Malibu restaurateur Howdy Kabrins took the witness stand Thursday in the murder trial of the man accused of killing his daughter, Gabriela Kabrins Alban. It was an emotional day in court Thursday in Cape Town, South Africa, where the trial of accused murderer Diego Dougherty Novella is taking place, according to reports from local South African media who attended the trial, including African News Agency, News24, Eyewitness News and other local sources.
Kabrins, in emotional testimony — and at time clutching the sides of his seat — recounted his daughter’s relationship with the accused murderer and also the time the three of them spent together. He described what he termed “aggressive behavior” by Novella when he accompanied his daughter in 2014 to Guatemala where she was staying with Novella and where Novella has citizenship. Albans suffered from Lyme disease and, Kabrins stated, “Her physical condition made it difficult and she required her daddy’s assistance.” Kabrins went on to tell the court that his daughter’s new boyfriend was rude and “off-putting” from the start. He also stated he was concerned by the large tattoo across Novella’s neck. Kabrins’ testimony went on to explain how the accused distanced himself from Kabrins and his daughter and that he found pornography on Novella’s computer. He went on to say that Novella had smoked a lot of marijuana as well.
The 39-year-old Alban, a Pepperdine graduate, eventually returned to Malibu where she had a career as a marketing executive specializing in the Hispanic community. In 2015 she was, according to Kabrins, “lured to South Africa” by Novella who promised to help her get treatment for Lyme disease. Novella and Alban were sharing a luxury room at the Camps Bay Resort in Cape Town when Alban was found murdered in July 2015. Novella at the time had been getting treatment for ailments by a “spiritual guide” who also testified last week at the trial.
Rhonda Slabbert-Barron, who owns a spiritual retreat in South Africa, testified that Novella was taking a psychoactive substance known as ibogaine while searching for spiritual enlightenment. Slabbert-Barron appeared sympathetic to the defendant and called him, “a humble, peace-loving, kind and generous man.” The judge in the case noted that Slabbert-Barron is not a doctor and appeared skeptical about her qualifications.
During Kabrins’ testimony, Judge Vincent Saldanha made a few attempts to try and quiet Kabrins for a recess, but Kabrins continued telling the court about how he learned of his daughter’s violent death and described his emotions. He also revealed a previously unknown “hate filled” message found on Alban’s body at the murder scene.
“What I can’t process is the letter put on her body, stating an ugly message of hate,” Kabrins said, according to various reports. “I have been traumatized. My only child is dead. I will not have any grandchildren. I will not have someone to say Kaddish (a Jewish prayer) for me when I die. My heart is broken. I will do everything I can to get justice. I will always be her dad and she will always be my baby.”
Reports state many in the courtroom were moved to tears as Kabrins spoke. The defendant stared emotionless straight ahead. Novella faces a minimum of 15 years if convicted.
Kabrins started a website — justiceforgaby.com — to help with legal expenses.