A teenage love triangle ends with one person dead, another arrested and many people asking: Was justice really served?
It's a tragic teenage love triangle: two beautiful girls in love with one bad boy. But this romantic rivalry has a very modern twist: social media. A nasty war of words plays out online and over the phones. Until one steamy Florida night in April 2009 when it goes from words to deadly weapons.
Rachel Wade and Sarah Ludemann grew up just a few blocks apart in the small town of Pinellas Park, Florida. They were both beautiful, attended the same high school and ran in similar circles, but in every other way the girls were polar opposites. Rachel, 19, was a petite girl, fiercely independent, a waitress with her own apartment. Sarah was 18, a high school senior still living at home with a curfew. She loved animals and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
But the two beautiful teens did have one thing big thing in common: Josh Camacho. Rachel met josh in elementary school, but it wasn't until high school that sparks flew.
Camacho, 19, was a player and reportedly a "deadbeat dad" to a toddler. According to Tampa Bay Times writer Lane DeGregory, who covered the story, Camacho loved being the "bad boy."
Sarah had never had a real boyfriend, but that would all change one fateful day when she walked into a fast-food restaurant where Josh was a cook.
"He came out of the back smelling like french fries, winked at her, and no one had ever really flirted with Sarah, and so she was just completely blown away that this guy was interested in her," said DeGregory.
Rachel and Sarah both fell hard for Josh. But he didn't want either one to know about the other. For months Josh dated both Sarah and Rachel. But his secret was about to be exposed in a very public way.
"Rachel started putting up pictures, that's how Sarah found out," said DeGregory.
In a romantic tug-of-war, Sarah began to post her own pictures with Josh, and Rachel didn't like it one bit.
It was the beginning of a vicious cyber smack-down between the lovesick teenagers. And all the while loverboy Josh continued to date both girls, fueling the feud.
The trash-talking and phone calls were becoming more explosive. Finally Sarah had enough and began confronting Rachel face to face. Sarah started showing up where Rachel worked. Another time Sarah chased Rachel down in her car and sprayed her with "silly string."
"They tried to attack these girls, the police arrived and they asked the girls if they wanted to make a report, they said yes and they basically talked them out of it and said 'Oh it's just, you know, girls fighting,'" said Kelly McCabe, Rachel Wade's attorney.
Months of online taunting and teenage bickering finally comes to an explosive head. Sarah shows up at Rachel's apartment. A neighbor tells police she begins screaming threats. Rachel, now terrified, grabs a steak knife, waits for Sarah to leave and runs to her car.
"She took a steak knife with her because she didn't know who was down there," said Rachel's friend Ashley DeCosta. "She was going to her ex-boyfriend Javier's house. Because nobody would suspect that she would be there."
Sarah leaves Rachel's apartment and drives over to play videogames with Josh and his friends. Around midnight Sarah's dad texts her about curfew. But before she can leave one more text comes in.
"She gets ready to leave, Rachel texts Josh and says 'Oh, I know you're with her,'" said DeGregory.
Sarah is infuriated, but mostly worried Rachel will swoop in on Josh as soon as he's alone. Sarah reluctantly leaves for home, but first heads to get a bite to eat with Josh's sister and another friend. On the way they get a tip Rachel is near by.
"Sarah's friend says 'Hey I just saw Rachel, she's down the block with Javier,' so Sarah, instead of going to McDonald's, turns around and goes to Javier's house," said DeGregory.
Sarah, now on the brink, goes looking for trouble -- and finds it.
"Sarah pulls up in her minivan and Rachel comes running at her from the front of the house," said DeGregory.
"They both met in the middle of the street, Sarah threw the first punch, Rachel ducked her head down and just kind of started flailing her arms," said Rachel Wade's friend Ashley DeCosta.
The girl fight lasts only moments. It looks like a flurry of fists and hair-pulling. But when it's over, Sarah lies bleeding in the street.
Rachel Wade doesn't dispute she stabbed her love rival, but she claims it was self-defense.
Pinellas Park Police Detective Michael Lynch says it was Sarah who came looking for a fight that night to duke it out and lay claim to Josh Camacho. What Sarah didn't know was that Rachel brought a knife to a fistfight.
"Unbeknownst to Sarah, Rachel has concealed a small normal steak knife in her hand at the time she began swinging at Sarah," said Det. Lynch. "Sarah's stabbed once in the upper shoulder and once directly over her heart."
Now Sarah, bleeding in the middle of the street and gasping for air, makes one desperate call -- not to her mom or dad, but to Josh.
"Rachel is sitting up on a bench smoking cigarettes and pretty calm, just like you and I are right now," said Lynch.
Sarah is rushed to the hospital. Rachel is taken to the Pinellas Park Police Department for questioning.
"I went to hit her, I did not mean to stab her," Rachel says in video recorded during the interrogation. "I'm not going to kill somebody."
Rachel claims and eyewitnesses accounts confirmed that Sarah took the first swing, landing three punches to Rachel's head.
Rachel claims she forgot she even had the knife in her hand. She says she just threw her hands up to defend herself. Then police inform Rachel that Sarah is dead. Rachel landed just two jabs with that steak knife. One pierced Sarah's heart.
Police charge Rachel with second-degree murder. Prosecutors paint Rachel as a vindictive girlfriend who took the knife with the intent to harm Sarah. Rachel's attorney Kelly McCabe says she was standing her ground and had the right to protect herself.
Then prosecutors release a taped phone call in which Rachel is heard threatening Sarah: "I told you to watch your f------ back and not to chill with him, now your ass is mine and I guarantee you I'm gonna f------ murder you. I'm going to f------ kill you."
That phone call was made eight months before the fatal fight, but it sealed Rachel's fate. Rachel is found guilty of second-degree murder and is sentenced to 27 years in prison.
So what about the man in the middle, the part Josh Camacho played in this deadly love triangle? Josh, the boyfriend at the center of all of this, played a major role. Unfortunately police say there aren't any charges they can bring against him. Crime Watch Daily went to Josh's house to get his side of the story, but he could not be reached.
Rachel Wade's new attorney is fighting to reopen the case, hoping to prove Rachel was acting in self-defense.