Billionaire playboy gets 20 years in jail after drug-induced, brutal murder of American heiress girlfriend
44-year-old Diego Novella Dougherty ingested a number of drugs before strangling 39-year-old Kabrins-Alban in a luxury hotel suite in Cape Town.
On Thursday, a billionaire playboy was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he brutally murdered his girlfriend, American restaurant heiress Gabriela Kabrins Alban.
Back in July 2015, 44-year-old Diego Novella Dougherty ingested a number of drugs before strangling 39-year-old Kabrins-Alban in a luxury hotel suite in Cape Town.
Novella, who hails from Guatemala, later told prosecutors that he saw the "devil" in her and reacted in a drug-induced fit of anger.
He began strangling her until she lost consciousness and stopped breathing. Novella then stuffed chocolates down her throat, used a curling iron to burn her genitals, and defecated on her face, Daily Mail reports.
Authorities found Kabrins-Alban's bloodied corpse in the hotel villa rented by the couple at Camps Bay Retreat.
The U.S. Mission welcomes such a strong statement from SA's judicial system that violence against women, including intimate partner violence, is unacceptable. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Gabriela Kabrins Alban.https://t.co/cDhjmoUSJ9— US Embassy SA (@USEmbassySA) September 7, 2018
It is not clear why Novella wasn't sentenced to life imprisonment and given only 20 years - which his lawyer says he now plans to appeal. He was convicted earlier this summer.
Also, Judge Vincent Saldanha said the term would have been shorter if Novella had not maimed and mutilated his girlfriend's corpse after strangling her to death.
"The deliberate desecration of the body of the deceased by the accused and his wanton humiliation of her abounds as a serious aggravating factor," he said, calling Novella "evil" and wishing him a "long life in prison."
Gabriela was the daughter of Howdy Kabrins, the founder of Tex-Mex restaurant chain La Salsa. As soon as he heard of the tragic news, he moved to South Africa to ensure justice for his daughter.
Speaking to South African news outlet Eyewitness News on Thursday, Gabriela's mother, Doris Weitz, wished the sentence had been longer. "I hate to hear the things that the monster did to my child. It’s been very, very difficult," she said.
Weitz met with the judge before the sentencing and urged him to give Novella life without the possibility of parole.
"Diego Novella has given me a life sentence without parole. There will be no recovery from this. He has given Gabi’s father‚ Howdy‚ a life sentence without parole. All I can say is I hope he will not be outside of prison while I am still alive," she said.
Kabrins also agreed. While justice had "prevailed," he wanted a longer sentence for his daughter's killer.
When his daughter was alive, he had spent time with Novella. According to him, the couple dated for several weeks after they met at Pepperdine University, but broke up soon after because of his addiction to drugs.
Gabriela got married to Dr. Blake Alban but divorced him after a while and reconnected with Novella. The duo met online and picked up where they left off in 2013. Until then, Kabrins-Alban had started her own marketing agency.
Novella, who was described as a crack and cocaine addict before the incident, attacked his girlfriend on the night of July 29 after an apparent sex game gone wrong.
According to his lawyers, their client was high on cannabis and over-the-counter drug sceletium during the attack.
Witnesses claimed that after assaulting his girlfriend in the room, Novella headed for to the hotel bar, where he picked up a guitar and started singing loudly. He told a bartender: "My lovely lady is dead," and proceeded walking towards the sea.
Room service staff, who were ordered to check his room, found her body and called the authorities. Novella was arrested after officers responded to the scene.
According to reports, Novella is heir to the billionaire Dougherty Novella family in Guatemala. They are known to be one of the Central American country's most powerful families and own Cementos Progreso, the country's largest cement company. However, Novella was estranged from his family for years.