A Minnesota judge convicted a 44-year-old man of first-degree murder for beheading a Shakopee woman, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Alexis Saborit committed the “brutal and vicious” crime intentionally and with premeditation in the middle of the afternoon two summers ago.
After reviewing 55-year-old America Mafalda Thayer’s autopsy report, 911 transcripts, lab reports, police reports, audio of the defendant’s alleged admissions to police, eyewitness testimony and witness accounts of Travelodge residents who encountered Saborit in the days before the killing, and numerous gruesome crime scene photos, the trial judge concluded in a Thursday verdict and order that this was not a “spontaneous” killing and certainly wasn’t one carried out in self-defense.
Chief Judge Caroline H. Lennon of the First Judicial District chronicled the stipulated evidence in the case and issued her findings of fact, that Saborit beat Thayer with an 8-pound dumbbell and cut off her head with a machete because she tried to break up with the defendant while traveling by car to a court appearance in an unrelated case around 2:30 p.m. on July 28, 2021.
Thayer was found at the grisly crime scene with no head and naked from the waist up, authorities said in a criminal complaint.
Witness Veniamin Jurjiu, who was in the Chrysler 300 sedan with victim and suspect just a half an hour before the murder, told authorities that the couple was arguing in Spanish and that Thayer was crying because Saborit wouldn’t go to the court hearing. According to documents, the witness left the vehicle after 5 minutes under the belief that things “seemed fine” and that Saborit had agreed to go to court after all.
Just after 2:30 p.m., however, a woman called 911 to report that she saw a man pull a headless body out of a car. Other witnesses told police that Saborit pulled the victim’s body out of the vehicle by her ankles and dropped her head on the ground.
According to the judge, the “brutal and vicious” attack perpetrated by the defendant — which “pulpif[ied]” Thayer’s brain tissue and “completely separate[d] her head from her body” — was clear “proof” the killing was committed intentionally. Questions surrounding premeditation loomed (and still loom) larger.
In a footnote, Judge Lennon pointed out that Saborit has been subject to mental health evaluations, and that his post-Miranda statements to police apparently “differ” from remarks made during those evaluations. The judge said that “issues” about Saborit’s state of mind will be addressed later.
“Defendant has been subject to a Rule 20.02 evaluation related to this state of mind at the time of the incident. Statements given in those evaluations differ from his statements made to police of the day of the murder,” the footnote said. “Any issues related to Defendant’s state of mind and resulting culpability will be addressed in the second half of the bifurcated proceeding.”
In a statement to Law&Crime, Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar alluded to the lingering issue in the case while agreeing that Saborit did act with premeditation.
“I am pleased with the verdict as I do believe the Defendant acted with premeditation,” Hocevar said. “The next hearing in June is to determine if the Defendant plans to assert mental illness.”
In her findings of fact and conclusions of law, Judge Lennon drew inferences from Saborit’s “words and actions before and after the incident” and decided the stipulated evidence amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed first-degree murder.
Saborit’s “decision to put down the dumbbell and use the machete” was evidence of a “deliberate mental thought process,” the court said. The judge also noted that there was evidence of “prior threats” against Thayer. Saborit was “jealous, controlling, and abusive,” and he even believed the victim installed cameras inside his body, the judge wrote.
“Defendant was known to physically assault Thayer and Thayer told multiple people she was scared of Defendant. Defendant accused Thayer of insulting him and alleged that she poisoned his food, raped him, and put cameras in his body,” the judge wrote. “In the days preceding the incident, the relationship was especially fraught. Thayer wanted to end the relationship, and Defendant one she wanted to ‘get rid of him.”
Saborit’s own post-Miranda statements were even more revealing as to the motive behind the slaying. He apparently claimed “self-defense,” too: “[T]he only thing she kept saying is that she wanted to get rid of me, but she didn’t want to have anything to do anything with me anymore”; “I was really mad at that moment and I can’t remember exactly [what happened]”; “we have an argument and that’s what happened”; “I hurt her I I wounded her”; “I pulled her and she tried to defend herself because she had a wound in her neck”; “I dragged her out of the car and the head like disjointed because of the wound in her neck but I was remembering the things that she did with my eye and my heart”; “yes as we were going to the court it was in self-defense.”
The witness statements of two residents at the Travelodge where Thayer and Saborit had been staying also factored into the judge’s ruling. At least one of those witnesses said that Saborit uttered the words “I cut her head off” — in reference to Thayer — days before he did just that:
Travelodge resident Gary Schmalz spoke with the Defendant three or four days prior to the incident. Defendant showed him a machete knife in a sheath on his leg. Schmalz said the Defendant was excited about the knife. Schmalz offered to sharpen it and Defendant agreed. Schmalz told police there were rumors at the Travelodge that Thayer was planning to end the relationship with Defendant.
Travelodge resident Roy Etienne heard Thayer say that she and the Defendant had been fighting because the Defendant believed he was going to be deported and she did not intend to go with him to Cuba. A few days before Thayer’s death, Etienne asked Defendant where Thayer was, and the Defendant replied, “I cut her head off.”
Saborit’s next court date is a “review hearing” scheduled for 1 p.m. on June 1.
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