Two brothers will serve decades in prison for the 2020 shooting murder of a local fisherman and the attempted murder of another that left him with injuries that required the amputation of his legs and an arm.
Jose Manuel Clemente, 45, of Stock Island, was found face down and shot to death at a Stock Island boat yard off 5th Avenue on June 15, 2020, while Iliecer Noa was left nearby, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his abdomen.
Nearly four years later, prosecutors closed the case with a plea deal that sends Jose Luis Espinosa Gomez, 38, to prison for up to 35 years. He must serve a minimum of 25 years.
But the victim’s family said they were blindsided by the last-minute plea deal for Gomez and that it’s not what the top prosecutors promised. Gomez could have gotten life for the murder, but instead he could be out after serving a minimum of 25 years, the plea deal stipulates.
“It’s never going to bring Jose home and they’ll never get what they really deserve,” Jackie Gonzalez, Clemente’s widow, told Keys Weekly. “But they just gave up. I’ve been through hell for four years to have them just throw it away.”
On Jan. 16 at the Monroe County Courthouse, after a jury was selected and the family believed a trial was about to start, Gomez agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder. Gonzalez said prosecutors told her they couldn’t win at trial and that this was the best outcome they could hope for.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Joseph Mansfield, who had been working the case, was prosecuting another murder trial on Jan. 16, so his office had other prosecutors handling the Gomez case at the time.
Gonzalez said she was texting with Mansfield as the plea was going down and that he said that was not what he had instructed his staff to do in court.
Jose Gomez’s younger brother, Mayque Gomez Marin, 34, was convicted at a previous trial of manslaughter and attempted murder for the shooting on June 15, 2020, at 5515 5th Ave. on Stock Island, near a spot known locally as “La Curva.”
But unlike the man Clemente’s family said killed their loved one, his brother Mayque was sentenced to life in prison – for the attempted murder of Noa – plus 35 years for manslaughter in connection with Clemente’s death.
“Justice has been served in this tragic and complex case,” said Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward, in a statement. “The severity of the crime and its impact on the victims and the community have been at the forefront of our pursuit for justice. This sentence reflects our commitment to holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.”
Prosecutors again said the murder was the result of an argument over a rental car. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office called it a targeted hit.
“He was not a ‘target,’” Gonzalez said of her husband. “He showed up at the wrong time.”
Questions for the state attorney’s office about the plea and the family’s outrage weren’t answered this week.
Ward said his office’s press release about the plea is “sufficient for comment at this time.”
Ward’s statement ends with, “The state attorney’s office is dedicated to serving justice and expresses its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims.”
‘I’m not going to let this rest’
Marin Gomez was arrested in December 2020 after authorities tracked him down in northern Mexico after a months-long search. Four months earlier, his brother was taken into custody after he was also caught in Mexico.
Attorneys for the victims’ families went after the owners and operators of the property where the shooting took place and secured a $6 million settlement in January 2022.
Of the settlement, $3.5 million went to Noa, who survived the shooting but lost his legs and left arm to surgeries; the rest was paid to the Clemente family.
The Haggard Law Firm, of Coral Gables, sought a civil case over negligent security, wrongful death and personal injury claims.
Lawyers said the property’s owner, the Bernstein Trust, and the trust’s longtime tenant Fishbusterz, agreed to tap their insurance to their limits to avoid a potential lawsuit and possible trial.
But the settlement doesn’t equal courtroom justice for Clemente’s family, his widow said.
The brothers’ cases were tried separately.
Gonzalez spent four years focused on the murder case, which involved her traveling from her home in Jacksonville to Key West and sitting through one trial listening as the agonizing details of her husband’s last moments were repeated.
“He’s never going to walk my daughter down the aisle,” Gonzalez said. “We’re never going to get that back.”
Gonzalez said she will pursue complaints against the prosecutors with any legal action that is available.
“I had so much respect for that office and I thought they were helping my family,” she said.
“I’m not going to let this rest.”
Gonzalez has relocated twice since her husband’s murder in 2020. “This was my home,” she said, of Key West. “I can’t be here because I get depressed. This can never be my home again.”