend. His friend responded: “You are way too emotionally attached to your own misery… to know what to do at this juncture.”
In his last telephone conversation with his father Abe, there was a tone of trepidation in his voice. Abe knew something was wrong, but his 32-year-old son didn’t talk much with his family about his personal life in Puerto Rico.
Adam’s life was a mess. His six-month marriage with Aurea Vazquez-Rijos had fallen apart—they were no longer living together—and she was being difficult about the divorce.
He’d hired a bodyguard because he mistrusted Vazquez-Rijos, and he was afraid of her family. He was having trouble focusing on his career—developing high-end condos and vacation resorts in the American territory.
Adam planned on having it all out with Vazquez-Rijos on the night of Sept. 22, 2005, at the stylish Dragonfly restaurant in the city’s tourism district. When they left the restaurant shortly before midnight, however, Anhang and Vazquez-Rijos were still at odds. An eyewitness heard them arguing as they walked to their car in a nearby parking lot. They clearly hadn’t settled the terms of their break-up.
These were the last few minutes of Anhang’s life. In the shadows near the restaurant area, a man was waiting. His name was Alex Pabon-Colon, nicknamed “El Loco.”
He was holding a kitchen knife with a nine-inch blade, pretending to be talking on his cellphone.
Here is how an FBI affidavit, based on eyewitness accounts and El Loco’s confession, described the next few moments:
“Pabon-Colon…saw Aurea and Anhang pass by shortly after midnight. Aurea nodded her head in a way that Pabon-Colon understood meant that he was to follow them, and that the person with her was the target. Two witnesses confirmed seeing Pabon-Colon following the couple at a short distance.
“While pursuing the couple, Pabon-Colon also picked up a loose cobblestone and placed it in his pocket . . . Pabon-Colon then approached Anhang and told him ‘Give me the money’ in English… The victim punched him in the face, and Pabon-Colon then hit Anhang in the head with the piece of cobblestone. Pabon-Colon then pulled the knife and stabbed the victim several times.
“According to an eyewitness, Aurea watched the struggle from a short distance and did not yell, flee, or attempt physically to stop Pabon-Colon . . . While they were engaged in the struggle, Anhang shouted to Aurea, ‘Run, baby, run.’
“Pabon-Colon then hit Aurea in the head with the piece of cobblestone, and she fell to the ground. Pabon-Colon did so because in prior conversations, Aurea had instructed Pabon-Colon to assault her as well, in order to make the incident look real.”
It was meant to “look real,” according to the FBI, but the assailant fled without taking Anhang’s wallet. Minutes later, Anhang was dead, his blood pooling in the cobblestones around his head. When police arrived, Vazquez-Rijos was holding her injured head, pleading for help.
WATCH: Adam Anhang’s parents explain how they kept track of the widow’s movements, right up to her arrest
Thirty months would pass before FBI agents in Puerto Rico had the information they needed to draw the connection between Vazquez-Rijos, the widow, and Pabon-Colon, the hitman. When he was arrested in 2008, he told authorities that Vazquez-Rijos, along with her sister Marcia, and Marcia’s boyfriend, Jose Ferrer Sosa, had promised him $3 million to kill Anhang, but they’d reneged on the murder-for-hire deal.
That confession, along with phone calls made on Anhang’s cell phone after his murder, was enough for the US Attorney in Puerto Rico to issue an indictment against Vazquez-Rijos and her alleged confederates. That indictment came out in mid-2008, but it was too late: Vazquez-Rijos had already taken up residence in Italy, where she was pregnant with twins and working as a tourist guide.
She’d found a sanctuary, and even though she inherited none of Anhang’s substantial estate, she wasn’t starving. Anhang’s father, who hired a detective to follow her in Florence, says she had the looks and the resourcefulness to maintain a “pleasant life.”
There was no lack of male companionship and over time, Bibi, as she now called herself, even found support in the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, claiming she was a convert to Judaism.
That connection helped her find a place to live, work, and even helped her find day-care services for her girls. (When I approached leaders of the community earlier this year in Florence, they wouldn’t speak to me about Vazquez-Rijos’s deception, or how they felt about being duped. Their silence suggested a deep embarrassment.)
Vazquez-Rijos, however, was relentless. She soon found a well-connected Florentine banker to help set up a tourist agency—a man who was impressed by her “tenacity and her love for her children.” However, when stories about “the Black Widow” began percolating in the Italian media, questioning her cover story, Vazquez-Rijos left Florence and moved to Venice.
For 4 ½ years, Abe and the FBI kept Vazquez-Rijos in their sights, waiting for her to make a mistake. That finally came in 2013, when she recklessly boarded a flight to Madrid, using her American passport. Spanish police and Interpol, tipped off by the FBI, were waiting for her in the arrivals terminal.
The Spanish High Court ordered her extradition, unimpressed by Vazquez-Rijos’ plea that her life was in danger, and that the Puerto Rican underworld was behind Anhang’s murder.
She remains in a comfortable prison outside Madrid, while her lawyers consider further appeals.
TIMELINE OF ADAM ANHANG HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION
2004 — Adam Anhang and Aurea Vazquez-Rijos meet in a bar in San Juan.
March 18, 2005 -They are quietly married in Puerto Rico. Not even Anhang’s family is told of the wedding.
June 18, 2005 — Anhang moves out of their home, into an apartment. Suspicious of Vazquez-Rijos, he hires a private detective to follow her.
September 2005 — According to an FBI affidavit, Vazquez-Rijos, her sister Marcia, and boyfriend Jose Ferrer Sosa, meet with Alex “El Loco” Pabon-Colon to discuss an attack on Anhang. The reason: Vazquez-Rijos is reportedly concerned about how the divorce will leave her financially.
September 21, 2005 — Anhang files the divorce petition. He emails his business partner and says he is “a little scared.”
September 23, 2005 — Anhang is stabbed and beaten to death with a cobblestone in old San Juan, immediately after a late dinner with his wife to talk about their impending divorce. An FBI report quotes witnesses who say Vazquez-Rijos “did not yell, flee, or attempt physically to stop” the attacker.
October, 2005 — Police arrest Jonathan Roman-Rivera, a man who fits an eyewitness description of killer.
April 2006 — Vazquez-Rijos sues Anhang’s parents, Abe and Barbara Anhang, in federal court, claiming she was cheated from inheriting his estate. The suit would later be dismissed because of her non-appearance in court.
April 2006 — Vazquez-Rijos leaves town, goes to Italy “to study documentary filmmaking,” says her mother.
October, 2007 — Roman-Rivera is convicted of the murder, and sentenced to 105 years in prison. Abe Anhang meets the next day with FBI in San Juan, requesting a further investigation based on cell phone evidence.
April, 2008 — Alex Pabon-Colon is arrested and confesses to the murder. He tells police he was hired by Vazquez-Rijos, her sister and a boyfriend to kill Adam. Meanwhile, Vazquez-Rijos is pregnant with twins in Italy.
June 4, 2008 — The US Attorney in Puerto Rico indicts Vazquez-Rijos, her sister Marcia, and boyfriend Jose Ferrer Sosa for conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. Roman-Rivera is released soon after.
September 2008 — Vazquez-Rijos’ twin daughters are born in Florence; father is Constantino de Stefano, a man she met in a nightclub. Italian law makes it difficult for Vazquez-Rijos to be extradited from Italy to face charges in Puerto Rico
June 30, 2013 — Vazquez-Rijos is arrested by Spanish police after landing at Madrid airport. She flew to Spain expecting to meet a group of tourists, and the FBI, working with Interpol, was alerted because she was travelling with her US passport.
September 2013 — The US Attorney in Puerto Rico promises Spain that the authorities will not seek the death penalty if Vazquez-Rijos is extradited.
Sept. 17, 2013 — Roman-Rivera sues police and prosecutors for $12 million for wrongful conviction. Settlement cannot be revealed.
Dec. 18, 2013 — Extradition hearing for Vazquez-Rijos is held in Madrid.
Jan. 11, 2014 — Spain’s High Court orders Vazquez-Rijos’ extradition, on the condition that if convicted, she will not be sentenced to death, or to life imprisonment without parole. Her lawyers say they will appeal.
Don’t miss “A Father’s Justice” this Saturday at 7 p.m. on 16×9
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