Court Cases

Brener Convinces Judge To Grant Bond In Cold Case Murder by Aisling Swift

Judge grants bond in 1995 cold case murder.

A Circuit Court judge granted bond for a 76-year-old man jailed last week in a 13-year-old murder after a defense attorney argued on Monday that it would be hard for the prosecution to disprove he shot the man in self defense in an apartment complex he owned. But the prosecutor denied it was two witnesses with lengthy records whose testimony was used to build the case, telling Circuit Judge Frank Baker it was Santos Navarro Osornio’s own words that helped Collier County Sheriff’s detectives charge him with second-degree murder in the 1995 death of 27-year-old Javier Bustamante Rodriguez.

“I understand it was 13 years ago, but it probably might not have been filed whatsoever if Mr. Santos had not made a statement to police recently to establish that it was not self-defense,” Assistant State Attorney Mike Provost told the judge. Baker set bond at $150,000, with the condition that Navarro wear an ankle monitor to track his whereabouts and turn in his passport. The ruling prompted about 25 people in court to start to clap — until a bailiff and the judge warned them to stop.

Navarro remained in jail as of Monday night and no paperwork for bond had been received. Supporters portrayed Navarro as a generous, peaceful man and said the negative publicity he received when his $8-per-night Santos’ Corners apartment complex at 190 S. Third St. in Immokalee was shut down in 2006 was due to hurricane damage, not his lack of upkeep. Deputies and county officials portrayed it as an unsafe, unsanitary flophouse filled with bugs and rats. The 13-year-old cold case brought many of Navarro’s supporters to the courtroom, filling the normally empty chairs. When defense attorney David Brener of Fort Myers told the judge that 20 or 30 people were there to testify on Navarro’s behalf, he asked them to stand.

The entire center of the courtroom stood up as others looked in amazement. On Jan. 5, 1995, Navarro called deputies at 4:39 a.m. to report that he shot an intruder in a room at Santos’ Corner. When deputies arrived, they found Bustamantes’ body lying on the floor. Bustamante’s girlfriend, Fredonna Garcia rented that apartment, but wasn’t living there because she was in jail and Bustamante had a key. Deputies said Navarro was living there and shot Bustamante as he came through the door. Deputies questioned Navarro and released him and eventually closed the case.

Brener urged Baker to set bond, pointing out that Navarro has lived in Collier County for 30 years and owns three properties valued at $1.3 million. “He has absolutely no criminal record whatsoever, except for letting a dog loose, a non-criminal charge,” Brener said. In contrast, he portrayed Bustamante as a violent man with a long criminal record. “It’s filled with all types of violence — aggravated battery, trespass, burglary,” Brener said. Brener said Navarro “had words” with Bustamante before shooting him, but said witnesses could testify Bustamante entered the room without permission. He contended the state’s case is built on witnesses with lengthy records. “He’s 76 years old. Obviously, jail is not the best place for him,” Brener said, urging Baker to set bond at between $100,000 and $150,000.

Provost asked for higher bond, citing the value of Navarro’s property. But he denied the case was built on the word of two criminals. “(Brener) might want to talk to his client about what his client said to them when they talked to them recently,” Provost said of Navarro’s conversation with detectives. Although Navarro doesn’t face life on the second-degree charge, Provost said the maximum of 15 years could amount to life in prison for a 76-year-old. Provost contended the room was rented by someone, so Navarro, the landlord, didn’t have a right to be there. Afterward, Brener said deputies believe there was bad blood between the two. “We believe Mr. Santos was within his rights after warning that man on numerous occasions — and after a recent burglary to that room,” Brener said. “He armed himself and defended his property and the property of his tenant.” Provost said deputies routinely review cold cases and interview witnesses and that Navarro offered more details about himself and Bustamente, prompting his arrest.

“His statement is different,” Provost said. “It added more information than what was known back then.”