[Hpn] Homeless Man 22 Faces Life In Prison For Woman's Death

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 4 Oct 2005 05:34:58 -0400


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-pcmontanez04oct04,0,6351599.story?coll=sfla-news-palm

He dragged her to death with stolen van

By Tonya Alanez
Staff Writer

Posted October 4 2005


Luis Andre Montanez's chin quivered and tears rolled down his face after 
hearing Monday that a Broward Circuit Court jury had found him guilty of 
first-degree murder in the purse-snatching death of an 86-year-old widow.

Montanez, 22, faces life in prison without parole in the dragging death of 
Gertrude "Trudi" Nadel. It took the jury less than five hours to reach a 
verdict.

 While the verdict was read, Montanez looked toward the jury. Most gazed 
downward. Montanez held back his tears but began crying when Broward Circuit 
Judge Peter Weinstein thanked jurors for their service. He set sentencing 
for Oct. 14.

Nadel's only child, Richard Nadel, said Monday he was satisfied with the 
verdict. He said it has been hard to carry on with the healing process while 
the trial was under way. He attended the second day of the trial.

He and his mother visited weekly and spoke twice a day, said the 56-year-old 
math professor at Florida International University. "I miss her all the 
time," he said.

Montanez and Nadel crossed paths Oct. 9, 2003, in the parking lot of a 
Lauderdale Lakes Walgreens. Montanez called the 104-pound, 5-foot-3 woman to 
the stolen van he was driving, asked for directions and snatched her purse. 
Montanez sped away with Nadel still holding onto the bag, either on purpose 
or because she was caught in its strap, authorities said.

Nadel, a volunteer who helped the blind, died the next day. It was one day 
before her son's birthday.

"I'm not full of hate or anything. I'm glad justice is being done," Richard 
Nadel said. "I think that if it was just this one incident, I would think 
that [life in prison] was too harsh, but knowing what I know about this guy 
and all the priors that [the jury] didn't know about, I think [the verdict] 
was perfect."

Jurors were not told that Montanez, a high-school dropout, confessed and 
admitted snatching purses regularly in the weeks before Nadel's death.

As a juvenile and an adult, Montanez had 28 prior arrests, including auto 
theft, larceny and burglary. Montanez was homeless and living out of the 
stolen van when he met Nadel. He told detectives he had been "high on crack 
cocaine."

Nadel's driver's license was later found between the seats of the van. 
Assistant State Attorney Brian Cavanagh used a taped confession from 
Montanez to incriminate him.

Assistant Public Defender Tom Gallagher said the confession was obtained 
through deceit. Broward Sheriff's Office detectives did not tell Montanez 
that Nadel had died when they questioned him about the robbery. Gallagher 
said Montanez confessed to cover up for a 15-year-old who was also in the 
van. No family or friends of Montanez attended the trial.

"We all should feel sorry for him," Cavanagh said. "But we should feel even 
sorrier for Trudi Nadel. ... This has a rippling effect on many lives: the 
one that's lost, her son, the rest of her family, the many people she helped 
and continued to help volunteering for the blind, and the many friends that 
were heartsick over her death."

Because the prosecution did not seek the death penalty, the law requires 
that Montanez be sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder 
conviction. The jury, which had eight options ranging from first-degree 
murder to manslaughter, chose the most severe of them.

Nadel's son said he feels like his mother "has gotten lost a little bit in 
all of this."

Nadel escaped Nazi Germany in 1933, settled in New York, served in the U.S. 
Army and eventually became a nurse. She moved to Lauderdale Lakes in 1973, 
was widowed twice and logged more than 20,000 volunteer hours in the 
recording studio creating books on tape for Insight for the Blind.

Nina Baez, a colleague at Insight for the Blind, was with Nadel when she 
died after the attack by Montanez.

"To him she was just a nameless victim, but she really had a whole amazing 
life," said Baez, who attended Friday's closing arguments. "She was very 
intelligent, witty, full of life, and she proved that age is just a number. 
She had a lot of living left to do."

Tonya Alanez can be reached at tealanez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4542.