Scorned and on the Record
When Miami-Dade County Police Ofcr. Chad Murphy was shot in the line of duty October 24, 2003, he relied on his sweetheart Elena Rosen and her family to tend to his physical and emotional wounds. "The shooting brought us closer together," Rosen, 28, revealed during a recent phone interview. "But his wandering eyes broke us apart."
Now a year after the public-school teacher ended her relationship with Murphy, Rosen has been called as a witness on behalf of Mario Barcia, the man who allegedly shot Murphy. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office charged Barcia, 26, with attempted first-degree murder of a law-enforcement official. "People have told me that [Chad] is not happy that I was called in to testify," Rosen says.
Barcia's and Murphy's lives intersected in the early-morning hours following the Florida Marlins' victory over the New York Yankees in game five of the 2003 World Series. Shortly after midnight, Barcia and his then-pregnant wife awoke to a banging sound. The home had been burglarized two months earlier; Barcia bought a Glock nine-millimeter handgun for protection. He saw two men with flashlights prowling in his backyard. One of the silhouetted figures, holding a shotgun in his left hand, shook the French doors at the rear of his house.
Barcia shot at the interlopers, who returned fire. When the gunplay subsided, the intruders were revealed as Murphy and Miami-Dade Police Sgt. David Dominguez, who had entered the property in search of an unidentified vandal. One of Barcia's bullets hit Murphy, who was wearing a protective vest, in the back. He was wounded, but not seriously.
During a 911 call that night, and during the intense interrogation by a leathery Miami-Dade homicide investigator that followed, Barcia insisted he thought criminals were trying to break into his house. He claimed he never intended to shoot a police officer and that he did not know the two men in his yard where cops. "You're trying to pin the tail on the donkey," Barcia growled at detective Charles McCully. "I'm not your donkey. You guys fucked up. You guys came in my house, in my property."
With his trial less than two weeks away, Barcia's defense attorney Ron Lowy is confident his client will beat the rap. Lowy hopes the testimony of Murphy's jilted ex-girlfriend will help bolster his client's claim that Murphy and Dominguez acted improperly before, during, and after the shooting to cover up mistakes. "Her testimony will help highlight Murphy's prejudice, motives, personal self-serving goals, and objectives against my client," Lowy told New Times. The risk is that a jury could dismiss Rosen's credibility as sour grapes of a scorned lover.
February 28, Lowy and Assistant State Attorney Timothy VanderGiesen, the prosecutor in the case, questioned Rosen under oath about her relationship with Murphy. The teacher's answers create an unflattering profile of Murphy, who was named rookie of the year in 2003 by the Dade County Police Benevolent Association. Rosen summed up Murphy like this: "He tries to portray himself as the perfect little boy, but he is not."
Murphy declined comment through his union attorney C. Michael Cornely, who dismissed Rosen's statement as fiction. "She was all lovey-dovey when ... Murphy was shot," the lawyer said. "But for whatever reason, her relationship with him ended and she is feeling vindictive. She has motive to say whatever she wants in order to discredit Chad, a courageous officer who was shot in the line of duty."
According to her sworn statement, Rosen began dating Murphy in the fall of 2002.
Murphy was close to Rosen's parents, especially her father Robert Rosen, a reserve officer with Miami-Dade Police. Murphy stayed at the Rosen family home during the weeks following the shooting, receiving a stream of phone calls and visits from friends and fellow police officers.
Dominguez was among those visitors, according to Rosen. In fact, Rosen told VanderGiesen and Lowy that the sergeant went to see Murphy Sunday, October 26, 2003, two days after Barcia was charged. The following week, the officers gave their sworn statements to McCully. During separate interviews, they never told McCully they had met the Sunday before. In a deposition taken in June 2004, Murphy told Barcia's lawyer he didn't see Dominguez until weeks after the shooting, when he returned to work. "He basically told me, you know, that he was sorry that, you know, that I got shot," Murphy said in his statement. (The officer also told Lowy that the shooting had contributed to his breakup with Rosen, a claim she disputes.)
Rosen claimed she and Murphy had never socialized with Dominguez; the day he visited Murphy at the Rosen home was the first time she had seen the sergeant off the clock. "I didn't think much of it at the time, but I knew it was wrong," Rosen said. "They were supposed to go the next day to give their statements."
During his visit, Dominguez made it a point to tell Murphy that he had driven the take-home squad car assigned to his ex-wife, Miami-Dade Police Ofcr. Melissa Bermudez. Rosen elaborated: "It was just weird that he would say that when all county patrol cars look alike."
(Dominguez gave his deposition to Barcia's lawyer March 25. A year ago the sergeant, who had already provided a sworn statement to prosecutors, had refused to answer questions about the shooting when he was originally deposed by Lowy.)
Rosen asked Murphy to quit his job. Instead Murphy returned to roll call less than a month after his injury so he could land overtime during the Free Trade Area of the Americas Summit in November 2003 -- logging sixteen to eighteen hours at time-and-a-half. "And I remember him talking about a lawsuit," Rosen said. "You know, everything is dollar bills."
Murphy and Rosen went to Wachusett Mountain resort, one hour outside of Boston, over the Christmas holiday, less than two months after Murphy was shot. Rosen took several photos of Murphy snowboarding. Nevertheless Murphy has retained a civil attorney with the intention of seeking damages against Barcia and his homeowner's insurance policy for his shooting-related injuries. Rosen also said Murphy viewed his wound as a way to move up the ranks. "He said to me: öWell, you know, this is great because this is my ticket to anywhere I want to go in the department' ... and he started saying about how he was going to take the sergeants' exam for a promotion."
The relationship crashed in February of 2004. "He just started disappearing," Rosen said. She picked up his cell phone and scrolled to Murphy's text-message inbox and found the following electronic love note:
I miss your touch,
I can't wait to see you tonight,
Since his arrest, Mario Barcia was suspended without pay from his position as a county clerk. He has been able to find work only as a day laborer. He is under house arrest and has to wear an ankle monitor. He and his wife, Mercedes, sold their Cutler Ridge home last year to pay legal bills and other expenses. About the only bright spot in Barcia's life was the birth of his son, who is now nine months old.
"It's made me numb to reality," Barcia professed. "I don't talk to my family that much anymore. And it doesn't bother me anymore whether the cops are saints, crooks, or whatever. I just want to get past this. I just want a normal life again."
Barcia is set to stand trial April 12.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.