Texas Jeweler Found Guilty of Murder

A Texas jeweler was found guilty of murder Jan. 29 in the shooting death of a traveling jewelry salesman, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The jury in the Seguin, Texas, trial of jeweler Alejandro Torres, 27, took only two hours to reach their verdict.

Torres had been charged with the murder of Majid “Mike” Zerovabeli, 38, and theft of diamond jewelry, valued at over $500,000, that he was carrying. Zerovabeli, employed by H & J Namdar in New York City, disappeared last year while on business in Texas. His last stop was Feb. 21, 2001, at Torres’ MRT Jewelry store in Sequin, east of San Antonio.

W. C. Kirkendale, district attorney for the 25th judicial district of Texas, told JCK that Torres failed a Feb. 27 FBI lie detector test, then confessed to Texas Rangers that he had killed Zerovabeli. He led agents to his parents’ property in a nearby town where he had buried the salesman. The missing jewelry was found in Torres’ store, home, and pockets, said Kirkendale.

Prosecutors charged Torres with “capital murder,” contending he had financial problems and killed Zerovabeli for the jewelry.

Torres’ defense lawyers didn’t deny the jeweler had killed Zerovabeli. However, they claimed his use of anabolic steroids, part of his physical fitness regimen, had made him abnormally aggressive. They introduced Torres’ wife and mother as well as medical experts to support their claim of “steroidal rage.” Torres also testified in his own behalf, claiming he had experienced uncontrollable rage during an argument with the salesman. He said he recalled little of the killing, in which Zerovabeli was shot in the back several times at close range with a handgun.

The jury’s quick verdict indicated that “they didn’t buy the steroidal rage [claim],” said Kirkendale. Torres’s lawyers had 30 days to appeal.

Before and during the trial, many relatives, friends, and acquaintances of Zerovabeli called Kirkendale’s office to say “what a good guy Mike was,” the district attorney told JCK. 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.