Steroids made jeweler kill salesman, claim lawyers

A Texas jeweler’s use of steroids made him abnormally aggressive and caused him to shoot and kill a traveling jewelry salesman, claim his lawyers. State prosecutors, however, contend he murdered the salesman for the diamonds and jewelry he was carrying, whose wholesale value was reportedly $250,000.

Alejandro Torres, 27, is on trial in Seguin, Texas (30 minutes east of San Antonio), for the murder of Majid Zerovabeli, 38, in February 2001. Torres was expected to testify in his own defense. The case should go to the jury this week, with a verdict likely by Friday.

Zerovabeli, who worked for the H & J Namdar in New York City, disappeared last year while on business in Texas. His last known stop was on Feb. 21, 2001 at Torres’ MRT jewelry store in Sequin. When he failed to arrive at a relative’s home that evening, his family reported him missing.

Friends and family offered a $25,000 reward for his return or the conviction of anyone involved in his disappearance. They also hired helicopters to fly over and search the area between Houston and Seguin where he had traveled.

On Feb. 27, Torres was arrested and charged with the murder of Zerovabeli. Torres, whom law enforcement authorities say confessed to the killing, took police to a narrow grave containing the body of the missing salesman on his property in a nearby town. The missing diamonds and jewelry were found at Torres’ store and house, say officials of the district attorney’s office. According to the San Antonio Express-News, he had already removed some diamonds from their settings.

The trial began Jan. 23. The state is seeking a conviction for “capital murder,” alleging the killing occurred during commission of a robbery. That carries an automatic life sentence in Texas. Prosecutors claim Torres was in financial difficulty and shot Zerovabeli in the back for his diamonds and jewelry. “It was basic robbery 101,” said a member of the district attorney’s office.

Torres’ lawyers are pushing for murder, which carries punishment options ranging from probation to life in prison. They don’t deny he shot Zerovabeli. But they contend he did it, because he became enraged during an argument with the salesman. He only decided to take the diamonds after the shooting, they contend.

They told the court, according to published reports, that Torres’ personality began to change after he began working out at a local fitness center and taking anabolic steroids. Torres’ wife and his mother took the stand to say much the same thing. Expert medical witnesses for the defense told the court that side effects of the steroids Torres allegedly used include paranoid delusions, hallucinations, depression, aggressiveness, and something called “steroid rage,” reported the San Antonio Express-News and the Sequin Gazette-Enterprise. The defense also offered testimony from wholesale jewelers with whom Torres dealt.

Friends and family of Zerovabeli, who came to Texas at their own expense, were in court for much of the trial. A memorial service for Zerovabeli was held Jan. 17 in New York City. Among the 500 people attending was the chief of police of San Antonio.