Howdy and Linda Kabrins at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Howdy and Linda Kabrins at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Mourners at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Mourners at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Howdy Kabrins buries his daughter's remains. Photo: Supplied
Howdy Kabrins buries his daughter's remains. Photo: Supplied
Diego Novella was sentenced to twenty years for the murder of Gabriela Kabrins Alban. FILE PHOTO: Courtney Africa/ANA
Diego Novella was sentenced to twenty years for the murder of Gabriela Kabrins Alban. FILE PHOTO: Courtney Africa/ANA
Doris Weitz, the mother of Gabriela Kabrins Alban, holds photographs of her daughter in the Western Cape High Court. File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Doris Weitz, the mother of Gabriela Kabrins Alban, holds photographs of her daughter in the Western Cape High Court. File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Howdy Kabrins holds up photos of his daughter Gabriela Kabrins Alban, at the Western Cape High Court earlier this year. Photo: Catherine Rice / ANA
Howdy Kabrins holds up photos of his daughter Gabriela Kabrins Alban, at the Western Cape High Court earlier this year. Photo: Catherine Rice / ANA
Father of murdered Gabriela Kabrins Alban, Howdy Kabrins is consoled by his wife, Linda after the sentencing of Diego Novella. File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
Father of murdered Gabriela Kabrins Alban, Howdy Kabrins is consoled by his wife, Linda after the sentencing of Diego Novella. File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
Mourners gathered at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Mourners gathered at the Pinelands Cemetry on Sunday. Photo: Supplied

Cape Town - The father of an American marketing executive who was murdered in Cape Town three years ago, will return to the United States this week. Howdy Kabrins spent months at a time attending the trial of Guatemalan national Diego Novella who was convicted and sentenced for the murder of Gabriela Kabrins Alban, 39, last month.

Novella was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for the brutal killing of Alban, his girlfriend, in the room they shared at the boutique hotel, the Camps Bay Retreat.

On July 29, 2015, Alban's body was discovered by hotel staff. She had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma. Alban's face was covered in chips and sweets, faeces had been smeared on her body, and a hair straightener placed between her legs. A note had been left on her body with the word "cerote" scrawled on it -- a Spanish word meaning "piece of shit".

Alban's mother and father, who are divorced, were informed of the murder telephonically by the American embassy. Both parents immediately flew to South Africa. Alban's mother, Doris Weitz, came to the country 11 times in total, at a cost of half a million dollars, to attend the trial.

After the lengthy trial, she said: "Like I said in my testimony, I've been sentenced to life without parole and I wished that he had gotten that same sentence. He tortured my child, he took her away from me."

She returned to America straight after the trial to enter a period of mourning. "This has not allowed us to grieve because we are here all the time, and every time they added salt to the wound when we heard the things that that monster did to my child," she said at the time. 

Her husband, retired Judge Alexander Williams, said they would go home and have to learn to "live without Gaby". 

Alban's father Howdy Kabrins and stepmother Linda decided to stay on in Cape Town, however, to try and get final closure. The body of Alban was repatriated to Los Angeles for her burial soon after the murder, but her final remains, including her brain, had to remain in Cape Town for forensic testing to determine the exact cause of her death.

It meant the family was not able to give their daughter a burial in accordance with Jewish custom as her body had undergone an autopsy.

On Sunday, they buried her final remains at the Jewish cemetery in Pinelands. "Now that the case is complete they no longer needed any of the organs. Doris and I had to make decisions about whether to ship her remains to the US which would have been very difficult, and open the grave, or bury her remains here. But I felt very strongly about doing that here because I have become a Capetonian. The Jewish community and all of Cape Town has embraced me. I feel this has become my home", Kabrins told the African News Agency (ANA).  

He said Cape Town had become part of his life "now more than ever". 

Novella, who was from a prominent and wealthy family who owns a cement business in South America, pleaded not guilty to the murder and instead argued diminished responsibility due to drug intoxication. 

In his plea statement, he said he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances. These were listed as sceletium, dronabinol (a prescription drug) and cannabis. 

“These substances had a disinhibiting effect on me, causing me to respond in an abnormal manner," he claimed. 

In sentencing Novella, Western Cape High Court Judge Vincent Saldanha said the effects of the intoxication had been "exaggerated" and that it had "fuelled his anger" but not been the cause of the brutal attack on Alban. It was, therefore, an aggravating factor.

Novella "lived off a generous family inheritance", had never held down a job for a significant period of time and travelled extensively. 

His search for spiritual enlightenment had brought him to South Africa to attend a retreat in Magaliesberg where ibogaine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in plants, was administered.

He had persuaded Alban to join him in South Africa, as he believed the spiritual retreat would help improve her health -- she suffered from Lymes disease and her condition had deteriorated significantly rendering her financially dependent on Novella and her own mother. 

Saldanha said Novella would be deported back to Guatemala upon his release, therefore "parole would be ineffective". He also said correctional services and the parole board would need to consult Alban's family before his release. 

Howdy Kabrins and his wife Linda will leave South Africa to return to the United States on Wednesday.

He said it had been a challenge managing his emotions and rage during the trial, but that he had coped with the support of his wife and the many friends he had made in South Africa.

"There was some sort of closure, but there will never be full closure. Now is the time for new beginnings and I know Gabi would want that."

He plans to start an organisation in Gabriela's memory to "redefine masculinity" in a bid to put an end to violence against women.

"I will be back," he said. 

African News Agency/ANA