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Family Secrets

Danny Carbajal, circa 1997.
Photo by Timothy Archibald

An unfolding television crime story on the morning of last February 25 grabbed the attention of Estela Sanchez.

Phoenix police were investigating the pre-dawn shootings of a man and woman just outside the Coconut Groves apartments at 2028 West Indian School Road.

The detectives seemed focused on a lime-green taxicab inside the crime scene.

Suddenly, an alarming thought overtook Sanchez.

"I said to myself, 'Oh, my gosh, Celia lives right there with Gerry, and he drives a green cab.' I didn't want to think about it."

Celia was Celia Carbajal, a 50-year-old Phoenix native known to almost everyone as Sally.

Gerry was Gerry Best, a cabdriver who used his taxi to get around during off hours.

Sally and Gerry had been living together at the apartments for months.

A sheet draped the body of a middle-aged woman, the victim of a .22-caliber bullet to the back of her head from close range. A folder thick with paperwork was on the pavement near the woman's body.

Firefighters already had rushed the second victim to a hospital, also with a bullet to his head. He died a day later without regaining consciousness.

When Sanchez got to work -- she's a secretary for Phoenix divorce attorney Kenneth Winsberg -- she asked if Sally had come by yet as scheduled.

She hadn't, which was doubly troubling.

Winsberg and his staff had appreciated Sally's punctuality since she'd hired the lawyer in May 2004 to represent her in a vicious divorce battle with Danny Carbajal, her husband of 34 years.

Danny is the oldest sibling and well-known one-time trainer/manager of retired boxing champion Michael Carbajal, Arizona's most popular and successful pugilist ever.

This was a Friday, and Winsberg had planned to study the Carbajal file over the weekend in anticipation of the divorce trial, set to start in Maricopa County Superior Court that Monday.

The financial spoils in Carbajal v. Carbajal were hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and retirement accounts. And for reasons that will become evident in this story, Sally Carbajal was the odds-on favorite to win by a knockout.

Winsberg's staff repeatedly tried to reach Sally on her cell phone, to no avail. They called her job, where she'd been working as a bookkeeper. She hadn't shown up and hadn't called in, which also was a first.

Ken Winsberg was at a loss. The veteran attorney had grown to like and respect his client, and he also was well aware of her growing concerns for her own safety.

About 11:45 a.m., Winsberg and legal assistant Claudia Rivas decided to drive to the murder scene that Estela Sanchez had told them about, just a few minutes away.

On the way, Winsberg recalled his last conversation with Sally, less than a day earlier:

"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. Then I told her to take good care of herself."

Over at the Coconut Groves, a detective informed the attorney that the murdered woman indeed was Sally Carbajal.

And the folder that had landed close to Sally's body when she was shot?

It was her divorce file.


No one has yet been arrested in the murders of Sally Carbajal and Gerry Best.

But court records and other sources of information reveal that homicide detectives have Danny Carbajal squarely in their sights, both as a murder suspect and for other alleged crimes against his late wife.

Danny Carbajal strenuously denies any involvement in his estranged wife's murder.

"That would be the last thing I would think of," he told New Times a few days ago. "It never crossed my mind. None of us -- me, my kids -- even knew where she was at."

The Phoenix Police Department did not fulfill a May 5 public-records request from New Times for its reports about the case. But public records and interviews with key players reveal that the detectives also are investigating the Carbajals' two daughters for allegedly conspiring with their father to defraud their mother of money and property.

Those records suggest that Josephine Carbajal, a Phoenix schoolteacher, fraudulently obtained an identification card in her mother's name at the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles in October 2003.

Police have suggested in court documents that Josephine then used the ID card as part of a scheme to benefit her father financially by forging Sally's name on numerous legal documents. In some of the documents, "Sally" gave up her legal right to her 50 percent share of residences and properties she owned with Danny.

 

Josephine Carbajal also has denied any wrongdoing.

The police investigation is on the front burner.

"The detective made it clear to me that he thinks I'm guilty," Danny Carbajal said, adding that he declined to submit to an official police interview and has retained an attorney.

On April 20, Phoenix homicide detectives raided Danny's condo, plus a home owned by Josephine Carbajal, and two bank safe-deposit boxes.

The extensive affidavit that accompanied the request for the multi-location search warrant claimed detectives had "learned that during the [marital] separation, [Sally] Carbajal's two daughters, Josephine and Celia, sided with Danny Carbajal. [Sally] has advised numerous persons that she is in fear of her life should Danny or either of her daughters locate her whereabouts."

"Per [attorney] Kenneth Winsberg, if the divorce trial ended in [Sally's] favor, Danny Carbajal stood to lose several hundred thousand dollars. In addition, the forgeries of [Sally's] name on the quitclaim deeds would have come to light in a court of law.

"[Sally] Carbajal was the victim of the homicide three days prior to this divorce trial."

Police confiscated legal papers, computer disks and numerous other items during their April 20 searches.

They also found a loaded .22-caliber revolver and unfired ammunition in a suitcase at Josephine's home. Especially of interest to detectives was a canister of .22-caliber ammunition etched with the head stamp "REM."

According to the affidavit, that was "the same type and brand of ammunition found at the scene of the murder."

The weapon wasn't a smoking gun.

For one thing, a revolver wouldn't have spit out shell casings such as those found at the West Indian School Road murder scene.

But the presence of the similar ammunition at the home led detectives to seek additional court permission "to also search for additional items related to the homicide investigation."

Police asked to extend the search at Danny's condo on East Osborn Road, "for any and all weapons . . . blood, hair and fiber evidence . . . any and all items that would tend to show that the crime of homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide occurred."


Michael Carbajal's ascendancy in boxing from successful amateur to Hall of Fame-caliber professional won the hearts of fight fans worldwide.

It all seemed to happen in a flash, and then it was over, with Michael's retirement from the sport in 1999 at the age of 32.

When New Times first wrote about Michael ("A Hit With His Family," September 23, 1987), he was a scrawny, shy 19-year-old with a stout right hand and a familiar dream of becoming a world boxing champion.

The second-youngest of Mary and Manny Carbajal's nine children then was living with his parents in a feisty neighborhood on East Fillmore near Ninth Street.

The Carbajal clan made for great copy: At the time, Michael was honing his future trade in a charmingly crude, indoor-outdoor gym that big brother Danny had cobbled together behind the two-home family compound.

Danny then was living next door to his parents with wife Sally and their two young daughters, Josephine and Celia.

The couple were committed to Michael's budding career --Danny as the boxing mastermind and Sally as the breadwinner. At the time, Sally had worked her way up to a position as manager of a BankOne branch, which allowed Danny to spend most of his time working with Michael.

Michael hadn't even made the Olympic boxing team yet, but Danny, his mentor, already was predicting future greatness.

Before Michael, boxers of his stature (he fought at 108 pounds most of his career) were relegated to undercards and small purses.

But his high-profile success at the 1988 Games, where he lost the gold-medal bout to a Bulgarian in a widely decried decision, led to a hefty signing contract with famed promoter Bob Arum.

Arum sensed that Michael could hit big, both in the ring and with the fans, and, man, was he right. Everyone took to Michael and his uplifting story, clichéd in some aspects as it may have been.

And Michael didn't disappoint inside the ring, where it ultimately counts. By the mid-1990s, he'd won two world titles and an enduring reputation as a fierce, skilled warrior.

Michael was making more money than he'd ever fathomed.

In March 1993, he collected $1 million for his Las Vegas title match against fellow champ Humberto Gonzalez, becoming the first "little man" ever to earn that much for a night's work.

Carbajal vs. Gonzalez was the fight of the year, one of the best of the decade. Michael seemed destined for a knockout defeat before showing a champion's heart and coming off the deck twice to stop Gonzalez in the seventh round.

 

The victory cinched Michael's reputation as one of the sport's top pound-for-pound pugilists. It also won him commercial endorsements, and years' worth of other lucrative fights.

But later in 1993, beloved family patriarch Manny Carbajal died of a heart attack, a blow from which the clan never really recovered.

Soon after that, Michael's formerly pristine reputation took a hit when he was in his front yard on Fillmore Street as one of his friends shot another to death on New Year's Eve.

Both victim and perpetrator were members of the Ninth Street Gang, and news stories linked Michael to the known gangsters.

In 1994, police arrested Michael for firing shots in the air as he left a party in Tempe. He barely escaped jail after pleading guilty to a felony that later was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Michael has stayed away from serious trouble since, and remains an honored figure around the fight game, always approachable and friendly to his fans.

He earned more than $7 million in purses during his decade as a pro, though how much of that actually went into his pocket is uncertain. In 1997, Michael told New Times that he hoped to save enough money for the long haul.

"I don't know much about money and investments," he said frankly. "I don't even like to think about it. Danny and Sally do what's best for me."

The couple also seemed to be doing what was best for them.

They bought several properties during the early 1990s, most in the downtown Phoenix area near the original homesteads on East Fillmore.

Beyond that, Danny and Sally also opened accounts with Merrill Lynch, and had accumulated almost $400,000 by 2003.

They'd moved out of the old neighborhood in 1993 into a comfortable home they'd bought in central Phoenix on East Coronado Road for about $60,000.

As Michael's career flourished in the mid-'90s, Sally decided to retire from BankOne. During that stretch, she, Michael and Danny became partners of a nonprofit in the new Ninth Street Gym, across the street from their old compound on Fillmore.

The well-appointed gym was a converted church that had opened to great fanfare.

But the facility never caught on as the Carbajals had hoped. Part of the reason may have been the demise of Danny and Sally's long marriage.

Cracks in the union rose to the surface in July 1997 when Sally filed for divorce in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sally later admitted she'd removed about $300,000 around that time from one of the Merrill Lynch accounts. With Danny's knowledge, she said later, she'd paid about $100,000 of that money to federal and state authorities for back taxes that the couple had owed for years.

Sally also said she gave her daughters $7,000, and a divorce attorney the same amount. She apparently later returned two cashier's checks totaling $100,000 to Danny, along with $30,000 that she'd put into a checking account in her name.

Danny Carbajal later called it theft, and said last November during a deposition that his brother Michael had provided most of the funds in the couple's Merrill Lynch accounts.

"So your brother gave you money, or gave money to your wife to put into an IRA in your name?" Winsberg asked him.

"I don't know," Danny said. "You have to ask Sally that. Sally was the one that set all this up. . . . She knows that 75 percent of the retirement that I have is Michael's, not ours. Not mine."

Danny explained why nothing about the supposed arrangement had been put in writing: "We were family. Everything that we did, we did by just our word."

But Sally said in her deposition that none of the couple's money with Merrill Lynch had come from Michael. She said Michael had his own accounts with the firm, and also had put large sums of money into his mother's IRA, but not theirs.

Michael Carbajal referred questions about his finances, both past and present, to Danny.

Sally didn't follow through with her 1997 divorce petition, and a judge dismissed it a year later. She and Danny reconciled on and off for the next few years, but the schisms were too deep.

Danny blames most of their problems on Sally's alcoholism, which led to her imprisonment for four months in 2002 after a felony conviction for aggravated drunken driving.

A good friend of Sally's, Tammy Brant, said that Sally "did have problems with drinking, but she wasn't this falling-down drunk like the Carbajals want to say. And she loved those kids of hers, even with all the grief they gave her. It ate her up that they and Danny treated her like they did."

 

During a chance meeting at a Phoenix bar in May 2004, Sally told New Times about some of her personal problems. She claimed Danny was a thief and a cheat, and that he'd taken her to the cleaners.

It all sounded a bit over the top. Bar talk. But it wasn't.


On December 23, 1999, a notary public recorded quitclaim deeds in which Sally Carbajal turned over her half-share of two Phoenix homes to Danny.

According to Danny Carbajal, Sally also agreed that day to sign over her half-ownership of six other area properties that the couple had bought in the early 1990s.

"The police have the original deeds," Danny said to New Times, "and it's all in Sally's signature. For them to say different is bullshit."

Those properties would become a key part of the Carbajals' divorce war that ended abruptly with her murder.

Sally insisted until she died that she never would have signed over any of the six community properties. But someone did sign her name to the six deeds, though not until December 2003, four years later.

Sally later said in various affidavits that she suspected her daughter Josephine of having forged her name, something Josephine steadfastly denies.

Danny said Sally did sign the quitclaims in his presence, to fulfill a promise she'd made to him during a brief reconciliation in 1999.

"I told her, 'Look, I can't trust you anymore,'" he said in his deposition last November. "'I don't know what to do. All that we have, you already spent a lot of it. You have your retirement. I have mine.'"

Attorney Winsberg asked Danny if Sally had signed something to that effect.

"Yes," Danny said. "Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate it."

On top of that, Danny claimed that he and Sally didn't really own the six properties in their names.

"She knows they're not ours," Danny testified.

At Sally's suggestion, Danny said, his brother Michael had provided the bulk of the money for the properties and for the Merrill Lynch accounts:

"She said, 'Listen . . . the best thing that we can do is put the properties in our name, and that way Michael's protected in case he ever gets into any kind of trouble."

Ken Winsberg asked exactly how Michael had funneled the money to them.

"I don't know," Danny responded. "You'll have to ask her how she went about getting the money. I do know that he gave her the money to purchase the properties. I don't know what transactions she did to get the money.

"She was always telling me how we could hide this, how we could do this. If I had known this was going to come to this, I never would have done it. [She would say] 'In order to protect [Michael], we'll put everything in our name. And when it comes time, we'll just turn it over to him.'"

Winsberg asked, "You thought that was perfectly legitimate to just put money of somebody else's into a property . . . to sort of hide it from potential creditors?"

"Not creditors," Danny said. "Just from him being hurt. . . . If he ever got in trouble, they would take it away. . . . Like for fighting [out of the ring], for any personal type of thing."

Danny stated that Sally always had been the brains of the family's investment strategies, not he. But Michael Carbajal put it much differently from his brother during his own divorce from his wife, Merci.

In August 2002, Judge Richard Gama summarized the champ's position on finances by writing:

"Michael was a world champion prizefighter who did attain national, if not worldwide notoriety in the sport of boxing. During his active boxing career, it appears that he earned substantial prize money. However, he testified that he has no knowledge or understanding regarding any of his financial information and/or investments, if any.

"Michael testified that his brother [Danny] always managed his fighting career, and all of the prize money earned during his successful boxing career. Further, Michael testified that whenever he needs income, his brother simply makes the income available to him. . . . His brother also pays a monthly automobile purchase payment, automobile insurance and other monthly living expenses on his behalf."

Michael didn't mention his sister-in-law, Sally. She and Danny were separated for keeps by then. It had been a difficult run for Sally, who was unemployed and drinking heavily.

 

In August 2001, Phoenix police had arrested her for aggravated drunken driving on a license already suspended for an earlier DUI. The following February, a judge sentenced her to four months in prison, which she served entirely.

A few months after Sally's release in May 2002, Danny Carbajal and a female walked into a BankOne branch at 24th Street and Thomas Road.

They asked teller Marco Zazueta to notarize a quitclaim deed that gave ownership of Danny and Sally's home on East Coronado to Josephine Carbajal.

The Coronado home was the definition of marital community property, but here was Sally -- just out of the joint, no job, and with a broken marriage -- allegedly willing to sign it over in return for nothing.

By then, similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for about $90,000, according to the County Assessor's Office.

Later, Sally said she hadn't gone to the bank with Danny that day in August 2002, nor had she signed the quitclaim deed over to Josephine.

Marco Zazueta testified during his deposition last November that he couldn't identify Sally or Josephine Carbajal from photos shown to him. But he recalled that Danny Carbajal had presented a passport as identification, and the woman had shown him an Arizona driver's license.

Zazueta did jot down in his notary book the identification numbers of both quitclaim signers.

The woman's license number came back later to a Celia Carbajal, who was born on the same date in 1980 as Sally and Danny's youngest child.

Celia Carbajal also was Sally's real name, but she was born in 1954, not 1980.

It's uncertain if daughter Celia forged her mother's signature that day, or if Josephine used her sister's driver's license to slip one past the teller.

Danny and Sally's younger daughter could not be reached for comment.

Add this fact to the mix: The Phoenix police affidavit for a search warrant last April claims that, "in addition to obtaining a fraudulent driver's license under her mother's name of Celia Carbajal on October 3, 2003, Josephine Carbajal also obtained a fraudulent driver's license under her sister's name of Celia Carbajal on May 27, 2003."

But the latter happened months after the August 2002 quitclaim signing, and exactly what happened at BankOne that day remains uncertain.

What is certain, according to esteemed Phoenix forensic documents expert Bill Flynn, is that someone did forge Sally's August 2002 quitclaim signature, and also forged her quitclaim signatures in December 2002, signing over the six downtown Phoenix properties.

Shortly before Sally's murder, Flynn wrote to her divorce attorney that "it is highly probable that [Sally] Carbajal did not execute the questioned signature. . . . There are indications that the questioned signature represents efforts to simulate the genuine signature style of Ms. Carbajal."


In July 2003, Danny Carbajal filed for divorce from Sally in Maricopa County Superior Court. He didn't have an attorney, and filled out the self-help petition by hand.

Danny claimed his Merrill Lynch retirement account was worth about $100,000 -- an understatement of at least a quarter-million dollars -- and said Sally's separate pension was about $65,000. (In truth, her account at Merrill Lynch was empty by then.)

Danny checked "yes" on a line that read, "Each party WAIVES OR GIVES UP his/her interest in any and all retirement benefits, pension plans or other deferred compensation of the other party."

He listed two vehicles and a condo on East Osborn Road as all of the couple's community property, and said it would be going to him.

According to Danny's petition, Sally would get some bedroom and dining room furniture in the split.

That was it.

Danny didn't mention anything about the six downtown Phoenix properties that the Carbajals still owned together, nor did he bring up the two cash-value life-insurance policies worth an unspecified amount that he and Sally had owned for years.

Said attorney Ken Winsberg, "Even honest people, which Danny isn't, make the mistake of thinking that just because something is in one party's name, such as a Merrill Lynch account, that it isn't community property. In this instance, it obviously was, and she had a lot of money coming to her."

In his petition, Danny listed Sally's address as the Osborn condo, where he was living (and still resides). A few days later, he paid someone to serve the divorce paperwork to Sally at the condo, where she hadn't set foot in months.

Court records show that a "Jerry Hall" accepted the paperwork at the condo on the morning of July 8, 2003.

 

Later, Ken Winsberg wrote to a judge that Sally didn't know a Jerry Hall, and "for all she knows [she] could be the former girlfriend of Mick Jagger."

A sheath of court documents indicates that Danny had been paying Sally's rent at a Phoenix apartment for months, and Sally later testified that he'd moved her over there long before filing for divorce.

Sally never responded to the petition, she said later, because she hadn't known about it. Certainly, she didn't know that Danny was about to take control of about every community asset they'd ever owned as a couple.

Danny filed for a default decree soon after Sally missed the deadline to respond to his original petition. He wrote on the application that he'd hand-deliver the default notice to Sally at an address on East Fillmore Street.

It was the same address that he and Sally had moved from a decade earlier, part of the Carbajals' Fillmore compound.

"And who lived at Fillmore at that time?" Ken Winsberg asked Danny last November.

"No one," Danny admitted.

"So the address you used was the place on Fillmore where you knew nobody was living?"

"Yes."

In late September 2003, Danny and a woman again asked a teller at the BankOne on East Thomas Road for assistance.

"Danny walked up, and he wanted to remove his wife from his checking account," teller Burdia Center said later in a deposition. "I asked Danny how was he doing because I knew him from being Danny Carbajal, and he said fine. And I asked his wife, does she have an ID? She presented her ID."

Center said Danny's wife surprised him "because he's an older-looking guy, and she was a young-looking lady. . . . And what went through my mind was that she's very pretty to be with him."

During that deposition, Winsberg showed her photographs of Sally and Josephine Carbajal, just as he had to the earlier teller.

Center immediately pointed to Josephine as the "young-looking" woman who had signed Sally's name to the checking account removal form.

In her deposition, also last November, 35-year-old Josephine Carbajal swore that she'd never signed her mother's name to anything, at the bank or anyplace else.

But on October 3, 2003 -- a week after her alleged encounter at the bank with Burdia Center -- Josephine applied at a state Motor Vehicles office for an identification card as her mother.

The best evidence of that is a photograph that agency officials took that day of her, next to which police suspect she forged Sally's name.

Josephine tried to explain it away in her deposition, saying, "My mom told me there was some confusion at Motor Vehicle Division. And she told me she'd take care of it. She said that's a common mistake. They make mistakes between us and my sister, too."

On December 5, 2003, a county court commissioner signed Danny Carbajal's default decree against Sally. Danny asked the court to send a copy to her at his condo, where he knew she wouldn't get it.

That December 9, just four days after the divorce was final, someone claiming to be Sally Carbajal signed away her rights to the six Phoenix properties that the split-up couple still owned.

That day, BankOne teller Maria Sanchez affixed her notary stamp to the quitclaim deeds that Danny supposedly had drawn up back in 1999, but hadn't mentioned as community property in his divorce petition.

Sanchez subsequently left BankOne, and lawyers couldn't locate her for a deposition in the Carbajal divorce case.

She continued to lie low even after Sally filed a complaint against her with the Arizona Secretary of State. Sally claimed that Sanchez knew that the deeds were forgeries, and that the ex-teller knew Danny personally.

The Secretary of State revoked Sanchez's notary license last November, after she failed to respond to Sally's complaint.


During the first months of 2004, Sally Carbajal was newly divorced. And though she still didnt know it, most of her marital assets were gone.

But there was a ray of hope in her life.

Sally had started to date a guy in his early 50s named Gerry Best, a cabby who usually worked the central Phoenix area. He'd met Sally as a fare, as she often called for a taxi because she'd lost her driver's license.

"Decent guy," Sally's friend Tammy Brant said of Best. "Treated her real good, real good, and made her feel better about herself."

Sally and Gerry moved in together, and remained a couple until someone murdered them earlier this year.

On February 25, 2004, Sally filed for divorce from Danny in Maricopa County Superior Court. Like Danny, she filled out the paperwork by herself.

 

Sally asked for Danny to pay her half the proceeds from the future sale of just two of the couple's properties -- the Osborn condo and one of the six downtown properties she'd already allegedly quitclaimed to him.

Sally also asked for her share of their retirement funds, and for half of the cash value of a life insurance policy in her name. The latter was another asset that Danny had failed to mention in his earlier petition, and her share would come to about $28,000.

Also that day, Sally filed an order of protection against Danny, which a court commissioner granted.

In early March 2003, Sally went to Motor Vehicles to get a new identification card. She learned there that, months earlier, another woman already had used her name and birth date to secure an ID.

Sally later wrote in an affidavit that an agency official had shown her the photograph of the other woman.

It was her daughter, Josephine.

Sally soon got another jolt when Danny asked a judge to dismiss her divorce petition because, alas, they already were divorced.

Confused, Sally knew she needed an attorney, and approached Ken Winsberg with what was a head-scratcher of a tale.

The lawyer said Sally had little money, but he decided to accept her as a client after she showed him evidence that Danny had hoodwinked both her and the court.

"Sally was the victim of major chicanery, big league," he said. "And she was up against her whole immediate family, including her daughters. I'd never seen or heard anything quite like it."

Sally found full-time work as a bookkeeper to pay her new attorney, and started to do her own sleuth work on her case.

But in late May 2004, a commissioner granted Danny Carbajal's motion to dismiss Sally's new case.

Danny's joy at winning that round couldn't have lasted long.

In August 2004, Judge Edward Burke granted Ken Winsberg's request to set aside Danny's default divorce decree because it was a fraud.

Tensions between Sally and Danny escalated with the reopening of the case, according to Winsberg legal assistant Claudia Rivas.

"As the months went by, she told us that she was scared for her life," Rivas said. "We could tell she wasn't just looking for sympathy. She and Gerry moved three times, and she quit a job because she didn't want Danny to find her. It was creepy."

Last September, Judge Burke took the unusual step of ordering Danny Carbajal to pay Sally's attorney $10,000 "as an advancement toward the cost and expenses of this litigation."

That should have sent a clear signal as to how the divorce case was stacking up. But an out-of-court settlement between the two apparently wasn't in the cards.

Now, Sally was asking for half of all the community properties, and was arguing that all the quitclaim deeds should be voided because of the alleged forgeries.

Ken Winsberg estimated that the Carbajals' properties were worth about $500,000 by last year. And that was just part of it.

Court records show that as of late 2003, Danny still had almost $400,000 in the Merrill Lynch accounts. If Sally won the day in court, half of that sum would be hers.

Danny Carbajal painted a bleak portrait of his current life during his deposition in the divorce case last year. He testified that he lives alone and frugally in the Osborn condo, and regularly borrows money from Michael and his aged mother to survive.

Danny also said he's not currently training any professional boxers, just a handful of amateurs for a few bucks a month. His only work income seems to be a few hundred bucks as a "cut man" in an occasional prizefight.

Times have gotten so tough, Danny testified, that he didn't file income tax statements from 2000 to 2003 because he didn't make enough money.

He repeatedly denied that he'd ever defrauded Sally. To the contrary, Danny said she was the one who had been the thief.

During her own deposition last December, Sally wouldn't tell Danny's attorney where she was working or where she lived.

"The look in Danny's eyes when we were doing [Sally's] deposition spoke volumes," Winsberg said. "It was cold as ice, pure hatred, and it was memorable."


Short of an unlikely settlement, the Carbajal divorce trial was set in Judge Burke's court for February 28, 2005.

On February 24, according to court records, Danny's lawyer, Rich Peters, billed him for more than eight hours of work on the case -- $1,620 -- and spoke twice with his client.

 

That afternoon, Sally stopped by Ken Winsberg's office with Gerry Best to go over a few items and to take the trial exhibits to review overnight.

"She was nervous about the trial," Claudia Rivas recalled, "but said she was so happy to get it over with. She promised to get the exhibits back the next morning."

Before Sally left, she blurted something that Rivas says she'll never forget.

"She told me that she had a feeling that Danny was getting too close, too close. She said she just knew it."

About 12 hours after that, someone executed Sally and Gerry Best in the middle of their apartment parking lot.

Danny Carbajal claims he has no idea who killed the pair. "There's all kinds of stuff floating around," he said. "I heard that the guy she was living with was selling drugs, but you just don't know. Everybody talks."

Judge Burke's sentiments about Danny became clear about a week after the murders.

Although the divorce case had ended with Sally's death, Burke ordered Danny to pay Ken Winsberg's remaining attorney's fees of almost $7,000. That came on top of the judge's prior $10,000 order.

Burke wrote that he believed he had the authority "to award attorney's fees directly to Wife's counsel notwithstanding the fact that Wife was murdered the day before trial."

It was a hard financial slap in Danny's face, but nothing compared to what he likely would have faced had his divorce trial gone forward.

Danny's attorney has appealed the judge's ruling.

Because Phoenix police haven't released reports on their homicide investigation, it isn't known what Danny Carbajal may have told detectives about his whereabouts last February 25.

That night, Ken Winsberg said, he kept fixating on what might have happened in the last moments of his client's life. He said he found himself in a dreamlike state just before dawn, but was startled into consciousness by what he thought was a gunshot.

Winsberg says he actually felt around his body for a bullet wound, but found none.

Then he realized what was up. A carrier had just tossed the morning paper onto his driveway.

"Maybe Sally never knew what hit her, never saw anybody, never felt anything," Winsberg said. "But Gerry did, because he was coming to her aid. Someone should have to pay for this, and dearly. These people shouldn't be forgotten victims."


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