The Trial

In April of 1994 Roman and Lugo were tried together, but by two separate juries.

In the early morning of December 30, 1990, Wilfredo “Faze” Roman, under orders from Manuel Lugo, shot and killed Carlos Ventura and Ventura’s girlfriend, Marilyn Colon.  At around 10:30 p.m. on December 29, 1990, Ventura and Colon Parked Ventura’s automobile on Vyse Avenue between 180th and 181 streets in the Bronx.  Colon was Ventura’s girlfriend or wife.  While Colon remained in the car, Ventura talked to Angel Otero, Ruben Cruz, and other drug dealers about their drug business.  Cruz informed Ventura, a drug dealer in the area that Lugo was selling crack (in “blue tops” vials) in Ventura’s territory.  A half hour later, Lugo drove by, Cruz stopped him and Lugo and Ventura had a lengthy argument about their drug sales territories.  Following the argument, Ventura returned to his parked automobile and sat with Colon.

Lugo then went to the corner of 181 Street and Vyse Avenue.  Wilfredo Roman came over, and Lugo told Roman to retrieve a gun from his apartment.  About fifteen minutes later, at around 1:00 a.m., Roman returned with something “bulky” underneath his jacket, and Lugo told him: “go do what you have to do, go do your job.  But be careful of his wife because she’s pregnant.”

Roman walked down the block, stopped behind Ventura’s car, and opened fire towards Ventura.  Roman fired six or seven shots from an Uzi through the car’s rear window, killing Ventura.  Roman “was going to leave, but since he heard [Colon] screaming” he moved to the rear by the passenger side where Colon was sitting and fired one shot at close range into her head.  Roman left, going towards the same building from which he had gotten the gun.

A short time later, Lugo asked Otero if “Carlos was dead already.”  When Otero responded that Ventura was dead, Lugo left the scene.

Approximately three days after the shooting, Lugo and Roman went to Otero’s apartment carrying an Uzi.  Lugo told Otero that it was the gun “used to fix that smart guy.”  Lugo and Roman asked Otero to keep the Uzi for them, but Otero said no.

After Otero was arrested for selling crack, Otero gave the police and the prosecutors this information about the shootings of Ventura and Colon.


Julio Santos testified that he saw the argument between Manuel Lugo and Carlos Ventura.  That he then heard Manuel Lugo instruct Wilfredo Roman to kill Carlos Ventura.  Julio Santos also testified that he did not witness the shooting.


The defense case consisted of a single witness, Ramona Garcia who testified that she was a drug addict who sold crack for Ventura.  She explained that on December 29-30, 1990 she saw a car drive up and two men, who were not Lugo and Roman, get out of the car and shoot Ventura and Colon with an Uzi.


Detective Hearty was the leading detective in the investigation of Carlos Ventura and Marilyn Colon deaths.  Detective Hearty testified that she tried locating a guy named “Chino” and  was not able to locate anyone by that name.

At trial, the People made much of Otero’s lack of motive for testifying falsely and their belief that if the jury believed Otero, Lugo guilt was then established:

“If you believe Otero, Manuel Lugo is guilty. It is through this one witness that we proven to you each and every element of the crime charged as well as the identity of Manuel Lugo.” (Tr. 2829)


It is worth noting that ADA Ceasar Gonzalez was the original assistant district attorney assigned to interview Angel Otero.  ADA Gonzalez did not believe Otero’s story of what happened the night of the shooting.  Moreover, ADA Gonzalez was replaced with Dawn Florio because he intended to make Otero part of the crime and charge him with the crime which Detective Marrero didn’t like.


On April 27, 1994 the jury acquitted Roman of all charges.  Manuel Lugo was found guilty of ordering Roman to carry out the shooting.  The juries finding was based solely on Otero’s fabricated testimony.


On May 24, 1994 Lugo was sentenced to 45 years to life.  Lugo’s conviction is standing without any connection to a shooter, Sepulveda or Mena.


First of all, I want to tell the family of the people that died that I feel very bad for what has occurred.  But by them sending me to prison for life, they will not reach the satisfaction as they would have because the criminals, the people that killed these other people are still out in the streets.

What happens is that like always the DA’s office caught me first and they wanted to complete their case, and I was the first individual, the first suspect that was there.

And so that’s the way they closed their case.  I don’t think they should feel happy with what is happening because the criminals that killed their family are still out there in the streets, and I am paying for something that I didn’t do.

I only know that God knows it.  An injustice has been committed with me in this courtroom.  A huge injustice.  They put their twelve people in the panel, the jury, people that knew nothing about the law, they knew nothing about the difference between a murder to a attempt of murder.  People that have no knowledge of the law, that have no intelligence as far as knowledge with the law.

An injustice has been committed here, but this is not the end of this.  I will return in due time and I will prove my innocence to the DA’s Office and to the family.  That is all I have to say and I thank you, your honor, for everything.  Thank you.


In addition to exhausting his direct appeal, Lugo submitted a Habeas Corpus petition based on issues raised in Lugo’s direct appeal. Lugo has maintained his innocence from the moment of his arrest.