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She was the Captain of Miami Metro Homicide, having been promoted from Lieutenant (with Detective Debra Morgan taking her place) by Deputy-Chief Thomas Matthews. She led almost every investigation in the series, with Sergeant James Doakes and Angel Batista supervising the crime scenes under her. She handled the political side while her detectives did the dirty work. It wasn't until Season Seven that she began to display her own investigative work.
While initially being one of the Main Protagonists, she was the second and last Main Antagonist of Season Seven (after Isaak Sirko), following her investigation into The Bay Harbor Butcher, while trying to clear the framed Sergeant James Doakes of the crimes committed by the Butcher.
Maria can be seen as a tough, determined woman fighting for power in the political game among law enforcement. Often having a friendly (and sometimes antagonistic) relationship with former-superior Thomas Matthews, she always stood out as cold in her rise through the ranks. Putting her work before her life, she kept most of her emotions bottled inside which led detectives such as Debra Morgan to be convinced that she was out to destroy her out of a personal grudge.
She does however display a sympathetic side, one often shown in the shadows as she is forced to do less than honorable acts to push herself further into power. From sleeping with her replacement's fiancée to marrying and then divorcing a coworker, the toll has been heavy but she never lets it show to those around her. In her early days she was partnered with Sergeant James Doakes and the two developed a close relationship, at one time being lovers and staying close friends for many years. Even as the rest of the Miami Metro Police Department and even the FBI closed in on him as the suspect behind the Bay Harbor Butcher Case, she refused to believe he was guilty and strove to support his innocence (though it was in vain).
This relationship she shared with Doakes was powerful enough that despite several years passing since his death, a discovery of a blood slide at a crime scene led her into investigating the Bay Harbor Butcher again in hopes of clearing his name. It is strongly implied the two were in an intimate relationship, as Doakes was married at one point but was never stated who he was married to as LaGuerta stated that it was Doakes' anger that drove her away. She has proven to come closer than anyone before her in investigating Dexter Morgan, having uncovered his past and relationship to The Ice Truck Killer as well as strong evidence to support him being the Bay Harbor Butcher.
LaGuerta was very ambitious and politically driven. When she lost her job to Esmée Pascal, LaGuerta began sleeping with Pascal's fiancee Bertrand. Pascal began to become irrational, using department resources to investigate her fiancee and acting out erratically. Pascal was eventually replaced, at which point LaGuerta stopped sleeping with Bertrand. Interestingly, LaGuerta has some qualms about what she was doing; she refused to speak ill of Pascal to Captain Thomas Matthews, showing that she knew what she was doing was wrong and that she felt guilty about it.
She is very determined to maintain her position no matter the cost, such as blackmailing Captain Matthews into promoting her. She is also very manipulative, telling Matthews that she would help make the call girls case go away, but instead used Debra by having her dig information on the case that would connect back to Tom and sold him out to the board and had him forcibly put into retirement to gain his position. Even Debra commented on how that was a very low thing she did to Tom and Debra prompting her to ask "How do you sleep at night?!" to which LaGuerta replied "very nicely, knowing that from now on you will do as I say or I'll find someone who will." This shows that she is often more than willing to betray or use anyone to get what she wants, regardless of who she is close to.
Despite her manipulative nature, however, she often shows compassion, loyalty (especially for Sergeant Doakes) and has a strong regard for justice. For instance, when she gives defense attorney Ellen Wolf information that proves Chicky Hines innocent, even though she knows that this would strain relations between herself and her former lover, Miguel Prado. She comforts Debra when Joey Quinn was arrested for the murder of Stan Liddy (though later released because of Dexter), telling her to "have faith" and when she was feeling bad about how Travis got away, telling her she did a good job in trying to catch him. She did admit that what she did to Matthews was wrong, but felt it had to be done despite Deb's statements of how she really did it for herself (which was true).
She has a bond with Dexter during most of the series, most notably in the beginning of Season Five when she shows her solidarity after Rita's death and even suspends Joey Quinn for trying to investigate him, following her murder. Although the reason for the previous could be because LaGuerta feels guilt since the time of Rita's death indicates she was murdered when Dexter was acting as the witness to her and Batista's nuptials. Their supposed bond can also be seen when she gets Dexter to sign the papers for the official marriage between herself and Sergeant Batista and trusts only him as she investigates Miguel Prado for the murder of Ellen Wolf. Her greatest sense of loyalty is towards Sergeant Doakes, whom she is intent on proving innocent. The two are later revealed to have been lovers for a while.
However, LaGuerta is not above making her subordinates feel intimidated. At the series' beginning, she had a sincere dislike for Debra. Although she seems to dial down her dislike in later seasons, LaGuerta returns to manipulating and humiliating Deb after she's promoted to lieutenant over Matthews' choice, Batista. In the first season, she made no secret of her attraction to Dexter, whom she flirted with constantly, to his discomfort. One of her weapons in her artillery of intimidation is her pettiness, especially verbally. She constantly makes very sarcastic and passive-aggressive comments towards Debra when she displays competence in her job and has--on at least one occasion--made physical contact while walking away from Debra after ending a conversation with her. She operates on double standards when it comes to verbal spats: for example, she has crossed the line several times with her boss, Thomas Matthews, but almost every time Debra rightly tried to call her out on her unfairness or incompetence as an investigator, LaGuerta would shut her down or threaten her.
Discussions between LaGuerta and Batista in Seasons One and Four give minor insight into LaGuerta's back story; her family is said to reside entirely in Cuba, and she mentions being alone in a strange land, inferring that LaGuerta was sent to live in America, alone (perhaps in foster care?), by her family. Also in Season One, LaGuerta showed possible interest in adopting a Cuban boy who had been a witness to a crime, but Roberto, the boy's uncle was located.
- LaGuerta stole James Doakes’ promotion for herself (revealed by Neil Perry in “Shrink Wrap”).
- LaGuerta slept with Bertrand, Lt. Esmee Pascal’s fiancee, which caused Pascal to have an emotional breakdown and be replaced by LaGuerta. (“See-Through”)
- At Club Mayan, LaGuerta took over Debra's stakeout and gave an order that led to an informant and a club-goer being killed. ("Circle Us") Afterward, LaGuerta blamed the incident on Debra, and refused to take any responsibility. (“Take It!”)
- After Debra found new evidence in the Barrel Girls Case that proved Boyd Fowler was not the only perpetrator, LaGuerta refused to re-open the case because she thought Debra was trying to make her look bad. ("Teenage Wasteland")
- LaGuerta blackmailed Thomas Matthews over his “little black book” in order to obtain her promotion to Captain. (“Once Upon a Time...”)
- During the Dead Call Girl Case, LaGuerta attempted to force Debra into closing the case despite evidence that somebody else was in the room with the victim when she died in order to protect Deputy Chief Matthews. ("Sin of Omission")
- Deputy Chief Matthews was forced to retire after LaGuerta revealed his involvement in the Dead Call Girl Case. (“Talk to the Hand”)
- LaGuerta was able to get Hector Estrada released from prison, intending to use him as bait for Dexter, whom she was going to arrest after he murdered Estrada. (“Do You See What I See?”)
It is obvious from the first episode that Maria and Debra Morgan do not get along. LaGuerta consistently treats Deb much worse than any other officer or detective, with very little reasoning. Maria purposely makes it harder for Deb to get into homicide but eventually has to let her in, due to the Captain's insistence after she makes a major break in the Ice Truck Killer investigations. At the end of the first season, she is removed from command, when Captain Thomas Matthews sees her as a clear political threat. She is replaced by Esmée Pascal.
Early on, she continues to struggle with her demotion and annoyance of Esmée Pascal's presence in the office. She resorts to sleeping with Pascal's fiancée Bertrand, which quickly drives Pascal toward paranoia and instability. The woman's increasingly erratic behavior around everyone results in Captain Matthews being forced to take her out of the Lieutenant position and reinstate Maria.
When her friend, former partner, and former lover, James Doakes, becomes the prime suspect in the Bay Harbor Butcher case, she tries to clear his name. She learns from a questionable source of two Special Forces missions Doakes took part in that directly conflicted with the deaths of two Butcher victims. However, Doakes is found dead in a seemingly accidental explosion, along with the body of drug dealer Jose Garza, and the case is closed. The evidence LaGuerta finds is ignored. After his death, LaGuerta starts a memorial fund for him, asking police officers for donations, and refuses to think of her deceased friend as a serial killer. She later attends Doakes' funeral, only one of five people to do so. The others were Doakes' mother, sisters, and Dexter.
As she recovers from the trauma of Doakes death, she leads an investigation into the murder of Oscar Prado, the brother of her ex-boyfriend Miguel Prado. She also develops a close relationship with lawyer Ellen Wolf, and is devastated when Wolf is found dead. But through the help of some personal investigation work, along with Dexter's help, she was able to discover that Miguel was the one who killed Wolf and usually confides in Dexter as he is the "only other one who knows". She becomes distraught when the Cuban community is thinking about naming a highway after Miguel and wants to find legal evidence to prove he killed Wolf, but Dexter is able to convince her that doing so would only hurt Miguel's family and the Cuban Community, and even then there is a high chance that won't prove anything and drops it.
At the start she is shown to be romantically involved with Angel Batista. They keep their romance hidden from the rest of the staff within the homicide department, aside from Dexter, whom both Batista and LaGuerta confide in. Their relationship hits a roadblock when she tells their superiors about their relationship so that it cannot be used against them during a trial. The consequence of her disclosure is a threat of reassignment; either Batista or LaGuerta will have to move out of Homicide. Deciding that their jobs are integral parts of who they both are, the two decide to end their relationship, and sign affidavits to that effect. Staying away from each other does not prove easy, however, and they begin having secret liaisons once more. In order to circumvent a reprimand from higher up, and also as a result of their deepening affection for one another, they secretly get married with only Dexter as a witness.
After Rita is murdered by The Trinity Killer, LaGuerta grieves deeply and hands the case over to the FBI in full, since the timing of her death more or less coincides with the timing of her marriage to Batista, in the previous season (which hitherto, only Dexter is aware of) and she does not wish to be reminded of that. As Quinn investigates Dexter for any involvement in Rita's death, he gets busted by the FBI and when LaGuerta finds out what he was doing behind her back, she puts him on immediate unpaid suspension. Soon her husband gets into a bar fight, when a police Sergeant insults her (saying that she gave the best blowjobs in Miami). In order to get Batista out of the hot water, she assists Internal Affairs in busting a Narcotics Officer who is on the take. It is later revealed, however, that her real motives for doing so were purely political, as she aims to make Captain.
During this time, the Fuentes brothers have recently begun a series of horrific murders. Debra soon finds a lead as to where they may be and Batista discovers a way to lure them there, so that they can be apprehended. When the operation occurs, things go bad when LaGuerta orders Officer Manzon to flirt with Carlos Fuentes, against Debra's advice, in an attempt to draw him outside the club so that he can be apprehended. Carlos finds out that she's a cop and this results in a major shootout as, in which Carlos Fuentes as well as two innocent bystanders are killed and three wounded. LaGuerta initially asks Debra to back her story by pinning the blame on Manzon, however, Debra refuses, saying that Manzon was simply following her orders. She then publicly blames Debra for the event (with Manzon backing her version of the event) and places her on immediate suspension, which sours their relationship even more. Despite being her husband, however, Batista shows his loyalty by backing Debra's story, even though it doesn't make any real difference. He also distances himself from LaGuerta, for her atrocious behavior.
Around the same time, a series of rapes and murders in Miami, is brought into the open. As Dexter and his new accomplice Lumen Pierce, attempt to divert police attention away from the case, by pinning it all on one man, Debra soon discovers new DNA evidence revealing that there are multiple criminals, while on file clerk duty, which prompts her to seek LaGuerta's approval in re-opening the case, which she eventually does. When Debra fails in getting a warrant on prime suspect Jordan Chase so that he's brought in for questioning, LaGuerta asks why she didn't seek her assistance in getting it, to which Debra replies that she is the last person she thinks of when seeking help. LaGuerta then gives her another warrant, allowing the police to locate Jordan and keep him under 24 hour surveillance. During the last episode of the season, as Stan Liddy is killed (the Narcotics Officer whom she had suspended), Quinn becomes a major suspect in his murder, due to the blood on his shoe and his fingerprints all over Liddy's van. This deeply disturbs Debra, but LaGuerta tries to reassure her and tell her to have 'faith'. Quinn, however, advises Debra to forget about him and go after Jordan, which results in her finding the location where the rapes occurred. Here she finds Jordan's corpse as well as the Vigilante Couple, whom she allows to escape. By the end of the season, the relationship between Debra and LaGuerta seems to be much better as she congratulates her for solving the Barrel Girls Case. This prompts Batista to mend his own relationship with LaGuerta.
Maria has recently divorced Batista after realizing that he's not as politically driven as she is. She is promoted to Captain in the first episode after blackmailing Deputy Chief Matthews over a madam's contact list which includes his name. Chief Matthews assigns Debra Morgan as the new Lieutenant to LaGuerta's dislike, because she promised the position to Batista. He seemingly did it to get back at LaGuerta. Morgan went from being completely clueless and unsure of her new position in the beginning confided greatly in LaGuerta's help, but because of LaGuerta's obvious dislike for her she gives her a lot of bad advice, much of which backfires on LaGuerta. Morgan soon gains enough confidence in her position to not need LaGuerta's advice anymore, and also begins to realize what LaGuerta has been doing.
However, with Matthews' second transgression with a prostitute, she initially tells Debra to cover it up, but when she continues to search and finds proof of Matthews' involvement, LaGuerta disables both Matthews and Debra, with Matthews being called to retire and blackmailing Debra with her coverup. She makes it clear that she will depose Debra if she does not do as she's told.
While Miami Metro Homicide was at the scene of Travis Marshall's murder, LaGuerta found a blood slide. After confirming from a private lab that the blood on the slide belonged to Travis Marshall, LaGuerta comes to believe that James Doakes was innocent and the real Bay Harbor Butcher may still have been active and killed Travis. So she decided to try to reopen the case, not only in an attempt to find the true murderer, but to prove the innocence of her departed friend and former partner. She continues to investigate until Debra gains wind of this and decides to help her and keep tabs for Dexter. As they interview a victims family, LaGuerta sees Debra hiding something about the case and immediately suspects she knows something, but says nothing so Debra doesn't get suspicious herself. As LaGuerta starts reaching dead ends in the case, she eventually digs deeper and discovers a name on several of the cases: Dexter Morgan. This causes her to recall Doakes obsession for Dexter and believes Doakes may have been right.
Her suspicion would prove right as she discovers that Dexter moved his boat around the time of the case, which causes her to dig deeper into his background. She continues to look into this without Debra's knowledge, due to her belief that she knows something. She enlists the help of Thomas Matthews on the condition he gets his 40 year pension plan due to her having cost it in the first place. She tells him of her suspicion about Dexter being the BHB and how he has a boat and Doakes never did. They visit the site of Doakes's death at the cabin. Once there, they gain word that the cabin was owned at the time by Santos Jimenez, which Matthews remembers the name as he was responsible for murdering Dexter's mother, Laura Moser, prompting LaGuerta to realize Dexter had more of a reason to kill him than Doakes. This would be fueled even further after hearing that Dexter's brother, Brian, was the Ice Truck Killer, and that the Bay Harbor Butcher chops his victims into pieces and that Jimenez is missing, having been killed by the BHB, causes LaGuerta to immediately believe Dexter to be the genuine killer and that Doakes was on to him. She attempts to question him constantly, but Tom stops her, stating that he'll do it since he's known Dexter since he was a kid and trusts him much more.
After Tom talks with Dexter over Dexter claiming that Doakes had a boat, LaGuerta refuses to listen, stating his feelings for the Morgan family is clouding his judgement and if Doakes had a boat she would have known about it. They still look into this boat business and find a key in a tackle box from the cabin that leads them to a deserted boat stand and find several sheets of plastic. They call a private forensics team and find knives in a closet, one of which that has blood degraded on it and a finger print on it that is Doakes'. Tom is convinced this is more than enough, but LaGuerta still isn't convinced and believes Dexter planted this and could have done all this, but Tom still wants her to stop this, as it's over, and nothing more can be done stating that he's done with all this. LaGuerta is saddened by this, but promises Tom his pension plan like they agreed.
However, it turns out she still wasn't convinced and still plans to go after Dexter, having pushed for Hector Estrada, the man who ordered the death of Dexter's mother, to be released after 40 years in prison. Dexter was about to kill him in the kill room when Estrada reveals that LaGuerta was the one who pushed for his release. LaGuerta arrives on at the Shipping Yard with two officers and they hear a chainsaw running in a storage container, and enter to see the room full of plastic, having LaGuerta realize that Estrada's not alone.
In the season finale, LaGuerta arrests Dexter for the murder of Hector Estrada, unaware that he actually escaped Dexter. LaGuerta marches Dexter through the station in handcuffs, causing an uproar. She brings Dexter into interrogation and accuses him of killing Hector Estrada and of being the Bay Harbor Butcher. She claims to have found Estrada's wallet and bloody shirt on Dexter's boat. Debra and Masuka come in and tell LaGuerta that the shirt on Dexter's boat was missing evidence from when Estrada was arrested. Masuka also found a print on the wallet which belonged to LaGuerta, making it appear that she framed Dexter to exonerate Doakes. Deb accuses LaGuerta of trying to frame Dexter and LaGuerta accuses Dexter of setting her up. She is later put under investigation by the commissioner for her behavior. Despite warnings from both Matthews and Angel, she refuses to back off. She discovers more evidence about Dexter's true identity and on top of that, the warrants to track their GPS on the date of Travis's death. Her discoveries lead Dexter to the only decision logical for him - killing her. His plan is to set LaGuerta up by first killing Hector Estrada and then killing Maria, while making it look like Maria and Estrada killed each other postmortem. His plan goes smoothly until Deb walks in minutes after Dexter tranquilized LaGuerta. Because LaGuerta was given less than the usual dose, she wakes up in the middle of Dexter and Debra's dialogue. She tells Debra that she needs to kill Dexter, but a very emotional Debra shoots and kills LaGuerta to protect Dexter's secret.
Six months after her death, many of her former co-workers show up at a bench that is being named in her honor. Angel Batista, LaGuerta's former husband and ex-partner, is displeased with her receiving a park bench as a memorial, as he feels she deserves more than that. Batista also gives Dexter a red vase that belonged to LaGuerta, which is later accidentally broken by Harrison Morgan while spinning on a rotating chair. At his house, Batista goes through a box of LaGuerta's belongings, ripping up the warrants that LaGuerta had kept during her investigation of Dexter and Debra, which could have otherwise implicated the two in the murder of Travis Marshall.
Attempted to Kill Maria
- James Doakes
- Angel Batista
- Ellen Wolf
- Miguel Prado
- Thomas Matthews
- Miami Metro Homicide
- Miami Metro Police Department
- Maria LaGuerta's House
- Shipping Yard
- LaGuerta wears contacts, as revealed when she's talking to Debra in the bathroom and complains about being unable to get a hair out. 
- Her characterization in the show departs significantly from that in Darkly Dreaming Dexter, in which she is a shrill, manipulative woman whose only real objective is promotion within the department, to the point that she repeatedly ignores insight from Debra in order to focus on her own ideas. Another departure from the books is that LaGuerta died near the end of the first book after being stabbed by Brian upon discovering Brian and Dexter standing over a restrained Deb. A sample of her blood is also taken by Dexter for his blood slide collection following her death.
- LaGuerta was antagonistic towards Debra Morgan for a majority of the series, usually providing an obstacle in her path to advancement in Miami Metro. It wasn't until Season Six that the two began to understand one another further and they were on good terms throughout a majority of Season Seven (with Deb being the only one trusted with LaGuerta's investigation into the Bay Harbor Butcher).
- Despite LaGuerta becoming one of the two Main Antagonists of Season Seven, it wasn't Dexter who killed her but Debra herself. This proving to be the only time one of the lead characters dealt with one of their own main antagonists apart from Dexter (the other in this season being Joey Quinn with George Novikov).
- LaGuerta is the second main antagonist of Season 7 as well as the second female antagonist.
- LaGuerta is the second main antagonist to have appeared in previous seasons, the first one in the series being James Doakes.
- Strangely, her body is positioned in exactly the same fashion when she was first unconscious (due to m99) and after Debra shoots her.
- Despite being an antagonist for many different portions of the series, she was never a "bad" character, justice-wise. While some of the actions she performed were less than honorable, ultimately she sought justice in her own ways, apart from taking over Matthews's position. In Season Seven her actions were to try and clear the name of an innocent man while finding the actual killer and arresting them. Her antagonistic role was that of an opposing force to the lead title character, one that he had to overcome. It is understandable as Dexter has always been a villain protagonist instead of a 'good' one.
- Her need to prove that Doakes was innocent can be seen as somewhat obsessive and this can be possibly be contributed to their past as lovers.
- "Popping Cherry"
- "Let's Give the Boy a Hand"
- "Love American Style"
- "Return to Sender"
- "Circle of Friends"
- "Shrink Wrap"
- "Father Knows Best"
- "Seeing Red"
- "Truth Be Told"
- "Born Free"
- "It's Alive!"
- "Waiting to Exhale"
- "An Inconvenient Lie"
- "The Dark Defender"
- "Dex, Lies, and Videotape"
- "That Night, a Forest Grew"
- "Morning Comes"
- "Resistance Is Futile"
- "There's Something About Harry"
- "Left Turn Ahead"
- "The British Invasion"
- "Our Father"
- "Finding Freebo"
- "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
- "All in the Family"
- "Turning Biminese"
- "Sì Se Puede"
- "Easy as Pie"
- "The Damage a Man Can Do"
- "About Last Night"
- "Go Your Own Way"
- "I Had a Dream"
- "Do You Take Dexter Morgan?"
- "Living the Dream"
- "Remains to Be Seen"
- "Blinded by the Light"
- "Dex Takes a Holiday"
- "Dirty Harry"
- "If I Had a Hammer"
- "Slack Tide"
- "Road Kill"
- "Hungry Man"
- "Lost Boys"
- "Hello, Dexter Morgan"
- "The Getaway"
- "My Bad"
- "Hello, Bandit"
- "Practically Perfect"
- "Beauty and the Beast"
- "First Blood"
- "Everything Is Illumenated"
- "Circle Us"
- "Take It!"
- "Teenage Wasteland"
- "In the Beginning"
- "Hop a Freighter"
- "The Big One"
- "Those Kinds of Things"
- "Once Upon a Time..."
- "Smokey and the Bandit"
- "A Horse of a Different Color"
- "The Angel of Death (credit only)"
- "Just Let Go"
- "Sin of Omission"
- "Get Gellar"
- "Ricochet Rabbit"
- "Talk to the Hand"
- "This is the Way the World" Ends]]
- "Are You...?"
- "Sunshine and Frosty Swirl"
- "Buck the System"
- "Swim Deep"
- "Do the Wrong Thing"
- "Helter Skelter"
- "The Dark...Whatever"
- "Do You See What I See?"
- "Surprise Motherfucker!'
- Episode 106: Return to Sender