‘It tears me apart, I’m her daddy’: Novella victim's parents speak out
'Arrogant' murderer gets 20 years, but is appealing his sentence
Murderer Diego Novella has instructed his attorney to appeal against the 20-year prison sentence imposed on him on Thursday.
The Guatemalan, who murdered his American girlfriend Gabriella Kabrins Alban in Camps Bay in 2015, displayed “arrogance” in the Cape Town High Court dock on Thursday, said the mother of the slain 39-year-old New York executive, Doris Weitz.
Novella exchanged words with Weitz before proceedings began, asking whether she had received his letters saying he knew what she was going through, having lost his older brother, mother and father.
In sentencing Novella, Judge Vincent Saldanha mentioned his lack of remorse for murdering Alban, and his unwillingness to take full responsibility for his actions.
Novella argued that his “brain was hijacked” after he took a cocktail of substances including cannabis and sceletium.
He said “it was merely his hand” and not his “mind” that “caused the death” of Alban. During cross-examination, he said her death was “a mistake on both their parts”, and told Alban’s family their daughter was “at peace” with him and wanted them to understand it was “our mistake”.
Novella’s statements and his request for an appeal, based on the fact that he believes his mental state at the time of the murder is a mitigating factor, suggest he is cut off from the horror of his crime.
The Guatemalan strangled and battered Alban over the head and face until she died. Then he defecated on her and wrote “sorote” (Spanish for “piece of shit”) on her chest.
He placed a pair of hair ironing tongs between her legs, claiming they symbolised a penis, then sprinkled chips and sweets all over her body, stuffing some of them in her mouth. He argued in court that he was trying to kill a demon that had taken over Alban.
In his sentencing remarks, Saldanha quoted a witness who said Novella was privileged and wealthy. “The accused exhibited a lack of responsibility, was manipulative, and displayed a lack of remorse,” said the judge.
Saldanha also noted the scourge of femicide in SA, where brutality against women – often by their intimate partners – absorbed many of the criminal justice system’s resources and took a heavy toll on society.