Dean Faiello, 'fake doctor' convicted in 2003 death, recalls life in Costa Rica before arrest: 'Pure hedonism'

"I was just doing things to just enjoy the last moments," Faiello said.

In late 2003, the walls were closing in on Dean Faiello.

Facing charges of practicing medicine without a license, he failed to show up for his court appearances in New York City. The following February, investigators unearthed the body of missing investment banker Maria Cruz under his former home in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Faiello had already fled to Costa Rica.

“One day I went to check my email, and for some reason I clicked on the news. I remember seeing Maria's photo,” Faiello said in an exclusive interview with “20/20."

It was the same photo from the missing poster that circulated when Cruz vanished in April 2003. After the 35-year-old investment banker died during an illegal laser treatment procedure, Faiello claims he put her body in a suitcase and buried it beneath a concrete slab in his garage. A devout Catholic with a successful career in finance, Cruz had immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. When she went missing, her family from the Philippines and New York canvassed Manhattan, putting up missing posters and looking for any clues about her disappearance.

“The same panic and fear that I felt when I realized that Maria had passed away, that returned. I just reacted, and grabbed stuff and fled,” Faiello said.

A new “20/20” takes viewers inside the Costa Rican hotel where Faiello was staying in a beachfront villa before authorities caught up with him nearly two decades ago.

“I was on a suicide mission. I was just doing things to just enjoy the last moments. And it was hedonism, pure hedonism,” Faiello said in an exclusive "20/20" interview that airs Friday, December 9, at 9 p.m. ET.

Leo Valencia, an employee who worked at the hotel in Samara Beach, told “20/20” he remembered Faiello as a rich doctor who ordered drinks poolside and shelled out $100 tips.

PHOTO: Leo Valencia, a former hotel employee, talks to ABC News about meeting Dean Faiello in Costa Rica in 2004.
Leo Valencia, a former hotel employee, talks to ABC News about meeting Dean Faiello in Costa Rica in 2004.
ABC News

As news spread about the discovery of Cruz’s remains, Faiello was spotted in the local newspaper.

“Our onsite manager called us in the morning and said, ‘Look at the picture.’ The guy is staying here in one of our units," Philippe, a man whose family has owned the hotel property for over 30 years, told “20/20.”

Faiello was in the hotel pool when immigration officials arrived to arrest him for overstaying his visa.

The ”20/20” episode also features interviews with several journalists, including Jeane MacIntosh, who traveled to Costa Rica to cover the story for the New York Post.

“Dean’s whole adventure and what he's doing is just crazy in juxtaposition to — there's a dead woman under the concrete in his house,” MacIntosh said.

PHOTO: Former New York Post reporter Jeane MacIntosh during an interview with ABC News.
Former New York Post reporter Jeane MacIntosh during an interview with ABC News.
ABC News

Photos from the moment Faiello was led into a Costa Rican jail circulated in New York City media, who had a field day after his arrest.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of attention. There was lights, and cameras, and flashes going off, and that was a surprise,” Faiello said.

Detectives wanted Faiello back in New York City in their custody as soon as possible. Instead, Faiello and his lawyer tried to fight his extradition by asking to be adopted by a local couple he had previously stayed with, because Costa Rican citizens can’t be extradited.

Eventually, Faiello lost the appeal and returned to New York, where he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in Cruz’s death. The judge called his actions “heartless” and “senseless and depraved.”

Speaking exclusively to “20/20,” Faiello sheds new light about what he says happened the day Cruz died. He talks about his time in Attica prison, where he says he got sober from drugs and alcohol after battling addiction for years.

After serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, Faiello was released on parole earlier this year. He’s working as a maintenance man at a grocery store and said he’s appreciating the simple things in life. He said he wants to make amends with the people he’s wronged, no matter how difficult. That includes apologizing to Cruz’s family publicly for the first time.

“I can never really make up or atone for what I did. It's impossible. All I can do is, help others to not make the same mistakes that I did,” Faiello said.