On a regular, busy day in a bus station in Vitoria, Spain, an older, kind-looking gentleman strolled through the crowd.
The people sitting on benches, at vending machines, at ticket counters and bustling around the vast station turned to look at the sign hanging from his neck.
“Pablo Ibar juicio justo.” Fair trial for Pablo Ibar.
Two young women came forward from the crowd and began dancing. Then more young people. Then more. They were singing in Spanish to the tune of “We Will Rock You.”
As more dancers joined, a guitar started playing. Then a trumpet, and the voices grew louder.
It’s a flash mob with dozens of participants.
This huge crowd in Spain was raising money to pay for the legal defense of the man accused of the 1994 murders of Butch Casey, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers thousands of miles away in Florida.
Here in Spain, he’s become something of a local celebrity.
The Trials of Seth Penalver
The legal fight that led to last year’s flash mob in the home country of Pablo Ibar’s father has spanned more than two decades.
The first trial of Ibar and his co-defendant, Seth Penalver, had ended with a hung jury 3½ years after the Casey’s Nickelodeon Murders.
The cases were separated, and Ibar and Penalver were tried again separately.
In Penalver’s first retrial in 1999, he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.
But Penalver and his lawyers appealed — all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
The case, they argued, was thin. There was no physical evidence, fingerprints, hairs or fibers. And certainly no DNA.
All prosecutors had were witnesses like John Klimezcko, who claimed he had seen Penalver and Ibar with a semi-automatic gun the morning of the murders and driving a luxury black car similar to Butch Casey’s Mercedes.
The state’s high court agreed and overturned the jury’s conviction. Penalver went back on trial in 2012, and his lawyers brought a new strategy.
Defense attorney Hilliard Moldoff argued that it was Pablo Ibar who killed Butch Casey, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers in 1994 along with the help of two other men.
The accusation set off a feud between Ibar and Penalver. Essentially, Ibar accused his one-time friend and co-defendant of throwing him under the bus even though he disagreed with his own lawyer’s strategies.
The feud between the two suspects over Moldoff’s strategy played out in a letter that Ibar sent to Penalver in October 2012, as Seth’s final trial was getting under way.
“Please stop tryin’ me like a fool,” Ibar wrote. “Stop tryin’ my wife like a fool!!”
View the full letter from Pablo Ibar to Seth Penalver here:
Penalver’s lawyers had some new evidence to present at his trial — and they credit Penalver himself with finding it.
For the six years Penalver was awaiting a new trial after winning his appeal, he combed through tens of thousands of pages of documents from the murder investigation.
In the pages, he discovered that police had once considered Alex Hernandez a suspect. But police had never said so, maintaining that Ibar and Penalver were the only two suspects.
Had they discounted other potential suspects too quickly?
Then, buried in the documents, he discovered a confounding sheet of paper that had never been revealed before.
It’s called a lead sheet. It was a long paragraph typed up by someone at the Broward Sheriff's Office, known as BSO.
It described a man named Johnny McGill, who walked in on Wednesday, June 29, 1994, looking for Deputy Christopher Schaub.
Schuab was the officer who discovered the three bodies at Butch Casey’s house just two days earlier.
McGill said he got Schaub's name from the newspapers, and had urgent information about the case.
Deputy Schaub was off that day. So another deputy recorded the stunning information. On the lead sheet, he called it a confession.
Johnny McGill said HE was the one who had driven Butch Casey's Mercedes Benz convertible 70 miles to Palm Beach County and set it on fire.
He said he did it on orders from his boss. But who was his boss? The note didn’t say.
Then inexplicably, Johnny McGill walked out of the Broward Sheriff's Office without providing any more information. He was probably told that Deputy Schaub would get back to him.
That never happened. Johnny McGill was shot to death the next day, during an altercation outside a Miami strip club.
And motorcycle deputy Schaub was killed in 2012 when he turned his bike into the path of an oncoming Mercedes Benz in Pompano Beach.
Penalver discovered even more, including evidence that a Crimestoppers reward had been paid to a tipster who called to say a man named “Seth Pentlover” was the man in a ball cap and sunglasses captured on video killing Casey, Anderson and Rogers.
The state’s key witness, John Klimezcko, was the only one to ever call Seth Penalver “Seth Pentlover,” suggesting Klimezcko was the one who received the reward.
The credibility of Klimezcko and the detective who had linked Seth Penalver to the case had been broken.
In 2012, Penalver was acquitted and set free.
New evidence against Ibar
Ibar’s lawyers hope to use some of the same tactics that got Penalver acquitted. But the case against Ibar has always been more solid.
Prosecutors have the most damaging and credible witness — Butch Casey’s neighbor, Gary Foy, who identified Ibar as one of two men he saw driving Casey’s Mercedes on East Shore Road in Miramar, Florida, around the time of the murders.
And at Ibar’s upcoming trial in August, the state says it plans to produce new evidence.
Investigators put a T-shirt found on the ground outside the front door of Butch Casey’s house through a new round of DNA testing last year.
It is believed to be the T-shirt one of the killers used to cover his face during the murders. It had Butch Casey’s blood on it, but despite repeated testing over the years, no DNA from Ibar or Penalver had ever been found.
Prosecutors say new technology called touch DNA allowed them to test the T-shirt for DNA using microscopic skin cells found in the fabric.
And they will say that the DNA belonged to Ibar. His supporters scoff at the test, saying that after years of tests, it’s suspicious that prosecutors finally got the result they wanted.
Tanya Ibar, who married Pablo after he was sentenced to death, has always maintained her support and believed him to be innocent.
She’s also his alibi.
Tanya Ibar and several members of her family testified in Pablo’s second trial that she was in bed with him at her house at the exact time of the triple murders.
Tanya says that she and Pablo reconciled in the early hours of the morning of the murders. He stayed with her until the afternoon and he was seen by Tanya’s younger sister and a cousin who was staying with them.
Ibar will be represented this time around by a new lawyer.
Kayo Morgan, who represented Ibar during his 2000 trial, supported an appeal of the conviction on the grounds that he was sick and did not adequately represent Ibar.
Morgan died in 2014.
So this time around, Ibar will have a new defense team. Four lawyers, in fact, that will mount an aggressive defense. And it will be an expensive one — as much as $1.2 million.
It’ll be largely funded by the Spanish group that organized the flashmob in May of 2017, as well as with a little help from the government of Spain.
The organization in Spain that is mounting the support and fundraising for Ibar is Asociación contra la Pena de Muerte Pablo Ibar — the Association Against the Death Penalty for Pablo Ibar.
The leader of the group, Andres Krakenberger, is a veteran of Amnesty International and he’s already raised nearly 75 percent of the expected cost of Ibar’s trial.
Krakenberger says he firmly believes Ibar is innocent, and that most people in Spain agree. Ibar has become a cause celebre in his father’s home country. Major developments in the Ibar case are front-page news in Spain.
Ibar’s family also stands by his innocence. They say he is not the monster seen in the video of the Casey’s Nickelodeon Murder brutally killing Butch Casey, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers.
The support shown to Pablo Ibar infuriates the family left behind by Casey, Anderson and Rogers.
Deb Bowie, Anderson’s sister, said she has no doubts that it’s Pablo Ibar and Seth Penalver seen on the video tape terrorizing, then shooting Sharon and the others.
No matter how grainy the video is, she says she can see the faces on the tape clear enough.
The fourth, and probably final, trial for Pablo Ibar is currently scheduled to begin in August of 2018.
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No outcome is certain. Few questions have been answered.
Nearly 24 years after the murders of Butch Casey, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers – after four trials, two convictions, two death sentences and one man’s appeal — no one stands convicted of the ruthless killings.
The Casey’s Nickelodeon Murders remain as unresolved today as they were when the bodies were discovered.
About Felonious Florida
The Casey’s Nickelodeon Murders was reported by Lisa Arthur based on interviews, police reports, court records and media coverage. It was edited by David Schutz and Randy Roguski. Felonious Florida is produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and presented in audio form in partnership with Wondery. The series is produced by Schutz, Arthur and Juan Ortega. Web design and production by Yiran Zhu. The Felonious Florida team includes Randy Roguski, Danny Sanchez, Sean Pitts, Cindy Choi, David Selig and Dana Banker.
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