Don’t miss a thing by getting the Daily Star’s biggest headlines straight to your inbox!
With a compassionate personality and an empathy for others, it was clear that Rhoderie Estrada was doing exactly what she was destined to do with her life – care for those around her.
Rhoderie, 41, had been married to husband Gerald Aquintey for 15 years and they had three daughters, aged 14, 12, and 10.
She was a devoted mother who was the centre of the family. She fussed around her girls at their two-storey house in East York, Toronto.
In 2018, the family were having their basement renovated as they endeavoured to complete their perfect home. The house was where their eldest daughter had learnt to ride a bike, their middle child had learnt to walk and their youngest was born. And it was where Rhoderie hosted Christmas dinners and BBQs to welcome newly arrived immigrant families to Canada. It was a home full of love.
Known as “Dherie” by her friends and family, she loved supporting her husband as he realised his dream of running his own Filipino restaurant. And she was also a popular dialysis nurse at the St Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto. Putting people at ease came naturally to Rhoderie and she could calm even the most stressed patients.
On 25 May 2018, Gerald had been working at his restaurant and later attended the grand opening of a friend’s restaurant.
He spoke to his wife at around 9pm and she said she was folding laundry and watching a Korean soap opera. After putting her girls to bed, it’s thought she went to sleep at about 10pm.
In the early hours of the next morning, at around 2am on 26 May, Gerald arrived back home. He was surprised to see the lights on. Rhoderie was a light sleeper and would usually unlatch the front door for Gerald – but he phoned her like they’d arranged, and she didn’t answer. He tried the doorbell, but she didn’t come down.
Gerald went around to the side door and saw it was open and that an interior door to the kitchen was hanging off its hinges. There were footprints leading up the stairs to the main bedroom in the renovation dust. Gerald was terrified at what he would find as he made his way up – and it was beyond his worst nightmares.
Rhoderie was on the bed, covered in blood. His half-naked wife had been so brutally beaten around the head that she was swollen and unrecognisable. There was a bloodied crowbar at the foot of the bed.
Gerald rushed to check on his daughters. They were unhurt in their rooms.
Hurrying back to his wife, he tried to carry out CPR but Rhoderie’s mouth and nose were so broken, it was impossible. Distraught, he called 911 and made sure his daughters didn’t go into the bedroom and see their severely injured mother.
Rhoderie’s eldest daughter heard snippets of her father’s frantic call. “Her teeth are falling out,” he cried. “There’s a lot of blood… she’s dead.”
Rhoderie was pronounced dead at 2.30am. She had been killed by at least eight blows that shattered every bone in her face.
As the house was turned into a crime scene, Rhoderie’s eldest girl asked her father, “Where’s Mummy?”
“Mummy’s gone,” he replied softly.
Police determined that Rhoderie had been the victim of a home invasion in which she had been viciously beaten to death and sexually assaulted.
Investigations led to the arrest of Yostin Murillo, 22, and David Beak, 23, just days after the killing. Murillo had a long criminal record of break-ins and he’d repeatedly breached court orders, which meant he was facing deportation to Costa Rica.
Surveillance video put the pair in the area before the killing and Murillo’s fingerprint was on the door frame of the house. Murillo had Rhoderie’s phone, and one of her daughter’s phones. Police also found some of his clothes with Rhoderie’s blood on. Beak’s DNA was on her body, which proved he’d been in sexual contact with her.
Murillo and Beak had only known each other about five months. They partied together, drank and did drugs. They both admitted that they’d spent the night breaking into garages and sheds in the neighbourhood, stealing valuables so they could buy more alcohol and drugs. Then they’d arrived at Rhoderie’s home.
They said they thought the house was empty. There was no car in the driveway, and they saw the basement was being renovated. But then their stories started to differ. Murillo said they both broke in through a basement window, then through a connecting door. Beak insisted he stayed outside to keep watch.
Murillo went into the children’s bedrooms and other rooms. He had taken phones, a laptop and purses. He said he’d been in Rhoderie’s bedroom, stealing her phone and pocket change, when she’d woken up. He said he had killed her but denied sexually assaulting her.
Beak said that he didn’t break in but entered the house to tell Murillo that they needed to leave – and saw Murillo hitting Rhoderie. He said that as Murillo left the room, he tried to have sex with Rhoderie. Beak said he didn’t know if she was “dead or alive” at the time – a detail that was important in law. Both were charged with first-degree murder.
At the trial this year, both Murillo and Beak pleaded not guilty. The prosecution said both men had broken into Rhoderie’s home, beaten the mum-of-three to death and sexually assaulted her. Murillo took the stand and told the court he had beaten Rhoderie with a crowbar but continued to deny sexually assaulting her.
He said that the attack wasn’t planned but he’d been high on drugs and alcohol. He’d left the room and when he returned, Rhoderie had been partially undressed.
Beak said that he didn’t kill Rhoderie but admitted he’d tried to “have sex” with her after she was clearly dead – which conflicted with his story on his arrest. The law questioned whether it was sexual assault if the victim was deceased. Only Beak’s DNA was found on Rhoderie’s body.
The prosecution said Murillo and Beak’s conflicting stories were “convenient” as they tried to lay the blame on each other. It was a harrowing seven-week trial and the jury took five days to deliberate their verdict.
In August, Murillo and Beak were found guilty of first-degree murder. They were also found guilty of sexual assault. The conviction brought with it an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, which was confirmed a month later at the sentencing.
The judge said the jury’s verdict showed they rejected the claims that only Murillo killed Rhoderie and only Beak had sexually assaulted her.
He said it was reasonable to deduce that they’d both broken in and both decided to assault Rhoderie and when she’d fought back, they’d beaten her to death. He said the attack was “nothing short of shocking in its violence”.
Rhoderie’s heartbroken widower spoke directly to his wife’s two killers, with his eldest daughter by his side. “I have a hard time remembering my wife’s graceful face… Why did you do such a thing?” he said. “Why couldn’t you just leave when you found out someone was in the home? Why did you have to brutally kill her?”
Rhoderie’s eldest daughter choked back tears as she described having depression and PTSD, and how she constantly fears someone is about to break in. Rhoderie’s middle daughter still tortures herself for going to bed that night without telling her mum, “I love you.”
Gerald ended by apologising to his children and Rhoderie’s mum. “I’m so sorry,” he wept. “I’m so sorry for not being able to protect Dherie. I hope that you can forgive me.”
Murillo blamed alcohol and drugs and apologised. Beak said nothing. The judge said the attack was “deeply disturbing”.
“What happened to Ms Estrada is the stuff of nightmares,” he said.
The killers will get credit for time served in pre-trial custody and so will be eligible for parole in under 22 years. Their DNA will go on the national databank.
The community has been left shattered by the loss of Rhoderie and the stark reminder that, sometimes, you’re not even safe in your own home.
Source: Read Full Article