Trial Opens in Slaying of Transvestite
After a woman on the street offered him $20 for sex, Carlos Camacho says he accompanied her home, took off his clothes, and waited for her to emerge from the bathroom at her Paterson apartment.
But when she came out naked, Camacho said he learned that she was a he.
"Do you think that would be a shocking development?" defense lawyer Greg Aprile said to jurors during his opening statement Tuesday in Camacho's murder trial. "Could you imagine the disgust a person who is not a homosexual might have? Do you think there would be some reason to have fear as well as anger? ... What other perversions might he be subjected to?"
Camacho, 20, is charged with murder for allegedly beating, stabbing, slashing, and strangling Victor Pachas, a 43-year-old transvestite, about 4 a.m. on Feb. 25, 2001. Camacho, of Paterson, admits he killed Pachas, but Aprile said his client is not guilty of knowing and purposeful murder.
Instead, Aprile said, his client was "driven by revulsion and fear." The attorney pointed jurors toward a finding of passion provocation manslaughter - saying the crime was committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.
Murder carries at least a 30-year prison term, whereas the sentencing range for the manslaughter charge is five to 10 years.
John Latoracca, Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor, told jurors they can't let discomfort with Pachas' lifestyle color their view.
"Victor Pachas was a human being and he did not deserve to die," Latoracca said. Pachas' lifestyle "is not an excuse, it's not a defense, it's not a legitimate basis to call this case anything other than what it is: murder."
Latoracca pointed to the brutality of the attack as proof the crime was murder, noting that the apartment was literally drenched with the victim's blood. He also told jurors about a portion of Camacho's police statement, where he said, "'I couldn't control myself because he was screaming, and I knew if people heard the screaming I would get in trouble.'"
On Tuesday, jurors also heard from one of Pachas' friends, who was with him at a nightclub before he met Camacho. On the stand, Alejandro Fernandez said he did not recall whether Pachas talked that night about hooking up with a stranger for sex.
In cross-examination, Aprile pointed out that Fernandez had told that to police the day after the killing.
Jurors also heard from other tenants in Pachas' Genessee Avenue apartment building, who said they heard loud noises and cries for help that night.
Camacho was arrested six weeks after the killing when authorities found him in Puerto Rico, where he had fled the day after the crime. His sister turned him in, Latoracca said.
Camacho told police he had been walking home that night, and heard someone call him over to a car, Latoracca said.
The driver was Pachas, who wore a skirt, heels, and a wig, and was on a block of Slater Street that is known for male prostitution, Latoracca said. Once back at Pachas' apartment, and after Pachas came out of the bathroom, Camacho told police he got up to get his clothing, but Pachas "went" for his knife.
Camacho told police he punched Pachas and then stabbed him. When the knife blade broke from the handle, Camacho pulled the bare blade out from Pachas' back and started stabbing and slashing him in the face, Latoracca said.
Aprile also told jurors that once Camacho was confronted with the truth about Pachas, he initially got up to leave.
"Is Mr. Pachas going to try to convince him to stay? Or is he going to try to force himself on my client?" Aprile told jurors. Latoracca said that some parts of Camacho's statement were self-serving.
Camacho, who appeared in court in a buzz cut and sporting tattoos on his cheek and neck, is being held in the Passaic County Jail on $500,000 bail. The case, in state Superior Court in Paterson, is set to continue today.