Saying his pain “will never go away,” Malibu’s Howdy Kabrins reflected on the 20-year sentence handed down to his daughter’s murderer in a South African courtroom last week. Saying the wheels of justice moved slowly and frustratingly, the Malibu restaurateur gave up his business and moved to Cape Town with his wife Linda to attend the year-long trial in South Africa where his daughter Gabriela Kabrins Alban was murdered three years ago by her boyfriend Diego Novella.
The sentence of 20 years was short of the maximum life sentence in South Africa, which is actually 25 years. Judge Vincent Saldanha, whom Kabrins earlier described as a meticulous and deliberate judge, told the courtroom he took into account the gravity of the crime while also showing a “measure of mercy.”
Novella, the scion of a Guatemalan family that runs a century-year-old concrete business, was sharing a hotel suite with Alban at the time of the vicious murder in 2015. Kabrins claims Novella, who was in a relationship with his daughter, persuaded her to try unconventional treatment for her Lyme disease while Novella, a trust fund millionaire, was in South Africa seeking alternative medical treatment for his drug problems.
The 39-year-old Alban, who was weakened physically by illness, was found in her hotel room the couple shared. Her brutalized body was graphically desecrated. In testimony, Kabrins said his daughter would not have been able to defend herself. He said when he thinks about the horrific nature of his daughter’s death, he can’t help but hear her voice saying, “Daddy help.” “It tears me apart,” he said, breaking down. “I’m her daddy.”
Novella was arrested a short time after the murder when hotel staff found him wandering incoherently on the property. He told police he had taken a cocktail of marijuana and other drugs used in his treatment. His lawyers claimed diminished capacity in his defense.
Alban’s mother, Doris Weitz, who also attended the trial with her husband, Alexander Williams, described Novella as a “butcher, reflecting extraordinary rage,” adding during penalty phase testimony: “He has given me a life sentence without parole. There will be no recovery from this.” Weitz said she now lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, sees a psychiatrist weekly, takes medication and cries herself to sleep. “He has given Gabi’s father a life sentence without parole. All I can say is, I hope he will not be outside prison while I am still alive.”
Pollsmoor Prison, where Novella will serve his sentence, is notoriously known as one of the world’s worst detention facilities. Some of South Africa’s most dangerous criminals are housed in the over-crowded maximum security site located in a Cape Town suburb.
Kabrins, who attended all 124 days in court despite the financial hardships of shuttering his business, a mugging in South Africa, suffering from a bad fall on a hike and his hospitalization in Cape Town with pneumonia earlier this year, said it was important that he and his family—his wife Linda and his ex-wife and her husband—advocate for their daughter and show the court she left behind a grieving family: “Nothing will bring my daughter back, but I can move forward.”
Now that the trial is over, Kabrins spoke by phone to The Malibu Times from South Africa.
“Linda and I miss Malibu and our special friends there,” Kabrins said. Referencing the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, Kabrins said he needs to regroup and is preparing to return to Malibu and hopefully open up a new restaurant.
“I’m not sure what the future holds,” he said. “I gotta get back to work. Maybe open a new Howdy’s, if I could only find a great location.”
Kabrins has long maintained he will start a foundation in his daughter’s name with a mission to educate young men in South Africa and around the world about femicide.
“Domestic violence is a huge problem worldwide,” the 70-year-old Kabrins has said. “The only way to have an impact is creating a new language for young men in how to reshape the whole paradigm. I intend to spend the rest of my life creating positive impact.”
Kabrins Alban grew up in Malibu and graduated from Pepperdine University. She was a successful business woman specializing in Hispanic marketing and worked for many Fortune 500 companies.