By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Ivonne claims she met several of her brother's friends, most of whom he knew through school, but never heard anything of Emmanuel Jean or Richard Petit.
Earlier this year Cortes's hard work began to pay off. He was offered a college football scholarship, Ivonne says.
He accepted and studied diligently throughout the spring semester to keep his grades up. He planned to seek a degree in a physical education-related field.
To help pay for his living expenses, Cortes spent the summer searching for a part-time job. He eventually landed a gig in a local office, Ivonne says. But five days before his scheduled September 18 start date, he was arrested and charged with murder. "We were shocked when we heard the allegations," Ivonne laments. "My mom was hysterical because we know what type of person he is. He had so much going for him."
This past May, a Barnes & Noble store in Los Angeles was packed with Father's Day cards of all shapes and sizes. But none seemed right to Aisha. Her dad wasn't verbally expressive, but she knew how much such things meant to him. She absent-mindedly scoured the shelves and plucked out a small one with the picture of a compass. Inside it read, "No matter where I go, I will always take you with me. Happy Father's Day."
She selected an envelope, walked to the register, and paid.
Upon returning to Florida and her sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment less than ten blocks from campus, she tossed the card onto the pale wooden desk next to her laptop and made a mental note to send it. But she didn't have the chance. And it was still there when, this past May 25, she and three friends clambered into her Toyota Corolla and set off on a road trip to visit Northern Arizona University.
This would be the latest in a series of trips Aisha had taken throughout North America. Her father documented each journey with pins on a map that hung in the kitchen of the family's rented three-bedroom Aventura apartment.
Aisha was the only family member who lived away from home, but she usually spoke with her parents a few times a week.
And as she headed west that day, Mom and Dad were hot on her trail. "My mom kept on calling me, but I kept missing the call because I was in the middle of the desert," she says. So Dad picked up the phone, left a funny message, and hung up, confident his youngest would respond immediately.
"I called him and I spoke to him for about five minutes," she weeps, wiping wisps of her long dark hair from her tear-stained face. "He goes, 'Where are you? When are coming home? I really want you to come home,' and he never usually said that," she sobs. "I told him: 'Dad, I'm coming in August; I'll be home soon.' He said all right and passed me to my mom."
But Ayoub would not see his daughter again.
Nor would he keep his June 13 appointment with Citizenship and Immigration Services to attend a ceremony where he would be sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
Nor would he celebrate Father's Day.
Emmanuel Jean's soft brown puppy-dog eyes belie his propensity for violence.
As a minor, he was arrested several times. Though details are sparse because the juvenile record has been sealed, charges include vehicle theft, possession of marijuana, burglary, and resisting arrest.
"He is a thug, a menace to society plain and simple," spits North Miami Beach Det. Ed Hill.
It is unclear how, when, and where the skinny, five-foot nine-inch teen befriended Cortes and the baby-faced sixteen-year-old Haitian Richard Mikey Petit, who has no prior record. Although Jean's family could not be located for an interview, and Petit's family declined repeated requests for comment, police reports reveal that on May 29, the three friends hatched a savage scheme.
And it had nothing to do with Mohammad Ayoub.
The boys planned to carjack, kidnap, and rob the female manager of a cell phone kiosk located inside the 163rd Street Mall, Detective Hill says. An unidentified individual had tipped them off that the woman would head to the bank the following day during the early afternoon to make a cash deposit.
According to arrest reports, which are based on the defendants' testimony and statements from at least two eyewitnesses, the following occurred the morning of May 30: Jean, who was driving a gray Chevrolet Monte Carlo, picked up Cortes from a bus stop near his home. Cortes jumped into the passenger seat, and the duo sped off to collect Petit from his home on NW Third Court and 142nd Street. With Petit in the back, Jean drove north to the 163rd Street Mall.
The trio sat inside the car in the parking lot and spent "several minutes casing" the store. When the woman, who is not identified in police reports, departed the mall, they gave chase. But they drove too slowly, and she entered the safety of the bank before they could catch her.
Frustrated, they decided to rob Ayoub's dollar store, records reveal.