Sometimes, even a drug dealer can have a really bad day.

Hit Happens 

Sometimes, even a drug dealer can have a really bad day.

At about 11 o'clock on a chilly November night in 1998, a black Lexus sped to the emergency doors of Overland Park's Menorah Medical Center and lurched to a stop. The driver's door opened, and a distraught, pregnant woman emerged clutching two yapping teacup Yorkies to her enormous belly.

"Call the FBI! Call the DEA!" she screamed as a Colombian teenager in a blood-spattered T-shirt climbed from the back seat and ran into the hospital, exclaiming in heavily accented English that a man outside had been shot in the head. Nurses and a doctor sprinted out and peered into the car, where they found a dead man sprawled across the back seat. Duct tape covered the man's eyes and bound his arms and legs. Blood soaked his clothes. The doctor felt for a pulse and examined the bullet hole in the man's head.

The boy who had summoned help, Andres Borja-Molina, shook and sobbed as he muttered vengeful plans. Hours earlier, four men had left him for dead after they'd killed this man, his uncle. Borja-Molina didn't want to talk to police, but Leawood and Overland Park officers soon arrived. Hysterical, Borja-Molina pulled a hospital security guard aside and told him to be ready to start shooting if he saw a pearl-colored Lexus. He also told police to watch for that car, particularly its driver, a Houston-based drug trafficker who had ordered that night's bloody mayhem.

"Hey," Borja-Molina said to police, pointing to an eerily similar Lexus in the parking lot. "It looks a lot like that one." But even the paranoid Borja-Molina failed to notice Edwin Hinestroza at the wheel. Purely by chance, the drug lord, a sometime Johnson County resident, had arranged to meet his girlfriend, a twentyish stripper from Houston, at the hospital, which was near her apartment.

As Hinestroza drove out of the parking lot and away to freedom with his girlfriend, police learned that the pregnant woman with the terriers was the dead man's wife. She had known him only by his alias, Julian Colon. The story she'd heard in the car on the way to the hospital had left her in a state of disbelief. She had known nothing about her husband's position in the dangerous world of Colombian narcotics trafficking. He hadn't even told her that he was Colombian.

Throughout their short courtship and marriage, Julian Colon had managed to keep his wife, Savanah, believing an outrageous lie: that he was a professional soccer player for the Kansas City Wizards. He would proudly show her friends and coworkers a "Wizzards" identification card with his photo on it when they socialized in restaurants and bars; she never caught the misspelling. He had a professional-quality Wizards uniform, and after he feigned a knee injury for the first month of their marriage, he would get up at 6:30 each morning, slip into his jersey and tell her he was going to team practice. He encouraged her to offer free tickets to her coworkers. He probably bought the tickets from a Ticketmaster outlet, she later surmised. Savanah even had a Wizards plate on her car.

A self-described straight arrow, Savanah Colon had been an army nurse in Desert Storm, and in Overland Park worked twelve-hour days as a hairdresser at Mario Tricoci Salon and Day Spa. She claimed she would never have put up with any illegitimate or illegal activity on her husband's part. "If I would have known, he wouldn't have been [a drug dealer] anymore," she later said adamantly. She never guessed that her 25-year-old husband, who wore his long, black hair down to his waist, had been a stripper in Houston or that much of his family was involved in the drug trade.

Colon seemed like a warm, exuberant and kind man when he came to Savanah's salon to get his hair trimmed. He won over the serious, all-business 28-year-old Savanah with his zest for life. "He was always full of surprises," she later said.

The couple had a "fairy-tale" courtship and soon got engaged. One Saturday evening, Colon surprised his fiancée by picking her up from work. In the back of the car sat luggage he had brought for both of them -- he had even packed her favorite jeans. She asked where they were going, but he wouldn't say. He drove up I-29 to Kansas City International airport, where they boarded a plane to Las Vegas. They slept in a nice hotel. They spent a blissful Sunday shopping for her wedding dress and his suit. Then they browsed the Strip's chapels until they found their ideal nuptial setting. It was the happiest day of Savanah's life, and although she would work long hours after the couple returned to Kansas, that happiness faded little over the ensuing weeks.

"He was unlike any man I ever met in my life," Savanah said later in court. "He cleaned the house, kept the house clean, massaged my stinky feet when I would come home from work every single day no matter what.... We went bike riding together every Sunday. We dressed up for Halloween together. He dressed the dogs up and surprised me.... He was just wonderful in every aspect. The first time he met my mom he brought her roses and gifts and was so nervous to meet her and my stepdad.... I just never met anybody like that. And every time somebody at work asked, 'How is married life?' I would tell them, 'Somebody pinch me; this is too good to be true.' I literally lived in a fairy tale. Life is not like that. And now I guess I see why."

Colon's real name was Giovanni Molina. His sister, the stripper who sneaked away from Menorah hospital with Hinestroza the night of the murder, called herself Monica Osma, but her real last name was also Molina. In the Molina family, aliases were as common as the suppers they'd shared in Houston, where they'd emigrated from Colombia. Their numerous identities were supported with fake drivers' licenses and Social Security cards purchased on the black market from Puerto Rico or New York City. These credentials helped family members stay employed with Houston drug boss Edwin Hinestroza, a darkly handsome, square-jawed intense man with a violent temper and lavish lifestyle.

Monica Osma acted as Girl Friday to Hinestroza, keeping records and running errands for him, first in Houston and later in Kansas City.

More members of Monica Osma and Julian Colon's family worked for Hinestroza as well. Their nephew, Andres Borja-Molina, just seventeen years old, had worked his way up quickly in the Houston drug trade, starting from the lowest position, that of a "mule," or courier. Hinestroza trusted him enough to send him to Kansas City to take over the notorious Brian Thompson's role as the biggest wholesale cocaine distributor in the metro area after Thompson's arrest in 1997.

Amparo Molina, Borja-Molina's mother and Monica Osma's much-older sister, set up her Houston apartment as a kind of headquarters for Hinestroza, allowing him and his partners to meet there and drop off and pick up drugs. Ostensibly in return, Borja-Molina paid the matriarch's rent each month using drug-sale proceeds.

Julian Colon -- brother of Monica and Amparo -- joined the racket when his nephew asked for help in Kansas City.

Even Andres Borja-Molina's thirteen-year-old brother, Edward, sometimes accompanied Andres on drug runs from Houston to Kansas City and once toted cocaine around in his school backpack for his brother.

The Molinas knew the drug business was dangerous, and Amparo Molina sometimes worried. She'd seen bruises on her sister, Monica Osma, who knew firsthand that Hinestroza sometimes turned ruthless and violent with her and other girlfriends. But the matriarch felt too weak-willed to protest, and liked the extra money.

Most of the men involved in the murder of Julian Colon had ties of some sort to the sleepy Pacific-coast port of Buenaventura, Colombia. Because Buenaventura was a center of slave trade in the 1700s, many of the town's residents are of African descent, and they speak a peculiar dialect of Spanish that is hard for outsiders to understand. The town sits three hours from the cosmopolitan city of Cali, over dusty, winding mountain roads. That city served as the center of the ruthless and influential Cali mafia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Since then, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has seen a decline in the Cali mafia and a fracturing of Colombian cocaine operations into decentralized cells that operate independently. The new traffickers come primarily from two regions: the Caribbean North Coast and the Valle del Cauca region, around Cali and Buenaventura.

Each cell has control of drug production and distribution from coca leaf to Kansas City wholesalers. Coca grows prolifically in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. The cells employ couriers to carry the leaves, often along secret jungle paths, to remote locations where a paste is chemically extracted. The paste is transported to large, hidden laboratories outside Colombia, where it becomes cocaine.

In the mid-1990s, one cell drawing the FBI's and DEA's attention was a Colombia-Houston-Kansas City cocaine operation linking Jaime Hurtado, Edwin Hinestroza and Brian Thompson. Jaime Hurtado, a drug mogul who was murdered in South America in 1999, served as the main link from the cocaine in Colombia to Hinestroza's operations in Houston, which then funneled the drug to Kansas City, much of it to Brian Thompson.

Thompson, a 26-year-old who called himself "the B-Dog" and used many other aliases, operated out of Strandz barbershop on Prospect. He was known to the Colombians as Rapido -- "quick" in Spanish. He was infamous for moving large amounts of cocaine quickly, often purchasing multiple kilos, as many as twenty at a time. Being trusted and efficient, he got the best price from the Colombians -- he only paid $17,000 a kilo.

The Colombians dealt with other Kansas City wholesalers, including Y.C. Smith, who wasn't quite as reliable and had to pay closer to $20,000 a kilo. Others, with nicknames like PiPi and KiKi, were less prominent. Thompson enjoyed a rapid rise to power, doing most of his work himself. He was under surveillance for years, but a breakthrough for agents came when a friend of Thompson's became an informant. Afraid for his life after Thompson fired a semiautomatic weapon at his car in a dispute over some stolen items, the man agreed to record calls between himself and Thompson for the FBI.

When agents took Thompson into custody in 1997, they seized more than a million dollars in cash, cocaine, classic and luxury cars and jewelry, including diamond-encrusted Rolexes. Agents also seized equipment from his barbershop and washers and dryers for a laundry he planned to open on Prospect. Apparently gifted with a sense of irony, Thompson intended to launder drug proceeds through the business. He sometimes talked to friends about getting out of drugs and "going legit," but the money and power were addictive. He is serving a life sentence at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Meanwhile in Houston, Borja-Molina was earning Edwin Hinestroza's high regard. He decided to get Borja-Molina and his uncle, Julian Colon, more involved as distributors and move them to Overland Park to run Thompson's old east-Kansas City operation. Hinestroza would also move to Kansas City and install his girlfriend, Monica Osma, in an Overland Park apartment so that he could pursue the company of other girlfriends when he visited Houston.

In Kansas City, Borja-Molina helped Hinestroza with whatever needed to be done. Hinestroza would get nervous that he was "hot" (being followed by the FBI's federalistas) and would ask Borja-Molina to deliver drugs, money and documents to his apartment. But the federalistas weren't the only people suspicious of Hinestroza. He was losing credibility in Colombia. When he first moved to Kansas City he'd lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry, cocaine and cash in what he claimed was a robbery. In 1997, a car carrying money for Hinestroza in its gas tank had lost $300,000 when police stopped it in Oklahoma. Hinestroza's bosses, none too happy, wondered whether he was lying and whether he'd taken the money himself.

To compound his problems, Hinestroza received a few shipments of low-quality cocaine and lost money on them. He was getting desperate and thought about schemes to rip off suppliers to regain some money. The final straw for his bosses in Colombia came when his Overland Park place was robbed -- so he said -- one night in the fall of 1998.

Borja-Molina, Hinestroza and Colon had been out together at a strip club, returning to their Overland Park apartments after midnight. Borja-Molina's phone soon rang. It was Hinestroza, very upset, saying that his place had been robbed. He ordered Borja-Molina to his apartment. The teenager called Colon, who had a gun.

Hinestroza said he had come home to find his girlfriend, Monica Osma, tied up and severely beaten. She said that three masked black men had accosted her as she came home and had torn up the apartment looking for money. They located the secret hiding place and took everything Hinestroza had there -- almost $300,000.

Hinestroza was in trouble; he'd have to find somebody to pin the robbery on. And that person would have to pay. That would satisfy his bosses that Hinstroza hadn't made up the whole story and stolen the money himself.

Osma's injuries were so bad that she needed to see a doctor, but Hinestroza didn't want her to attract attention by going to a hospital in Kansas City. He put her on a plane to Houston the next morning. Amparo Molina and her thirteen-year-old son, Edward, picked up Osma at the Houston airport.

"She got out bruised up," Edward remembered later in court. "Her eyes were puffy, red; her nose real, like, squashy, you know, swollen. And she came, like, you know, she came, like, walking, holding her stomach, and we grabbed her."

On Thanksgiving Day 1998, Hinestroza arrived at the Houston apartment to meet with two men he said were from La Oficina, "The Office," meaning they worked for the top drug bosses in Colombia.

Andres Borja-Molina's little brother, who was eavesdropping on the meeting as he stacked plates in the kitchen with his mother, would remember Plutarco Tello and Arboleda "Bombita" Ortiz as "the tall dude" and "the short dude." Monica Osma was crying through the whole meeting and seemed afraid. Tello and Ortiz asked to look at her medical records, and Tello pretended to peruse them even though he couldn't read English. They also got photos of her injuries to take back to La Oficina.

"She was all nervous and everything. And Edwin, he was just quiet," Edward would testify. He heard the men interrogate Osma menacingly in Spanish about every detail of the mysterious attack. Then, Edward remembered, Tello said, "If there isn't a murraco, nobody at the office is going to believe this." Murraco, he later learned, is Spanish drug slang for "dead body." Somebody had to die.

It was November 28, 1998, and Edwin Hinestroza was acting strangely. Having returned to Kansas City after the Thanksgiving Day interrogation of his girlfriend, he hinted to Borja-Molina and Colon that they might be in trouble. Since the robbery -- real or faked -- he had been looking for someone to pin it on.

Andres Borja-Molina later told police that Hinestroza said, "I'm havin' suspicion it might be y'all, and other people are havin' suspicion too." Hinestroza told them that in order to prove their loyalty and their innocence, they would have to go with him on a job, along with some Colombian guys being sent from Houston. The job, he told them, was a plot to "tie up" Y.C. Smith and get the rival dealer to divulge where the stolen money was. They all knew that "tying someone up" meant you had to be ready to kill if the person didn't talk.

This was hardcore, and Molina was nervous. He didn't want to kill anyone, but he was ready if necessary. He was "down with" Hinestroza; he'd do whatever his boss asked. So would Colon. Both had guns.

That day, Hinestroza ran all over the Kansas City metro area trying to hook up with Ortiz, who had flown in, and Tello and an "enforcer," German Sinisterra, who had driven into town at 3 a.m. and crashed at a hotel. Meanwhile, he sent Borja-Molina and Colon on some errands: They were to buy twine, latex gloves, duct tape, flour and "some shit like that" to make up fake kilos of coke. The story Hinestroza told was that they'd tell Y.C. Smith they had some cocaine for him and use the phony "keys" to lure him to a place where the thugs could tie him up and beat him into a confession.

After buying the supplies, the two men went home to wait for Hinestroza. At 2 that afternoon, Hinestroza came in and fixed a meal of tuna and rice. Hinestroza chatted, hinting to Borja-Molina that the guys he was trying to hook up with were pretty unsavory characters.

"They always send the same bad people to do the same bad things, man," he said. Who those men were, he didn't say. After the men ate, Hinestroza took off again. There was an uneasy feeling in the apartment. Hinestroza was being a little too nice, a big change from his moodiness of the previous weeks.

At 8, Hinestroza reappeared and told Colon and Borja-Molina it was time to pick up the men from Houston at the South Metcalf Avenue Drury Inn, off I-435. Hinestroza jumped in his Lexus, while Borja-Molina got into his tan Acura with Colon. They got to the hotel first, pulled into the parking lot and looked around: no sign of their cohorts. Then they spotted a black Mazda pickup that Colon recognized from Houston. It belonged to "Waja" -- Sinisterra. Borja-Molina would later testify that in Houston, Waja had once offered to kill a man for him for $2,500.

Colon got scared. "He had a bad feeling about that, about Eddie being so nice and, you know, those people," Borja-Molina later told police. So Colon took out his cell phone, dialed his wife and recited the truck's license plate number to her, along with a few names. Keep that, he told her, in case I'm not home in an hour. Then they left to get gas and came back just as Hinestroza pulled into the hotel parking lot.

Hinestroza got out and so did three other men: Ortiz, Sinisterra and Plutarco Tello, whom Borja-Molina and Colon called "Mr. X." Sinisterra and Ortiz got into Hinestroza's pearl Lexus, and Tello got in the back seat of Borja-Molina's car. They followed the Lexus onto I-435 and sped east toward the Bannister Road exit, then onto Route 71 heading north. After about ten minutes, they exited and turned right, driving past some dilapidated houses. They pulled up to a house where Y.C. Smith waited, but it wasn't what they had expected. The house was full of Y.C.'s relatives, having some kind of children's birthday party. No fake drug deal or tying up was going down there, so Hinestroza asked Y.C. to take them to a more secluded place.

Y.C., driving his black Cadillac, led the others to 5823 Prospect, a vacant house next to a deserted, fenced-in daycare center. They parked on the grass, and Borja-Molina and Colon hung back from the other men, afraid to go in. Borja-Molina glanced back, fearful as he watched Y.C. jump into his Caddy and speed away.

Colon entered the house ahead of Borja-Molina, who took four or five steps into the living room. Suddenly, Borja-Molina felt a gun at his head. Before he could react, he was thrown to the floor. He couldn't see who was punching and kicking him, but he heard all four men demanding to know where the stolen money was.

"Where's the money, motherfucker? I'm gonna kill you if you don't give me the money!" he heard one man yell. "I don't know," he whimpered. "Yeah, motherfucker, you think I'm stupid?" the man yelled.

Borja-Molina later remembered begging, "I don't want to die. Please, I didn't do it. I never fucked you up or anything."

During the beating, the four men bound Borja-Molina and Colon using duct tape -- restraining their arms behind their backs, taping their legs, taping their eyes so they couldn't see. Borja-Molina had only a narrow sliver of vision if he looked down.

"I heard my uncle start screaming really bad, cause they really had at him, they really were messin' with him, you know," Borja-Molina later told police. "I think they were squeezin' his balls, cause he was screamin' like crazy.... He was like 'Nooooooo, man! Ahhhhhhh!' screamin' with fright and pain."

Hinestroza kicked Borja-Molina in the back, muttering, "Yeah, motherfucker, you think I'm stupid?" as he grabbed Borja-Molina's feet and dragged him down a flight of stairs to the basement, his head banging on the concrete steps. In the basement, he recognized Sinisterra's voice, saying, "Hey, give the money back, man. We got your mom and your little brother." He felt Tello's presence too.

Borja-Molina could barely talk because the duct tape over his mouth had loosened a bit. He tried desperately to protest, again saying that he had no money. "You know what, man, fuck you, man, somebody's gonna die today," one of the men said. After a few minutes, he heard Hinestroza shout in Spanish from upstairs.

"Nah, you know what, fuck this shit. Pop that motherfucker in the head!" Hinestroza yelled.

Then Borja-Molina heard a shot that silenced his uncle's screams. He cowered as he heard Hinestroza's boots on the basement stairs. Then, boom! Borja-Molina heard another shot and felt the sensation of something splattering on his face.

Borja-Molina thought he was dead. But he was still conscious of voices. Sinisterra asked if they were both dead and someone said they were. Then everyone went upstairs, and he was alone. He wiggled his fingers behind his back. He could barely believe he was alive. The shot must have narrowly missed him. But he knew he would have to play dead or they'd finish him off.

As he listened to the men talking upstairs, saying, "Hurry up! There's so much blood!" he took deep breaths. Then came was the sound of a car engine and car doors opening. As he heard the men return to the basement, Borja-Molina held his breath hard. His shirt choked him as they carelessly hoisted him up the stairs.

Outside in the November night, Borja-Molina felt a breeze on his face. Then he landed in the trunk of his own car, on top of his uncle's warm corpse. The trunk closed, trapping him in the darkness. The car moved for about five minutes, then stopped. Doors opened and closed. Another car took off. There were no voices outside.

Borja-Molina waited about fifteen minutes to make sure no one was coming back. He wriggled out of his duct tape handcuffs and tore the tape from his eyes. Then he felt his uncle for a pulse. None. In the dark, he groped around the body, looking for a pager or a lighter or anything that would illuminate the trunk. Nothing.

"I was suffocating," he later told police. "It was so hot."

He kicked the roof of the trunk with his legs, popping it open enough that the trunk light came on. After a few minutes' fiddling with the latch, the trunk swung open. He got out, found a stick and broke a car window so he could retrieve his wallet and 12-gauge shotgun from the back seat, where his attackers had carelessly left them. He was at Swope Park on 63rd Street. As he walked with his gun, trying to flag down cars, he realized no one was going to pick up an armed man, so he tossed the weapon down.

Then an elderly Kansas City Star delivery man and his helper, a young boy from Mexico, picked up Borja-Molina. Frantically, he told them what had happened. They suggested taking him to the nearby police station. He refused. He didn't want to talk to the police because he wanted to hunt down and kill the men who had murdered Colon and tried to kill him. He shoved a wad of money at the two and asked to be taken to a phone; the men dropped him off at a grocery store. The pay phone was out of order, so he found a man with a cell phone and paid him $60 for its use.

He called his mother, Amparo Molina, in Houston, and told her that her brother had been killed and to get out of the apartment. Then he called his aunt, Monica Osma, in Overland Park and told her, "Run!" without explaining that her brother was dead or that her boyfriend, Hinestroza, was responsible. She didn't know she should run away from Hinestroza, so she called him and told him to meet her at Menorah hospital. She figured that would be a safe place to meet, and it was within walking distance of the apartment she was being told to flee.

Then Borja-Molina called Savanah Colon in Overland Park.

"Julian's been smoked," he told her. "Come and pick me up." He told her he was at the Thriftway near Swope Park in Kansas City, and he put a store security guard on the phone to give her directions. Borja-Molina sounded upset, but in her disbelief, Savanah Colon thought that maybe her husband, a "funny guy," was just playing a joke on her. The half-hour drive to Swope Park seemed surreal -- Savanah had no idea whether her husband was dead or alive. Being "smoked" meant getting murdered, and she could not imagine that anyone would kill her husband, even though he'd told her that afternoon that someone had stolen money from a friend, and he was going to go along as "back-up power" to help get it back.

She found Borja-Molina with blood all over his face, nearly out of his mind.

"The first thing I asked him," Savanah later remembered, "is, 'Where's Julian?' You know? And that's when reality struck me that this isn't a joke, you know what I mean? And he was all hysterical and he cried ... and then I said, 'Show me where he is.' I made him take me to where he was.... Andres was terrified to go there. I insisted."

When they got back to the tan Acura, Savanah ran over and looked in the trunk. Her husband's body was up against the back of the car's rear seat. She pulled him out and felt for a pulse. She knew he was dead. His body felt slightly cold to the touch, and his hands were stiff.

Even though she'd seen more than one hundred dead bodies as an army nurse, she harbored the faint, irrational hope that doctors at a hospital might be able to perform some miracle. "I suppose it was still some false hope because I see it on the movies all the time they take people to the hospital, they could save them and get bullet wounds out of their head and all that stuff. And I guess there was some false hope that they could do some surgery on my husband and make him be alive. It's not like that in real life," she later said.

The two loaded the body into Savanah's black Lexus, and Borja-Molina climbed in the back seat, holding the body. They bypassed the nearest hospital -- Research Medical Center was just a mile away -- and drove across the state line to Menorah, a hospital familiar to Savanah because she had had all of her prenatal checkups there. That was where her daughter was to be born, too.

During the thirty-minute drive, Savanah's nephew by marriage filled her in on the whole story. It was a drug deal gone bad, he told her. Hinestroza had accused Borja-Molina and Colon of stealing $300,000 from a hiding place at his apartment. They hadn't done it, but Hinestroza needed somebody to pin it on to please the big bosses in Colombia, who weren't very forgiving about large sums of money going missing. Now she knew why her husband had called and asked her to take down that license plate number -- he really had been afraid for his life.

At Menorah, Savanah walked around in a daze, and people saw her attentively fuss over her dogs. Borja-Molina kept crying and shaking and talking to anyone who passed by about watching out for the guys who were still on the loose. He told police they might find the fugitives at the Drury Inn, so several officers went there immediately. Two officers saw Hinestroza drop off Ortiz, but they testified that they let him drive away because they felt they didn't have enough officers to arrest him. So Hinestroza and Osma escaped to Houston together, where he dropped her off at her sister's house. There, she learned their brother had been killed. Hinestroza reportedly fled to Mexico.

Police arrested Ortiz and Sinisterra in the parking lot. To nab Tello, they had the desk clerk call and try to persuade him, in spite of Tello's poor English, that there was a gas leak and he needed to leave his room. To make the ruse more believable, police brought in an Overland Park Fire Department pumper truck and parked it outside the hotel. When a hesitant Tello finally came down, he was shocked that police arrested him.

The three men were taken to the Johnson County jail, where Sinisterra promptly confessed to Kansas City police that he had slain Colon in what he still thought was a double homicide. (Later, he rescinded the confession, saying he had given it only out of fear that Hinestroza or the higher bosses in Colombia would go after his family and harm them.) Tello, who police reported was shaking and visibly distraught, kept trying to get officers' attention before they questioned him. He said that something had gone wrong, that nobody was supposed to die. Tello and Ortiz both blamed Hinestroza for what had happened, denying that they were sent by La Oficina. They simply claimed that Hinestroza had asked them to come up to Kansas City to do a "job," never specifying that murder would be required. When Ortiz's pockets were emptied by police, though, they found more than $3,000 on him -- the amount Hinestroza had supposedly promised to split among the three.

After a two-week federal trial in December 2000, German Sinisterra, Arboleda Ortiz and Plutarco Tello were found guilty of the first-degree murder of Julian Colon. A jury also convicted them of conspiracy to distribute cocaine; use of a firearm that resulted in murder in a drug-trafficking crime; and interstate travel in the furtherance of murder for hire. The jury voted to impose the death penalty on Sinisterra and Ortiz but could not agree to execute Tello, who is serving a life sentence without parole in federal prison. All three cases are under appeal.

Borja-Molina, who received immunity from the U.S. government in exchange for his testimony, got his tan Acura back, repaired, cleaned and detailed for him courtesy of the FBI. He was last known to be living in North Carolina and keeping a low profile.

Hinestroza, whose mug shot is featured on an FBI Web site, is still a fugitive and may have returned to Colombia. The FBI warns that he should be considered armed and dangerous.

Savanah Colon gave birth shortly after her husband's death and named her daughter in honor of both the dead father and his drug-dealing alter ego. When the girl was one year old, Savanah testified during the penalty phase of the Colombians' trial that her husband's loss had devastated her. The child, Savanah lamented, would grow up hearing about what a fine person her father was without ever having the benefit of experiencing his virtues in person.

"All she will hear from all of us [is] how joyous and exuberant and wonderful Julian was," Savanah said. Cautiously fighting for the killers' lives, defense attorneys gently suggested that the fairy-tale marriage she described wasn't what she thought it was, that Savanah's husband had to die before she found out who he really was. "[There] may have been a few things he deceived me [about], and I completely understand that because he would not have been doing it [selling drugs] anymore had I known," she said, brushing aside questions about her husband's character.

In fact, Savanah said, she was so devastated by her husband's death that she would "give my daughter back to God in one second for my husband back" -- lies and all. Life without her husband, she said, was meaningless.

"I could care less," she said, "if a tornado swept me up and killed me. I could care less if somebody hit me in a head-on collision tomorrow and I died.... I would honestly rather be dead. I am very numb to life.... He changed my whole life. Even my family said how he changed me. He brought out what is best in me. And now that he's gone I feel like that's gone because there is nobody to bring it out in me and I don't know how to do it on my own because he brought it out in me and now he's dead, it's dead. I died with him."


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