After the disturbing (to put it modestly) news of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez being arraigned on murder charges in June 2013, joining Jovan Belcher, the Kansas City Chief murder-suicide of December 2012, as the two worst recent criminal cases involving NFL players, I found out that Julio Machado, a relief pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, was convicted of murdering a Venezuelan woman in late 1991. Here is the Associated Press story (Feb. 1, 1992) covering the charging of Machado:
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Julio Machado will face murder charges in the shooting death of a woman, a judge in Caracas, Venezuela, ruled Friday.
If convicted, Machado faces up to 30 years in prison. No date was set for the trial, but he will appear in court Monday to hear the charges. It could take up to a year before the case is heard.
Machado faces two charges of ”intentional murder” and one charge of illegal possession of a handgun in connection with the Dec. 8 shooting death of Edicta Vasquez after a late-night traffic accident in the western Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto. Although only one person died in the incident, Judge Raquel Rimer de Orellana ruled that the driver of Vasquez’s car also was endangered, prompting the second charge.
Machado, 23, was transferred from a police holding cell to a prison Friday, and was not available for comment. Machado, who was playing for the Zulia Eagles of the Venezuelan winter league at the time of the incident, has admitted to firing a shot. But he claims he shot in self-defense, and did not intend to kill anyone.
Machado had a 3-3 record with a 3.45 earned run average for the Brewers in 1991. He does not have a contract with the club for 1992.
Brewers spokesman Thomas Skibosh said the team had no comment. He said the team decided two weeks ago not to comment beyond a statement issued at that time that read: ”We are pleased to learn that Julio Machado turned himself in to the proper authorities. We will now observe with interest as the Venezuelan judicial system goes forward.”
Machado was returning from a late-night party when his car was involved in an accident with a car carrying Vasquez. An argument ensued between Machado and the driver of Vasquez’s car, and Machado allegedly fired a pistol, hitting Vasquez. Four days later, after police announced Machado was wanted for questioning, he disappeared.
At a press conference before turning himself in Jan. 15, Machado admitted firing the shot. But he said he was “innocent” of killing Vasquez. He said Vasquez’s car had tinted windows, which made him think the occupants were robbers.
“I didn’t know who they were,” he said. “I thought they might have been robbers. So I shot to scare them. It was something anyone in my position would have done.
“Never in my life did I ever intend to kill anyone. I want people to forgive me. I didn’t mean to take her life or anyone’s life.” Machado’s lawyer claims the pitcher shot with his left hand, which is proof that the right-hander did not mean to kill anyone.
Machado had been a New York Met, starting in 1989 and continuing through most of the 1990 season, then was traded to the Brewers in September of 1990, and pitched with them throughout 1991. In late March of ’92, the AP reported that Machado “reached an out-of-court settlement with the parents of the woman he killed. The agreement Wednesday in Caracas, Venezuela, calls for Machado to pay the parents of Edicta Vasquez what amounts to about $38,000 in civil damages.”
Two years later, Machado was convicted:
Former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Julio Machado was sentenced to a 12-year prison term yesterday for fatally shooting a secretary after a traffic accident in 1991, a radio station reported in Caracas, Venezuela.
According to Radio Rumbos, the sentence was handed down by judge Raquel Rimer de Orellana, of the First Circuit Court in Barquisimeto, 180 miles east of Caracas. The judge found Machado, 26, guilty of firing the gun that killed Edicta Vasquez, 23, after her car hit his vehicle in a Barquisimeto street on Dec. 8, 1991. The woman died of a bullet wound to the head. Defense attorney Alberto Palacios told the station he plans to appeal.
Machado, under order not to leave the country since being charged, is pitching in Venezuela. He has been free on bail since another judge changed the original charge of second-degree murder to manslaughter in February 1992. Machado, a hard-throwing reliever, began his major league career in 1989 with the New York Mets before going to Milwaukee during the next season.
After Machado served his sentence, he returned to baseball, coaching teams in Venezuela, and I think he’s still doing that today. He is the most recent active MLB player I know of who committed a murder; Donnie Moore, the ex-Angels pitcher who nearly killed his wife before killing himself in 1989, is the most violent relatively recent incident other than Machado’s that I know of (thanks to Houston Mitchell in comment below for noting that Moore did not kill his wife). As a fan graduates from having an adolescent or pre-adolescent view of athletes to having an adult view of them, it becomes apparent that the players you see performing on the stage are, in their personal lives, no better than the rest of us. Recalling the story of Machado’s murder is one of the most graphic reminders of this fact. Of course, the corollary to this is that we are probably no better than those athletes we watch on tv.
For instance: In December 2009, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in a blog item noting that the Brewers were about to hold a clubhouse sale at Miller Park, wrote: “Years ago, I went to the Brewers’ clubhouse sale and purchased the last jersey worn by reliever Julio Machado, who had been arrested for murder in Venezuela. I gave it to a co-worker for his son. As far as collector’s items go, how many folks can say they have a major league jersey last worn by a player convicted of murder?”
A final note: the early ’90s New York Mets are remembered as uniquely dysfunctional, and I think the story of Vince Coleman tossing a lit firecracker into a crowd outside Dodger Stadium is the most widely told example of that; but Machado and his murder conviction should be the most noted example of the problems with those Mets teams.