It has now been four years since the fatal shooting on the Rickenbacker Causeway of bicyclist Alex Palencia.The accused shooter, Kadel Piedrahita still sits in jail awaiting trial.
Monday was the sad anniversary of a shooting that reverberated through the biking community.
Prosecutors have pointed to the revolving door of attorneys representing Piedrahita – at least three. And Piedrahita has at times acted as his own attorney, the court docket shows, including penning a letter that led to one lawyer leaving the case.
“The state has been and is ready for trial,” said Lissette Valdes-Valle, spokeswoman for State Attorney Katherine Ferandez Rundle. “We look forward to presenting our case in court and seeking justice for Alex Palencia and his family.”
Piedrahita is seen on video – his own and from members of the cyclist group Don Pan Riders – confronting Palencia. One video shows the 48-year-old Cuban immigrant, father of three, lying on the road after being shot in the stomach.
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Many questions remain unanswered – primarily what was the root of the early-morning confrontation Aug. 14, 2019.
Among the items sought in discovery in the case is a homeowner’s insurance quote for Piedrahita. Palencia sold insurance according to his Linkedin profile, but it is unknown if there is a connection.
Piedrahita’s initial attorney – one of several – said at the time of his client’s arrest that there was some type of “beef” between the two. He claimed Piedrahita was acting in self defense while fighting off Palencia and other bicyclists.
Carl Sundquist, a former Olympic cyclist, met Palencia at a bike race when both lived in Arkansas. He said Palencia was personable and was making his way in the insurance business.
Later, the two hooked up when both were in South Florida and Palencia was scouting for a bike to ride. Sundquist said he feels bad for Palencia’s family who have to wait for justice.
“It keeps dragging out – that is ridiculous,” Sundquist said. “The circumstances are still kind of hazy.”
The Don Pan riders were known to race along the Rickenbacker.
Piedrahita would stream them live on Facebook while following him on his motorcycle, providing commentary.
A trial hearing is set for Oct. 10 – but several trial dates have come and gone.
In December, Piedrahita sent a handwritten letter attacking the integrity of Circuit Court Judge Alberto Millian, who had said that evidence presented at a bond hearing showed Piedrahita planned the confrontation.
Piedrahita wrote that the judge’s impartiality was in question since he “went against substantial evidence brought before him” regarding his self-defense claim. Piedrahita went on to request a change of venue and that his constitutional right to a fair trial was being violated.
Judge Milian, who viewed the letter as request for recusal, denied the motion as “legally insufficient” in January. Piedrahita’s attorney at the time, Jesus Gonzalez, promptly asked to be removed from the case because of “irreconcilable differences” between himself and his client.
The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office then took on the defense. An email requesting comment on the case was not returned.
Miami criminal defense attorney David O. Markus said that it is not unusual for murder cases to drag out in the courts.
“Murder cases take a ton of preparation for both sides,” he said. “Courts are pretty understanding and don’t force crazy timelines.”
Markus went on to say that unexpected twists – like change in counsel – also add to the delays. “These things happen,” he said.
Attorney Lee Marks said he was riding that day with the Don Pan Riders when Palencia was shot. He was riding in front and didn’t know what happened until the group turned around and saw the police activity on the way back over the causeway.
Marks said Palencia had been in his law office a few days earlier asking for his legal representation on an insurance dispute in Arkansas.
Marks also had interaction with Piedrahita, whose son was training with the group. Sometimes the accused killer would join the riders for Cuban coffee and croquetas.
“He used to sit there and talk to people. I never had any problem with him,” Marks said.
NOTE: This story has been edited with additional comment. A timing error was removed from the headline