The Shooting of Estefano

One of Miami's best-known songwriters was nearly killed in a possible contract hit.

Estefano had given money to the church willingly, added Delgado. There was no chicanery.

The civil case dragged on for months and grew nastier by the day. Bank documents, phone records, e-mails, and notes were demanded. Church attorneys claimed Estefano's assertions of theft and attempted murder were "libelous." Among the allegations made by the church: Estefano had put a "hex" on Emilio Estefan because of an earlier contract dispute. Estefano was depicted as paranoid and crazy.

In March, church attorneys threatened to release an embarrassing video of Estefano participating in a Santería ceremony unless the songwriter dropped his legal assault. "You suggested that Estefano should reconsider his lawsuit to spare himself the embarrassment," Thornton replied. "[He] is not intimidated by such threats."

Estefano's albums with Donato (right) were the songwriter's most succesful. He also collaborated with Julio Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez.
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Estefano's albums with Donato (right) were the songwriter's most succesful. He also collaborated with Julio Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez.

But maybe he was. On April 16, the day before the video and other detailed testimony were to be presented in court, Estefano, Gil, and the Santería church settled the case. Terms were confidential, but all sides declared victory. "Estefano wants to move on with his life," Thornton says. "Civil litigation is very taxing emotionally and financially. This case could have dragged on for years and could have cost him millions."

Gil released a statement calling the criminal allegations "absurd, inexact fantasies." Church leaders declined to comment.

Rubio said the settlement benefited Junior. "If Estefano's allegations of a plot to kill him were true, why would he ever settle [the civil] case?" the lawyer asks.

Estefano has been through several surgeries to correct wounds to his head. He is no longer active in the church or with Santería. "He's just happy and thankful to be alive," Thornton says. "He wants to be known for his talent, his songwriting."

Junior remains in jail without bond even though a handful of friends and family has testified on his behalf. "He's a very peaceful guy," says Samuel Franklin McCoy, a Boca Raton police officer who knew Junior from a jujitsu class. "He never did anything negative."

The attempted murder trial is scheduled for June. It won't be easy to prosecute. Police made a mistake: They didn't get a warrant to search Junior's home, so they never found his clothes, the backpack, or the gun. Plus the alleged shooter didn't have any gunpowder residue on his hands.

But the question that hangs in the balance is this: Will Gil or anyone from the church be charged in connection with the shooting? Will Estefano's allegations that Gil, Suarez, and Junior conspired in a plot to kill him ever be disclosed to a jury?

Prosecutors remain mum, but Estefano's attorney Taylor "anticipates more arrests.... I have no doubt there's going to be a reckoning."

Since the shooting, Estefano has avoided reporters, awards ceremonies, and concerts, instead immersing himself in the safe world of pen and paper, of words and songs.

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