Family Secrets

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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.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin