Talking to Death

Humberto Pepin-Tavares, 44, thought he had a good idea.  Known as Pepin on the street, he was a drug dealer in the Bronx, and caught a 12 year federal sentence for his efforts.  But Pepin had a plan. 

He heard about how people talked their way out of prison.  He heard all the stories on the street about how guys with long sentences would tell the feds about other crimes and be given a pat on the back and a free pass out of prison.  Pepin was no fool.  If others could do it, so could he. 

According to Newsday, shortly after his drug conviction in March, 2002, Pepin made the decision to tell investigator about some crimes.  Serious crimes. Murders.  Surely, this would be of interest to them.  But Pepin’s plan had one flaw.  You see, the murders Pepin had to offer were murders that he committed.

He talked about killing Jose Rosario in 1992 and Carlos Madrid in 1995.  Then he talked about dismembering their bodies to hide the murders.  And once he started talking about the murders, Pepin just couldn’t stop.


“Nothing short of a piece of duct tape across his lips could have kept [him] from confessing over and over again,” said Judge Jack Weinstein in a decision filed earlier in the case.

Pepin was, as one might suppose, charged with the murders.  He offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, but Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused.  Pepin was tried for capital murder in the Eastern District of New York. 

At trial, his attorneys, Lou Freedman and David Lewis, did their best.  Pepin contended that he wasn’t a cold-blooded murderer, but someone trying to defend himself from other cold-blooded murderers.  He was just better at it than they were.


In his defense, Pepin argued that the killings were done in self-defense. Defense witnesses provided evidence that both victims had wanted to kill Pepin.

The jury didn’t bite.  It’s not that unusual that drug dealers want to kill each other, so the victims’ feelings toward Pepin were likely similar to Pepin’s feelings toward the victims.  Pepin was convicted.  Now it’s going to the penalty phase.

I spoke with David Lewis about Pepin yesterday.  Only half-joking, David told me that if I wanted to know all about the killings, I should just ask Pepin.  He’d tell me.  He’ll tell anyone.  He would love to tell the story.  Again and again.  Judge Weinstein’s “duct tape” crack was probably an understatement.  He’d just keep talking under the duct tape.

It may be that Pepin’s openness about the murders, his willingness to talk about them freely to anyone who asks, will work in his favor during the penalty phase.  It may raise implicit questions about his sanity, or perhaps his intelligence, that will sway a jury to think that he shouldn’t be put to death.  The dismemberment part brings a certain “color” to the killings, but Judge Weinstein plans to tell the jurors not to consider it when deciding on penalty.  As if that’s the sort of thing one can easily ignore.

While twelve years in federal prison (not Club Fed, mind you, as that’s not where the Pepin’s of the world tend to be sent) is no fun, but for guys like Pepin, it shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.  They know there’s a risk for doing what they do, and they know that if they stick around long enough, there’s a strong likelihood that they will get caught.

But if ever a person talked himself into the death chamber, it was Pepin.  Not a good plan.

11 comments on “Talking to Death

  1. Kathleen Casey

    He may not have had the business sense to stop himself from using what he was dealing. In that case, especially habitual cocaine use, a side effect is compulsive talking. They cannot stop running their mouths, with their brains disengaged. So they cannot stop hurting themselves either. My opinion, from my acquaintance with users.

    Who cares? Why should our government care? What are we, nannies? Let them imbibe.

    The first Prohibition racked up a stack of dead bodies, too. That’s all this is. Long-term alcohol abuse causes brain damage too, but our courts and prisons are brimming with traffic in some drug addicts only, not including alcohol addicts. Isn’t that true?

    Check out Gideon’s latest on how well Second Circuit protects us from conspiracies to distribute in the War on (Some) Drugs.

  2. SHG

    Until habitual cocaine use is recognized as a basis to suppress statements, we’re out of luck on that argument.  Besides, my guess is that Pepin, having sat in jail awaiting disposition in his drug case, and then serving his sentence, was cleansed of any foreign influences in his body.  This was pure defendant-genuis, as influenced by all the other brilliant prisoners explaining the facts of life to the new kid, as they so dearly love to do.

  3. Kathleen Casey

    I thought of the detox while writing my comment. It occurred to me to wonder if there is a “dry drunk” effect as happens with some former binge drinkers. Meaning, they no longer imbibe the drug but are still crazy as a loon. The distortions in their personalities and brain function are the same or almost the same.

    I do understand that inmates get dumb, grandiose ideas from other inmates. They often arrive at the pen with a disadvantage that sets them back anyway, impaired reasoning ability, whether congenital or from substance abuse.

    Do you agree with what I see that users talk too much?

  4. SHG

    I’ve seen it as well, though I haven’t seen it continue after they’ve had a chance to dry out.  But then, some who have indulged in long-term drug use, particularly crack (or Diablito, as it was known amongst drug dealers in the Bronx) tend to have few synapses working afterward.

  5. Lee

    I don’t know about cocaine, but studies of extended heavy meth use have shown long term irreversible changes to the chemistry and synapses.

  6. jared pepin

    I dont know what’s all the comments about but you guys only know him as the bad guy. what you guys don’t know is that he was a great father and he was a very warmhearted person. he had a good side to him you guys r just judgeing him by what you are hearing.but guess what I don’t care.i know what type of person he really his.

  7. SHG

    And he may have loved cats, but that doesn’t mean that the people he murdered were any less dead. 

  8. noelia pepin

    how do u know my dad Jared? Cuz this man is my biological father, so how do u know him?

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