Officer Trouble

Golden Beach's problem cop struggles to make a career

Years later, in retrospect, Lisette Nogues said she believes the rabbit incident was the first clear indication that her daughter was showing signs of mental illness. Lisette told one psychologist she believed Michelle inherited a sociopathic disorder (cruelty to animals at a young age is one sign) from her biological father, whom she said had such a disorder as well as a criminal history.

Michelle has described the rabbit incident differently at different times. In 1989 she told a psychologist, "It was obviously someone from school. It [the note] was placed in my locker. It was someone not very bright because they misspelled my name." In 1997 when a Davie IA officer asked her if she "remembered a case involving the mutilation of pet rabbits," she replied that she "remembered something to that affect [sic], but doesn't remember specifics." Then in her 1998 letter to the FDLE she apologized for "honestly not remembering the incident of one of my pet rabbits being killed by presumably a neighbor's dog, which I did not consider a crime."

In Miami Michelle doted on her siblings, especially her sister Aimee, five years her junior. The two were described as being inseparable, and Aimee has said she looked up to Michelle with awe. Lisette had started her own practice and Andres was doing his residency at Miami Children's Hospital, so Michelle was the default babysitter for the brood. She cooked for them, dressed them, and took them to the movies.

Santinello as a Golden Beach cop
Santinello as a Golden Beach cop

Michelle would allege both in testimony and in court records that after the move to Miami her mother, whom she had considered "perfect" and "loving," would suddenly become a raging tyrant, whose temper flared at the slightest provocation. She said her mother would beat the children with hairbrushes and cut their hair off to punish them. But Lisette countered that it was her daughter who changed. Starting in 1985, Michelle repeatedly called police to say that men were following her, breaking into the house, or lurking nearby. On September 4, 1985, for instance, she told Metro-Dade Police that while she and her siblings were watching TV she heard a noise and saw a man in a white T-shirt hiding in some bushes outside. Police canvassing the area did see a man with a white T-shirt mailing an envelope down the street but couldn't connect him to anything suspicious. A month later she called police because she heard footsteps on the roof, then saw a man running away. Police searched the area with "negative results." By the third report, police were getting suspicious: "Victim states two prior burglaries took place. On each occasion the suspect was seen, nothing was taken. (Validity of the story is questionable.)" Still Michelle continued calling the cops, only now the fears were more dramatic. A few weeks after the report warning her stories were "questionable," she called police after finding blood splattered in the house (no explanation was ever found). A few days later on November 1, 1985, she called the cops again, saying she believed someone was inside the house. These reports continued into 1987, when she called police and said a Hispanic man was following her and her siblings while they were at the mall. Always when police searched, they found nothing.

Finally her mother, believing her daughter was becoming hysterical, took Michelle in 1987 to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Alberto Iglesias, who testified in court he had been referred by a colleague and had never met the family before. (Michelle's sister Aimee insists that Iglesias was a friend of the parents and in cahoots with the mother to make Michelle appear crazy.) Iglesias's reports, written in Spanish and referred to in the Metro-Dade Police report and court records, note that Michelle has a propensity for creating a heightened sense of drama and for lying. At one point Michelle told Dr. Iglesias that her stepfather, Andres Nogues, had molested her when she was younger, mostly just fondling while she was asleep. On January 23, 1987, she was taken to Troopers, a Miramar-based polygraph facility, to determine the veracity of that claim. The polygraph examiner concluded: " ... it is the opinion of the Examiner, that the subject's polygrams do contain specific reactions to the pertinent questions. There is deception indicated."

Polygraph examiners at Troopers also tested Andres Nogues. There was no deception indicated in his test. The results of the polygraph tests were cited in Metro-Dade Police records.

Things in the Nogues household deteriorated from there. Michelle ran away at one point and married her teenage sweetheart Rick Porras. But the separation from her siblings gnawed at her, and eventually she sent a letter to her mom apologizing for her past behavior, including "the lies" and the "pain" she had caused, according to court records. Lisette assumed this was a reference to the allegations Michelle had made against Andres. Michelle said in court it was a ploy to get back in the house. Michelle and Rick, both unemployed, were allowed to return to the fold to live in a guesthouse on the Nogueses' sprawling property in the southwest part of the county. Eventually the young couple moved out on their own.

The saga that would pit mother against daughter for perpetuity began one night in September 1989, when fifteen-year-old Aimee ran away to her sister's house and accused her stepfather of sexually abusing her over a period of three years. She claimed that she and Andres had had both anal and vaginal sex numerous times. Metro-Dade Police Det. Ellen Christopher investigated and, based on Aimee's claims and a medical examination, arrested Andres Nogues at work at Miami Children's Hospital. State workers immediately removed the seven children still at the Nogues home and placed them with Michelle and her then-husband Rick Porras. The ensuing investigation was twofold. Miami-Dade Police began looking into whether Andres Nogues repeatedly sexually molested Aimee, as she claimed. Meanwhile family court tried to determine if the Nogues parents could retain custody of their children.

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