Former police captain Enrique Saldana was remanded to the Bureau of Corrections Friday night, minutes after a jury found him guilty of killing his wife almost three years ago, according to the V.I. Department of Justice.
After five days of testimony and four hours of deliberation, jurors unanimously convicted Saldana, 53, of New Quarter, of one count each of second-degree murder, second-degree assault and two counts of third-degree assault, all crimes of domestic violence, in connection with the May 2, 2014, death of his wife, Jeanette Magras-Saldana, 43.
V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston has set May 3 as the date for Saldana’s sentencing. Attorney General Claude Earl Walker expressed his satisfaction at the outcome.
“I am very proud of my prosecution team and the entire Magras family because the cards were stacked against us from the very beginning, but through the desire to achieve justice for Jeanette, we did not relent,” Walker said in a statement. “Jeanette was a beautiful lady with her whole life ahead of her, but she was miserably oppressed by Saldana. The evidence shows that in her final days, she sensed that she was going to be killed and that Saldana will be her killer. It was almost as if she was crying out, ‘Deliver me from the hand of the wicked, from the clutches of my oppressor.’ Saldana murdered his wife just to heal his enlarged, bruised ego and so, now that the jury has found him guilty of second-degree murder, he deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail and that will be our recommendation at sentencing.”
The prosecutor presented testimony from at least 20 witnesses to prove to the jury that Saldana had drugged his wife, causing her to be debilitated, beat her and then killed her.
The nine men and six women of the jury heard several witnesses testify that Saldana was insanely jealous of his wife and as a result, he wielded control over her, decided the clothes she should wear, told her what to do and demanded that she change her gym schedule from five days per week to three days. Saldana’s domination continued during the time he was off-island, Nicole Turnbull, Jeanette Magras- Saldana’s manicurist and her confidante, testified.
“He was still in that controlling way and even more so off-island,” said Turnbull, the victim’s friend. “She was extremely frustrated; she was upset because even though he was off-island, he was still trying to run the show.”
On the morning of May 2, 2014, Saldana called 911 to report that his girlfriend wasn’t breathing and that he needed assistance to go to the hospital; he was in the area of Food Center at the time. An off-duty police officer, Cpl. Bernard Burke, who heard the transmission, met Saldana at the hospital and helped him remove Jeanette Magras-Saldana from the jeep Saldana was driving.
In a video interview with police, Saldana told investigators that he was at his wife’s house on May 1, 2014 and he saw her take a handful of sleeping pills on two separate occasions. He said his wife fell on her way to the kitchen and she wiped her bloodied nose with a piece of tissue, which she disposed into the toilet. Then, early in the morning of May 2, 2014, they went to Vessup’s Beach at Jeanette Magras-Saldana’s request. While at the beach, Jeanette Magras-Saldana fell down, he tried lifting her up and she yelped in pain. She also fell at least twice against the vehicle and as she was coming out of the water, she stopped breathing, he said.
At the hospital, medical staff took 27 minutes trying to revive Jeanette Magras-Saldana, but were unsuccessful. Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Landron, who performed the autopsy on Jeanette Magras-Saldana, testified that she died as a result of acute diphenhydramine, a substance which is marketed as Benadryl. According to a toxicology report, the diphenhydramine level in Jeanette Magras-Saldana’s body was 7,900 nanograms, which was considered a fatal level of concentration.
Dr. Landron also noted that Jeanette Magras-Saldana’s body bore multiple bruises and contusions, including two large bruises on the left breast, one large bruise around the chin and several bruises on both arms.
“All the bruises were the result of an impact caused by a blunt force object, such as a punch or a kick,” he said.
By the time Jeanette Magras-Saldana arrived at the hospital, rigor mortis had already set in and her body temperature was recorded at 95.6, which meant that she was dead for about two to four hours, Dr. Landron told jurors. Saldana told police that she was alive 15 minutes before he brought her to the hospital.
“Today, I stand before you seeking justice for Jeanette Magras-Saldana. I ask that you do justice in this matter. I ask that you return a verdict of guilty on each and every count,” Assistant Attorney General Quincy McRae implored the jurors in his closing arguments.
Assistant Attorneys General Ednin Martinez and Nadja Harrigan also argued the case for the prosecution.