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Las Vegas man wrongly accused, never the same found dead

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The devastation made Alejandrina Salazar Miranda’s voice so shaky that her son, Pedro Carvajal, couldn’t make out the words.

She was either laughing maniacally or crying, Carvajal said. Then, he realized why she was calling earlier this month.

“All I heard was ‘brother,’” Carvajal t old the Las Vegas Sun. “She didn’t have to explain. I knew what happened.”

The June 2 call was to inform him that his hero and brother, Jesus Carvajal, was dead. After desperately trying to contact her son for three days, Salazar Miranda went to his apartment and found him unresponsive.

Salazar Miranda held her “gentle giant” in her arms, pleading for him to wake up, but “he couldn’t because he was already dead,” she said last week while sobbing loudly and burying her head into her surviving son’s chest.

“He couldn’t take it anymore,” Salazar Miranda said in Spanish.

Jesus Carvajal, 36, lived a joyful life until the day Las Vegas police falsely accused him of raping four women, whom the suspect had allegedly coaxed by pretending to be a law enforcement officer.

On Aug. 10, 2018, police raided Carvajal’s house. They hauled him off to jail. He lost the house he rented, his car and his job as a warehouse supervisor. His credit, his girlfriend and his sizable group of friends in Nevada and Southern California followed.

Turned out, they had the wrong guy.

Still, Carvajal spent three weeks behind bars and additional time on house arrest. He was never able to get his lifestyle back.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office did not immediately rule on Carvajal’s cause of death. Salazar Miranda said that when they last spoke on May 31 her son told her he wasn’t doing well.

The nightmare should have ended two months after his arrest, when police proved Carvajal innocent with the arrest of Tommy Lee Provost on 46 charges, including sexual assault, kidnapping and impersonating an officer.

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office dropped Carvajal’s charges.

But the horror had just begun following his release, Carvajal told the Sun in 2019. Job interviews were unexpectedly canceled, and he was always wondering who continued to see him as a monster.

“People believe in the news,” he said. “You tend to believe that.”

Longtime friends, and even family, distanced themselves after the arrest. Pedro Carvajal said it was nearly impossible to get people who knew him for decades to write letters testifying to his good character to use in his brother’s case.

It was the “most horrible eye-opener ever to realize how many people would turn on you,” Jesus Carvajal told the Sun.

On Tuesday, Pedro Carvajal scrolled through dozens of sympathetic comments on his phone replying to a social media post. Numerous people have reached out to apologize, he said. Some donated to a GoFundMe account.

His mother and siblings were there for him all along.

“I think you know if you had a serial rapist next to you,” his brother said. “It wasn’t my brother.”

Jesus Carvajal’s booking photo and name spread widely across the internet after Las Vegas police announced his arrest. The news even reached Mexico, where his family was left to explain to a niece, with whom he was close, that her uncle was not a rapist.

Carvajal tried to clear his name. He reached out to media organizations telling them he’d been proven innocent. Unlike the Sun, most didn’t run follow-up stories.

To make matters worse, police didn’t announce Provost’s arrest the way they had for Carvajal. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department only acknowledged it when asked.

The District Attorney’s Office said it initially had “sufficient probable cause” to charge Carvajal for the crimes, but that “credible information” received later from police led to the charges being dropped.

Carvajal filed a lawsuit last year seeking compensation for his car, which was auctioned by police.

More importantly, he said he wanted an apology from police and the district attorney.

The District Attorney’s Office now says it can’t comment on Carvajal’s case because it is no longer in its system.

Las Vegas police said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Carvajal’s family, now continuing the lawsuit, wants a far-reaching public apology.

The case broke Jesus Carvajal, and is to blame for his death, they said. He withdrew, installed cameras at his home and in his car. He thought he was being chased by police and took license plate numbers from cars parked outside.

“He wasn’t happy,” his brother said. “The guy self-quarantines himself just to avoid these things. It’s not a way to live … constantly looking over your shoulder. Why? Because somebody else made a mistake.”

“It was tough to see my brother like that,” Pedro Carvajal added. “It completely changed him. He was no longer a happy person.”

Jesus Carvajal had to find odd jobs and at one point rented a living room space after living in a three-bedroom house with a backyard.

“Even if it’s the last thing I accomplish in my life, even if I have to drag myself through the ground, I need to see (that apology),” Salazar Miranda said in Spanish.

Asked to describe Jesus Carvajal, his mother and brother immediately broke down in tears during an interview at their attorneys’ office.

“He was a beautiful, smiling child,” his mother said in Spanish.

Salazar Miranda raised two sons and two daughters. She remembers how the boys liked to jump on her back and pretend she was a horse. She taught her boys respect for women at a young age. Before entering their sisters’ room, they had to knock and ask permission.

When they drove by someone struggling to cross the street, Salazar Miranda would have them help out.

“He was always an obedient boy,” she said.

He grew up playing volleyball, basketball and football. He wanted to join the Army, but those plans were derailed when he was hurt playing football. He spoke about wanting to be a police officer.

But when his mother moved to Las Vegas from California in 2010, it wasn’t long before Jesus Carvajal followed. He missed her too much, she said he told her.

Pedro Carvajal, three years younger than Jesus, always emulated his brother. They wore the same football jersey number. They did everything together.

“Your hero,” their mother interjected.

Through tears, Pedro Carvajal said, “He’s my older brother, man, what can you say?”

Mother and son spent this past Thanksgiving Day and Christmas together. He got her to dance and secretly recorded her, then posted the video on social media. They laughed and laughed.

For his 37th birthday on June 26, they planned to eat seafood at one of their favorite restaurants and then go watch a movie.

“Now I won’t be able to celebrate his birthday with him,” Salazar Miranda said, breaking down. “There will be no more Thanksgiving days, no more Christmases. There will be nothing more.”

“The guy was loved, he was loved a lot more than he knew,” Pedro Carvajal said. “That’s what makes it sad to see. … It sucks, and it hurts like hell to know that my brother is gone, but it also makes me happy to know that he’s no longer hurting.”

By RICARDO TORRES-CORTEZ
Las Vegas Sun

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