I met Diego after being asked to contact him by James Kindel, Esq., a family friend. Mr. Kindel was a prominent attorney with a large law firm in downtown Los Angeles, Kindel & Anderson. Besides being a partner in Guatemalan business enterprises with the Dougherty family, he was also a neighbor and a friend of my family for over 50 years. Mr. Kindel explained to me that Diego was having trouble adjusting after the death of his mother and that his family wanted someone to help him while he was in school in Los Angeles. I agreed. Over the years that Diego lived in Los Angeles and later when he moved to Guatemala, I remained that person. Because I am 20 years his senior, I was able to be both his mentor and his friend. He told me everything about his life and I do not believe that he has ever withheld anything about himself in our conversations.
I met Diego when I was living in Malibu, California where I lived and worked as a piano teacher for 25 years. Throughout these years, while in Los Angeles and abroad, Diego always maintained contact through phone calls—no matter where he was in the world. I was lucky to have spoken with him while he was in faraway places and to be regaled by many stories of his explorations and adventures. We would often speak for hours. Billionaire playboy? No. This is such a gross exaggeration of Diego and his life—it is simply a homage to media distortion and its ability to distort facts to sell newspapers. I am not a fan of the term, but it truly is “fake news.”
Interestingly, I was with Diego when he first met Gabriela. This was many years ago, probably sometime around 2002. I frequently ate at Gabriela’s father’s restaurant in Malibu, Howdy’s, and one night Diego and I met there for dinner. Diego saw Gabriela and said that he liked her. I only knew Gabriela on sight and was not a fan. I told him that I didn’t like her and thought he could do better. At the time, there were other things going on in Diego’s life and we did not discuss it again. Subsequently, at least twice, I remember him going in to speak to her. Diego has since stated to me that he does not remember these events, however, since Gabriela’s death, my recall is quite clear.
In the many years of our discussions and the confidences that Diego shared with me about himself, there was never any indication, not a scintilla, of violence hinted at in his personality. I can only describe him as a gentle, sensitive soul, not capable of hurting anyone, not even their feelings. He was always polite, thoughtful, and considerate. If he thought that he had done anything to harm another human being, he was always circumspect. If he had questions about whether his behavior was appropriate, he would ask. I was always honest about my opinion and would offer alternative behaviors for Diego to consider when appropriate. I am devastated by the untoward events that surround Diego today. They are not in alignment with the kind gentleman that I knew over the years of our acquaintance. But for the facts of drug use, it simply does not make sense to me.
As a teacher in Malibu for many years, I have deep ties in the community and was well-known as a teacher, spiritual mentor, and musician. After Gabriela’s death, and in an effort to understand the situation, I called several friends who knew her by reputation. Of course, a reputation is a fact based on what other people say about someone, a putative fact: a reputation is a reputation. Therefore, I will not discuss the particulars I heard about Gabriela because they are insinuated and may or not be true.
I will, however, discuss the kind of reputation she had, one that is based on what I was told by two friends who said that they knew her. These friends related to me stories of her behavior in the community of Malibu. Gabriela is not reputed to be a person of high moral character. Unfortunately, at the behest of her aggrieved parents, the media has painted her to be an international businesswoman, an angel, and a saint. Unfortunately, this is contrary to her reputation among my friends who knew her in Malibu. I was told stories of instability, irresponsibility, promiscuity, drug use, and combinations of each, one based on the other. The people who told me these stories had no investment in Diego’s life, and no reason to exaggerate their narratives about her.
I will explain to you here a bit of my own background prior to being a piano teacher. For many years I was a legal secretary for a well-known criminal attorney, Maxwell S. Keith. Mr. Keith specialized in capital crimes, first degree homicide, and serial murderers. In fact, he defended Leslie Van Houton, one of the convicted killers in the Manson case. In my years as his assistant, I was able to peruse the files and facts of many murder cases that Mr. Keith tried, including all of the proceedings of the Manson trials, including their appeals and parole hearings. Thus, I learned to think through ghastly images and ferret the facts. In the instant case, I believe that Diego is not absolutely guilty, one who murdered the acolyte of angels. For me, the issue here is apportioning guilt and the degree and to which it will be meted.
Diego was always searching for that perfect solution—an alternative universe that would give him the answer. His life has been a search for the key that would fit. Gabriela was right there, with her affection for sex and a little help from her friends. Diego, my friend, a loving and willing accomplice. Whether Gabriela’s family is willing to admit it or not, Gabriela and Diego are both culpable. At this time, Gabriela’s parents are blinded by rage and righteous grief. Disturbing as it is, they are also consumed by an acquisitive craving for retribution as evidenced by their civil case in California, a dearth of class and dignity, much like the murder itself. Because they are unable to muster compassion and clear sight of the real situation, they cannot bury their dead and move on from this infamous tragedy.
Everyone wants to go home now, wherever that happens to be. A better debate in this case is “Who is more guilty.” Because of my affection for Diego, and because I knew him well, the answer is obvious: Gabriela Kabrins Alban. Unfortunately, she has had to pay for her proclivities with her life. In the stories of both these people, Diego and Gabriela, it is the perfect storm from hell, a head-on collision, Dante’s cavern of lost souls. How difficult it is to sit on the sidelines—if only we could put this story in reverse—and replay their fates with better endings. Both had many years ahead to learn and deepen as human beings. Neither one deserves this destiny, no matter who we chose to blame.
I am sorry to have to write this letter and to live this terrible story from such a long distance. It would be great solace for me to see Diego and to tell him that I love him still despite this great mistake. I vouch for his character without hesitation. I am taken aback by a situation that will always be, for me, a great and unfortunate anomaly of life and circumstance.