Directed by Jacques Toulemonde Vidal, Netflix’s mystery film ‘Crime Diaries: The Celebrity Stylist’ revolves around the brutal deaths of a famed Colombian celebrity stylist named Mauricio Leal and his mother Marleny Hernández. After the discovery of the dead bodies, a young detective is given just twenty days to solve the case but the officer first needs to determine whether the same is a homicide-suicide or double murder. The movie is based on the real investigation into the mysterious deaths of the famed Colombian stylist, whose clientele included several of the country’s popular television personalities and models, and his mother!
Mauricio Leal: Murder or Suicide?
In 2021, at the age of 47, stylist Mauricio Leal was regarded as the “boy genius” in Colombia’s modeling and show business circles. He was looking forward to collaborating with Miss Universe and the fashion brand Victoria’s Secret but the same did not materialize as he was found dead in his mansion in La Calera, next to the lifeless body of his mother Marleny Hernández, on November 22, 2021. The initial impression was that the stylist murdered his mother and then killed himself. The authorities discovered a note written by Mauricio at the scene. “I love you, forgive me, I can’t go on. I leave everything to my siblings and cousins. All my love, forgive me, mother,” the same read.
The authorities couldn’t find any signs of violence, breaking in, or robbery at the crime scene. Mauricio’s hand held the knife, which was stuck in his abdomen, that killed him. The autopsy discovered multiple severe wounds in Mauricio’s body, which convinced the authorities that the stylist didn’t kill himself. The officials then started to investigate the deaths as a double homicide case. They concluded that Mauricio knew the killer, which explained the lack of forced entry. Soon, Mauricio’s elder brother Jhonier became the prime suspect, especially after he was seen withdrawing an enormous amount of money from the family’s bank accounts.
What Happened to Jhonier Leal?
When the investigation started, Jhonier proposed an alibi the night his brother Mauricio Leal and mother Marleny Hernández died. However, the security camera footage collected from the residential area where Mauricio’s mansion is located denied the alibi as it showed the former entering the house on November 21, 2021. A search conducted in the property led the officers to a towel that contained traces of blood allegedly left behind by Jhonier, as per the prosecution, who claimed that the elder brother left behind the towel while looking for a second knife after the first one broke.
Another significant piece of evidence against Jhonier is that the wounds inflicted on Mauricio, a right-hander, were made by a left-hander. Since the murder suspect is a left-hander, the authorities were able to build a solid case against the former. In the indictment against him, the prosecution alleged that Jhonier first killed his mother and then moved to his brother’s room, only to put Mauricio in a “state of defenselessness” and force him to write and sign the note discovered at the crime scene before killing him. Zopiclone, a medicine used to induce sleep, was discovered in Mauricio’s system during the autopsy.
During the search conducted in the property, the investigators also found account numbers and property records of Mauricio’s assets Jhonier was supposed to inherit, which established the possible motive. In a dramatic turn of events, Jhonier eventually pleaded guilty to killing his brother and mother. He sought forgiveness from his family, his children, and “all of Colombia for the events that occurred.” However, he then retracted his admission of guilt and started to maintain that he didn’t kill Mauricio and Hernández. He said that he confessed to murders after feeling “psychologically pressured” to make an agreement with the prosecutor’s office.
Jhonier added that he was poorly advised by his lawyer to admit guilt since he didn’t have a source of income to pay for his defense. During the trial, he declared himself innocent and added that he would prove the same by the “hand of God.” While the prosecution has been requesting a maximum sentence for Jhonier for aggravated homicide and manipulation of material evidence, the defense has been delaying the trial, only for the same to get postponed four times. The latest postponement happened on August 31, 2023, on account of the defense lawyer Ana Julieth Vásquez’s “health problems.”
Prosecutor Mario Burgos requested the court to assign a forensic medicine expert to evaluate Vásquez’s health condition for the double murder trial to proceed. In September 2023, Vásquez resigned from her position as the defense lawyer. The double murder trial hasn’t yet concluded and Jhonier is currently imprisoned in La Picota prison in Bogotá.