Rachel Wade is said to have had a “normal” childhood, growing up in the small suburb of Pinellas Park, outside Tampa Bay, Florida. Her dad was a truck driver and her mother was a special-ed teacher. An ex-boyfriend says that she began to rebel around the age of 13 or 14 — but what teenager doesn't?
Rachel was very petite at 5’4” and 115 pounds. She had blond hair. Her MySpace page said she was an “independent chick” and featured a photo of her on her bed posing with a come-hither look.
Rachel’s first boyfriend and signs of violence
Rachel’s rebellion escalated quickly. When she was 15 she was caught in a car with a 19-year-old boy in the school parking lot, resulting in him being charged with a felony sex offense. She would sneak out a lot, sleeping in strangers' cars, in lounge chairs at apartment pools. In her sophomore year, she ran away from home 14 times.
Between the ages of 15 and 18 she moved in with a boyfriend, and she dropped out of school at 16. Friends say her parents “let her make her own choices,” and in this case she wanted to be more independent.
But Rachel’s independence didn’t grant her maturity, and her ex-boyfriend says they were “bad kids,” and spent a lot of time screaming at each other. On at least one occasion, Rachel's ex says she held a knife to his throat, but when he dared her to used it, she dropped it, cried and ran away.
Rachel and her boyfriend broke up in the summer of 2008. It was time for her to get her life back on track. She finally got her GED, her own apartment, her own car, and a full-time job at Applebees. Every weekend she’d have dinner with her parents. Things were looking up.
Rachel starts dating Josh Camacho
Rachel’s new life includes a new boyfriend, 19-year-old Josh Camacho. The two had been in elementary school together, and reconnected at a party. Josh was a “bad boy”, he had tattoos, owned a pit bull and liked to take mirror selfies of his muscles. He was also a father to a child, and he’d cheated on his baby mama. So it should come as no surprise that when he started dating Rachel he was also dating another girl called Sarah Ludemann.
Who is Sarah Ludemann?
Sarah was a “good girl” and an “excellent student”—straight A level. She wasn’t interested in boys like her friends were, loved to sing and dance (pretending she was Britney Spears), and was her dad’s “sidekick” (he was a taxi driver and her mom was a surgical nurse). She had a low-key social life until she met Josh at Chick-fil-A where he worked. Sarah’s friend Amber Lee says the two met after Josh would make eyes at her from his post in the kitchen, until finally he came out and spoke to her. Like Rachel, she was attracted to Josh because, as Amber says, he was “kind of a mess” and a “bad boy." Another of Sarah’s friends, Danielle Eyermann, says Josh was “funny," “charming” and “sarcastic." The Police called Josh a “player” and friends of the girls he dated called him a “moocher." In fact, The Daily Beast quotes a friend of Josh’s babymama as saying the girls he dated were “supporting him, buying him clothes, buying his shoes, paying his cellphone bill.” He asked Sarah out and became her first boyfriend and first love.
Sarah’s dad apparently called Josh “The Rat," but her parents respected her choice and took time to get to know Josh, even though Sarah’s grades started slipping. She was skipping school, and Amber says Sarah’s life became about Josh, “everything else was pushed aside.” Apparently Josh also found ways to control Sarah. Josh wouldn’t be affectionate with Sarah in public, only in private. According to Amber, he made her wear pants (Sarah only wore shorts), so other men couldn’t see her legs--this notion of control and ownership seems to run at all intersections of this story. It got even worse, according to The Tampa Bay Tribune:
"In the first six months she was with Josh, police interviewed her six times, all over public confrontations. She and Josh screamed at each other at intersections. Yelled at Josh's baby mama in the parking lot of the movies. Once, Sarah said Josh had punched her in the face and he admitted it. Her parents wanted her to press charges, but Sarah wouldn't.
The rivalry begins
Sarah had a midnight curfew, which meant Josh would see her until she had to go home, then go sleep over at independent Rachel’s. Rachel soon found out about Sarah, and went online to attack her, sending her messages on MySpace telling her to leave Josh alone. Amber called it “high school drama stuff”. For instance, on Rachel’s MySpace blog on June 17, 2008, she wrote "When we first met I was madly in love . . . but since then things have changed . . . You called me names, you slept around . . . I deserve so much better!", apparently about Josh. A comment from Sarah on the post suggested that Josh had "found better."
But Rachel became consumed with jealousy, and finally got Sarah’s phone number from Josh and started texting her. Amber said in the texts Rachel would call Sarah “fat” and that she “looked like a dog." Sarah assumed Rachel was an angry ex-girlfriend of Josh’s, especially since Josh had always told her she was the only one, but one day she finally snapped from all the harassment and called Rachel up. This is when Sarah found out the truth--that Josh was seeing Rachel too.
Sarah was devastated. Eventually tears and sadness became anger, and Sarah confronted Rachel in the real world. Pinellas Park was a small community, and according to Amber, “you were gonna run into somebody you knew anywhere you go.” So it was easy enough for Sarah to turn up during Rachel’s Thursday night karaoke shift at Applebees. Sarah and her friends made up bad lyrics to karaoke songs, and used them to taunt Rachel while she worked. Sarah would also turn up and sit in Rachel’s section, knocking things onto the floor so Rachel would have to clean them up, or purposefully bumping Rachel and making her drop food. In retaliation, Rachel would spit and put hair in Sarah’s food. There was also an incident at Taco Bell where Sarah and her friends sprayed Rachel with silly string.
The girls went at each other, but neither had a problem with Josh. In fact, Josh moved in with Rachel while still seeing Sarah. The police started getting involved too. Apparently there was an incident where Sarah drove past Rachel's apartment and shouted, "Come fight me." Sarah told police Rachel called her 20 times in two hours, threatening her. When the cops talked to Rachel, she said Sarah sent her nasty e-mails.
On April 15 2009, the whole ordeal comes to a head. Over the course of the evening, Sarah and Josh were hanging out at Josh’s sister’s house. At 11pm, Rachel allegedly pulled up out the front of the house and was texting Josh. He was showing Sarah the messages, which made Sarah livid, and Sarah broke her curfew waiting for Rachel to drive away. Josh, apparently, had been intoxicated. Janet Camacho, Josh’s sister, who was also with Sarah that night, says that Sarah went looking for Rachel, wanting to have physical fight with her. Sarah, Janet and another of Sarah’s friends took her minivan to go find Rachel. On the way, they ran into another of Sarah’s friend, who told them that Rachel was at a friend's house, Javier Laboy.
When Sarah and co. arrived at Javier’s, Rachel was in the front of the house sitting on the hood of her car. As Sarah got out of the van, Janet says she saw Rachel advancing with a knife in her hand and then Sarah was stabbed, once in the shoulder and once in the chest. But Javier said that Rachel didn’t approach Sarah with a knife. He said there was a brief fight, and then Sarah was stabbed. Either way, what Detective Michael Lynch calls a “catfight," ended up with Sarah being stabbed.
So Javier Laboy called 911 at 12:53am saying someone’s been stabbed “around the heart area." Police rushed to Javier’s house where they found a crowd in the middle of the street, a van with people crowding the driver’s side door, everyone screaming and “chaos” according to Tina Trehy, Pinellas Park Police Officer.
On the ground is Sarah bleeding from the chest with a young man pressing a shirt to her, trying to stop the blood. Sarah has been stabbed twice in the chest. She’s unconscious and unresponsive. As paramedics rush Sarah to the hospital, the police start taking witness statements. Several witnesses tell the police that it was Rachel Wade who stabbed Sarah.
The police found Rachel close by, sitting on a bench and smoking. Officer Trehy says she didn’t seem worried about anyone else involved in the fight.
Rachel was asked to make a statement at the police station, but she was not yet under arrest. By the time the police got Rachel to the station, Sarah had been pronounced dead at the hospital, information they withheld from Rachel as they went into questioning.
Rachel told police Sarah had been harassing her since the summer before. She told them Sarah got her number and was making threatening phone calls. Rachel said Sarah was going to “beat my ass of that she was gonna kills me” [IS there a typo in here?] over Josh, and that Sarah and her friends had shown up at Rachel’s residence on one occasion to make the threats in person. Rachel said she had tried to get a restraining order but that the police told her there was nothing she could do without proof.
Meanwhile, in the lead up to the stabbing, Rachel said she felt that Josh wanted her to fight Sarah. Shortly afterwards, Sarah rolled up ready for a fight. In Rachel’s version of events, Sarah jumped out of the van and began attacking her along with two friends. Rachel said she didn’t know how Sarah got stabbed in all the chaos.
But when Detective Lynch put her on the spot, Rachel admitted to having a knife on her person, because she knew Sarah was looking for her and had “threatened to kill me." Rachel said she didn’t intend to stab Sarah, even though she did, and even though she threw the knife away after the fight. Rachel said all she was doing was defending herself, as she “just didn’t want them to terrorize me anymore.”
Detective Lynch, mid-interrogation, broke the news that Sarah was dead. Rachel was crying as she was arrested for second degree murder.
Self defense or premeditated murder?
The murder weapon--the knife Rachel has thrown away--was found the next day on a neighbor’s roof, where Rachel said it would be. The prosecution would ask why Rachel ditched the knife if her act truly was in self-defense.
But Rachel wasn’t the only one claiming Sarah’s stabbing was in self defense. Other witnesses backed her up, including Javier, who was questioned the day after the stabbing. He said Rachel spent most of the night texting with Sarah, and that he had tried to calm her down, but Rachel was frantic, and wouldn’t leave it alone. Javier admitted that Rachel was upset when Sarah arrived, and that she was on the street ready to meet for a fight. This was important for police--that Rachel didn’t run, but rather sought out the altercation.
Police also interviewed Josh, who claimed he had broken up with Rachel months earlier, and that Rachel wasn’t able to let go. Josh claimed that while he was hanging out with Sarah that night, Rachel started texting him about Sarah being the reason they were no longer a couple. Josh said he told Rachel “I don’t wanna be with you because I don’t like you no more," which is when he says Rachel started getting mad--and making threats against Sarah. Josh says Rachel said “I want to beat her ass” about Sarah, and that Sarah just wanted to “go home." In Josh’s version of events, his sister Janet offered to accompany Sarah home, and he has no idea how or why Sarah ended up at Javier’s.
When police got a warrant for Rachel’s phone, they found that it had been erased. So they had to go for Sarah’s phone. The phone messages they were looking for weren’t stored with the phone company, but with a third party vendor, and they needed Sarah’s code to access them. Sarah’s best friend Amber, who “knew Sarah like the back of my hand”, was able to figure out the code.
The messages on Sarah’s phone changed the entire narrative. It turned out that Rachel was the one harassing Sarah--saying things like: “You haven’t learned your lesson yet but I’m gonna fucking teach you” and to “watch the fuck out.” The real dealbreaker? A voice message where Rachel, according to CBS News, could be heard saying, "Please tell me Sarah why you would be a dumb-ass c*nt and put a brand new picture of you and Josh at the beach on your MySpace. Seriously, I told you to watch your fucking back and not to fucking chill with him. I'm guaranteeing you that I'm going to fucking murder you, I'm letting you know that now."
Rachel was tried as an adult on July 21, 2010, and spent her 20th birthday in jail due to a hefty half a million bail set. The prosecution went in hard--indeed, the DA opened with Rachel’s explosive murder threat. Officer Trehy testified to Rachel’s post-stabbing demeanor, saying she was “more concerned about having a cigarette than the fact that a girl... was out on the street... pretty much gone.” It continued to get more damning, with the Pinellas County medical examiner saying that the force required to stab someone in the heart was so great, suggesting in turn that Rachel could only have had one intention. Meanwhile, Prosecutor Wesley Dicus said the stabbing was so violent the knife blade was bent.
The defense relied on the self-defense argument, and only July 22, presented their case. They claimed that it was actually Sarah who showed up looking for trouble, with Javier testifying that Sarah was the aggressor, and the first to throw a punch. The defense also put Josh on the stand--and attempted to focus blame on him. Josh played up to it, calling both girls “friends with benefits," and failing to show any kind of regret or apology for the way the girls were bullying each other over time because of him. It appeared that to Josh, it was part of a game.
Finally, the defense called Rachel Wade, who Journalist Lane Degregory says “seemed so young and vulnerable... it was hard not to feel sorry for her.” Rachel attempted to contextualize her voicemails, saying she “didn’t think” because she was upset, and just wanted to “scare her” rather than actually, you know, kill her. But still, Judge Joseph Bulone said, "The murder was no accident."
Rachel also testified that she had the knife because she was scared, and that when Sarah started hitting her, she swung her arms back to protect herself--the problem was, if Sarah had left any threatening voicemails or texts as well, they had all been erased, leaving only Rachel’s as damning evidence.
On July 23, 2010, mere hours after closing arguments, the jury returned a verdict, after less than three hours deliberation: guilty as charged for murder in the second degree. She was sentenced on September 3rd, and at the sentencing hearing, apologized to Sarah’s parents, saying she never wanted a physical altercation with their daughter. But it wasn’t enough--Sarah’s mother made an impassioned plea for Rachel to receive the maximum sentence. Rachel didn’t get a life sentence, but she did get 27 years in prison, and in 2012, her request for appeal was denied. She’ll get out of prison in 2035, at 45 years old.
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