Danny Carbajal TKO'd

The big brother of a Phoenix boxing champ pleads guilty to ripping off his late wife. He remains the chief suspect in her unsolved murder

A curious moment occurred inside Maricopa County Judge Andrew Klein's courtroom on July 25.

Danny Carbajal, the older brother and former trainer/manager of retired local boxing great Michael Carbajal, was about to plead guilty to three counts of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and retirement accounts from his estranged (and now late) wife, Sally. Carbajal's two daughters, who had been in cahoots with their dad in the scheme, also had pleaded guilty to felony charges at earlier hearings. Both were placed on probation, without having to serve jail time.

The 56-year-old Phoenix native stood at a lectern awaiting the start of his plea-bargain hearing with his attorney, Sherry Bell.

Without prompting, Bell marched over to the spectator's gallery and testily addressed a New Times writer who had been chatting with Bell's law partner, Henry Florence.

"I know he didn't kill her," she told the writer, referring to her client loudly enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear.

"How do you know that?" the reporter responded.

"There is no tangible evidence against him at all," Bell responded.

The attorney was referring to the February 25, 2005, homicides of Sally Carbajal and her boyfriend, Gerry Best.

The pair were shot from close range shortly before dawn in a parking lot just outside their apartment, at 20th Avenue and Indian School Road.

They were killed just three days before Danny and Sally were scheduled to square off in a divorce trial with momentous financial implications for both parties.

Court records in that case suggest that Sally would have won about $750,000 of assets under Arizona's community-property laws.

Phoenix police at the murder scene found a folder near Sally's bloody body that held reams of paperwork related to the divorce case. Other evidence at the scene seemed to indicate that robbery was not the underlying motive for the homicides.

The murder spelled the end of the divorce case, and Danny Carbajal retained full ownership of the properties he allegedly had stolen from his wife with the use of forged quit-claim deeds and other means.

Detectives were convinced from the start (and remain so) that Carbajal was behind the twin-killings, either as the actual hit man or, more likely, as the contractor of a murder for hire — the prime motive being the money.

But Carbajal vehemently denied involvement in Sally's killing during a 2005 interview with New Times, saying it would be "the last thing I would think of."

No one has been arrested, much less convicted in the Carbajal/Best murder case, which made attorney Bell's courtroom outburst so peculiar. Danny Carbajal was in court to acknowledge his guilt in the financial fraud case, not to admit culpability in an unsolved double-murder.

Before returning to Carbajal's side at the dais, Bell also referred disdainfully to the "relationship" between her client and the writer.

(New Times wrote the first story on Michael Carbajal and his close-knit family back in 1987, "A Hit With His Family," when Michael was an up-and-coming amateur, and published a retrospective piece "A Long Day's Journey" (April 10, 1997). Then came "Family Secrets" (June, 23, 2005), which told of Sally Carbajal's murder and of the financial fraud and other scams that led to the September 2005 grand jury indictments of Danny and daughters Josephine and Celia.)

Soon after the hearing began, Judge Klein asked Bell to give a "factual basis" for her client's guilty pleas.

Instead, the attorney chose first to criticize Sally Carbajal, calling her a drunken thief whose actions had pushed previously law-abiding Danny into acting out of character.

The judge listened patiently until Bell finally gave a bare-bones account that explained why Danny had whispered the word "guilty" to two counts of theft and one count of committing fraudulent schemes.

The pleas were an admission that county prosecutor Annielaurie Van Wie had enough evidence to prove what Sally Carbajal's divorce attorney had been ready to establish at the aborted 2005 divorce trial — that Danny had enlisted the aid of his daughters through forgeries submitted to the County Recorder's Office and other deceptions to rip off his wife of 34 years.

What Judge Klein didn't hear was the chilling account given earlier to New Times by Sally's divorce attorney, Ken Winsberg. The veteran lawyer spoke in 2005 of his last conversation with Sally, a day before the murder:

"She told me, 'Danny will never let me get the money that's coming to me.' She was genuinely scared of getting murdered by him. I told her, 'No one's killed you yet, right?' Just trying to lighten things up a little."

Earlier, Judge Klein had sentenced the Carbajals' daughters, Josephine and Celia, to probation after their guilty pleas for their role in the schemes.

A probation officer wrote in Josephine Carbajal's presentence report, "[She] appears to have assisted in the fraudulent activities to enable her father to steal community property assets, including several real estate properties, from her mother . . . Tragically, the defendant's mother, and the victim in the extensive fraudulent schemes, was a victim of homicide just days before her divorce proceedings from [Josephine's] co-defendant and father, Danny Carbajal.

"As such, justice may never be served for [Sally] Carbajal, as her family members, who perpetrated this fraud, have received the benefits of their actions."

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6 comments
swiftest
swiftest

That piece of shit and his dumbass daughters deserve more than what they got. This man has been terrorizing this city for years as a gang member and drug user! Ask anyone in his community. EVERYONE knows that last name Carbajal. Not as Michael's semi success as a boxer, but as gang members and just plain ghetto acting fools. I remember Sally's service. When her family was leaving, his daughters were yelling out to them with very rude comments. His people were writing down license plate numbers and all that. Come on, why do you think they were doing that? Humm! I wonder!

swiftest
swiftest

That piece of shit and his dumbass daughters deserve more than what they got. This man has been terrorizing this city for years as a gang member and drug user! Ask anyone in his community. EVERYONE knows that last name Carbajal. Not as Michael's semi success as a boxer, but as gang members and just plain ghetto acting fools. I remember Sally's service. When her family was leaving, his daughters were yelling out to them with very rude comments. His people were writing down license plate numbers and all that. Come on, why do you think they were doing that? Humm! I wonder!

swiftest
swiftest

That piece of shit and his dumbass daughters deserve more than what they got. This man has been terrorizing this city for years as a gang member and drug user! Ask anyone in his community. EVERYONE knows that last name Carbajal. Not as Michael's semi success as a boxer, but as gang members and just plain ghetto acting fools. I remember Sally's service. When her family was leaving, his daughters were yelling out to them with very rude comments. His people were writing down license plate numbers and all that. Come on, why do you think they were doing that? Humm! I wonder!

azconcernedmom
azconcernedmom

Does anyone on this site actually think some of these Arizona Court Judges have any brains??? Check out the newest one Judge Lisa Daniel Flores.....she's been on the bench for only one year....spent most of her time in my hearings saying "I've never seen this before", "I've never had this cross my desk", "I'm not really sure", and them ruling emotionally most likely because she was frustrated at NOT knowing what to do. Then check out how many court of appeals actions she has pending currently...it would shock the unaware public! She got recommended from Napolitano's office (as a former government lawyer with no experience in the real world of law) and now is in family court ruining peoples lives left and right....what do you expect?? Watch Bill O'Reilly and see how many Judges are out there abusing their power, it will make you sick. Hopefully the police will continue to hunt down this woman's murderers put them away for good.

Pat Thompson
Pat Thompson

It makes me sick knowing that DC could get probation or only 5 years. He deserves to get the same life sentence he gave the mother of his children. He is a cold blooded killer who should get life or death like any other murderer. Hopefully the police will find the missing evidence to charge him. They should look at DC connection to the gangsters in the old neighborhood. He taught his daughters how to be thiefs, to steal from their own mother. As for the daughters, what you did to your mother will come back to you by your own children. Sally's family was not included in her funeral because Danny is a controlling monster. Hopefully this will give Sally's family some peace, they suffered much. One other thing, what was the court thinking by allowing this monster the right to leave Arizona to attend a boxing match for Sally's grandson. I want to know what became of the $$$ that he stole from Sally. Was he able to keep this or did the courts take the funds since it was accummulated in the act of a crime.

maria luisa
maria luisa

i can't belive her daughters only got probation for what they did to they MOTHER!! sign her divorce papers(fake)years before they got caught &Paper on houses &land that Sally & Danny owned. now Danny is just looking at 5 years for and maybe probation that is sick. Danny must be really happy that Sally died just 3 days before court so that she couldn't tell her side of her story and taked care of her husband & girls. Josie & Celia will have to live with what they did to there MOTHER. they have kids too maybe history will repeat for them then jstice will be served!!!! Danny should serve more than 5 years cause even if they don't find him guilty in murdering his wife of 34yrs he kill this family

 
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