Bail Denied for Accused Murderer of Gabriela Kabrins

Gabriela and Howdy Kabrins in an undated picture

Bail has been denied for the man accused of murdering Gabriela Kabrins, the daughter of well-known Malibu restaurateur Howdy Kabrins. Prosecutors in Cape Town, South Africa, where the murder took place last July, argued that suspect Diego Novello Dougherty has access to large amounts of money and two passports that would make him a flight risk. Dougherty, a Guatemalan national, was also deemed by the court to be mentally fit to stand trial.

Howdy said his first smile in nearly a year came when bail was denied.

“I was on the beach in South Africa. It felt like victory. I was thanking God,” Howdy said. The picture shows Howdy at sunrise on the beach. He said it has a special meaning to him because he and Gabriela talked together about “sonrisas,” or smiles, in Spanish every day.

Gabriela was fluent in Spanish and founded a company that worked with major companies marketing to Hispanic communities. Howdy said of his only child, “She understood the pride of the immigrant population.”

Gabriela, who was 39, had an on-again, off-again relationship with Dougherty, 43, whom she had met when she was a student at Pepperdine University 15 years earlier. Dougherty comes from what is reported to be one of the wealthiest families in Central America. His family runs a large cement business that is over a century old. He has been described as a playboy and a jetsetter who lived a lavish lifestyle and did not hold a job. Online reports have also called Dougherty a known drug abuser who reportedly went to South Africa for treatment.  

Prior to the bail hearing, the suspect had been undergoing psychiatric evaluation for weeks. He is accused in the brutal murder of Gabriela in a luxury hotel room the two were sharing at a Cape Town resort. The murder happened last July after, according to Howdy, the suspect “lured” his daughter to South Africa with the promise of a cure for her debilitating Lyme disease.

Dougherty’s defense team may argue that he had a diminished mental capacity due to drug intoxication. Dougherty was arrested shortly after the murder when he was found disoriented and wandering at the resort’s hotel.  

Investigators have described the crime scene as especially gruesome and the cause of death as strangulation, although the victim was also brutally sexually assaulted and bludgeoned. A police report also says Gabriela was likely killed by someone she knew and suffered wounds trying to defend herself.

Howdy just returned from the bail hearing in Cape Town and told The Malibu Times that he was seething seeing the suspect in the tiny courtroom. 

“I was sitting directly behind the bastard. I had to refrain — to not lose it,” Howdy recalled. 

Howdy said the past 10 months have been difficult not only for him, but for Gabriela’s stepmom, Linda, and her stepsister, Nikki. He said he’s grateful for the support he has received here at home. “I’ve gotten strength from people who care about me in Malibu. When I’m in South Africa on the other side of the world, I feel a connection — the support of the Malibu community. People have reached out. It helps.”

Howdy is vowing justice for his daughter and will return to South Africa next month, his sixth trip since his daughter’s murder. That is when the suspect’s defense team will appeal the bail denial. It is a closed-door session at a higher court that has Howdy nervous. He said his presence and that of his ex-wife at the lower court was a “definite influence,” but that is not possible at the next hearing. 

A trial could happen as early as October and Howdy will be there. “I’ve built a phenomenal support team with the State Department, a legal team, and women’s rights groups including the ANC and the Jewish community,” Howdy said. His many trips to South Africa, in his words, “are to build awareness of a father travelling across the world to get justice for his daughter.” 

“I won’t stop,” Howdy said, “I have to do everything I can.”

A crowd-funding site,, has been set up to help finance travel and legal expenses for the Kabrins family. Although he could not provide specifics yet, Howdy is also hoping to have a fundraising event in Malibu in the near future. He described possibly having catering trucks and Mexican food that his past restaurants, Howdy’s and La Salsa, served.