A career criminal with dozens of felony charges to his name allegedly hired a hitman to murder an Army veteran because he was worried the victim was going to testify against him, police in Florida said.
Nearly a year after Carlos Cruz-Echevarria was gunned down on Veterans Day near his home in Deltona, Fla., police announced a break in the case Thursday, arresting Kelsey McFoley, 28, Benjamin Bascom, 24, and McFoley’s girlfriend, Melissa Rios Roque, 21, for what police called a “cold-blooded execution,” according to a statement from the Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood.
“I can’t think of a more heinous, sickening act than what happened to Carlos,” Chitwood said. “This tragedy cost our community a good man who was loved by his family and respected by his neighbors.”
Cruz-Echevarria was found dead next to a stolen, disabled truck stranded in a grass median on Nov. 11, 2017, leading officials to believe he had offered help to his killer, according to police. His truck was later found burnt out in Apopka, a town on the outskirts of Orlando, police said.
What originally appeared to be a tragic, random act of violence, turned out to be the result of an earlier interaction between McFoley and Cruz-Echevarria, Chitwood said.
McFoley had been arrested May 2, 2017, in a road-rage incident after he flashed a gun at the older man in response to Cruz-Echevarria honking at him in traffic, Chitwood said. McFoley, a convicted felon who’s been charged with 29 felonies over the years and convicted three times, including for gun possession and armed robbery, faced serious prison time for the incident, and hired Bascom to do the hit ahead of a deposition scheduled for Dec. 7 of last year, police said.
"Somewhere along the line these three scumbags decide that Carlos has to die,” said Chitwood, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
After the murder, the road-rage charges against McFoley were eventually dropped, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
But McFoley and his alleged accomplices were not in the clear.
In the months following the shooting, investigators tracked the trio down using DNA from the stolen truck, which linked Bascom to the scene of the crime, and cellphone records putting Bascom in the area the evening of Nov. 11, along with phone calls between Bascom and McFoley, according to police.
Rios-Roque is accused of being an accomplice, but it was not immediately clear what her involvement entailed.
Police arrested Bascom at Orlando International Airport Wednesday as he was preparing to fly to Texas on a one-way ticket, according to Chitwood. United States Marshals tracked down McFoley while he was working with a moving company in Orlando, and police in Volusia County arrested Rios-Roque during a traffic stop, officials said.
All three suspects were ordered held without bail, and are in custody at Volusia County Jail, according to online court records.
The trio are charged with first-degree murder, records show, and Chitwood told Fox 35 Orlando that he will encourage prosecutors to pursue the death penalty, the news station reports.
Investigators added that they are looking into Bascom’s potential involvement in other acts of deadly violence in the area, but did not go into specifics, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
Contact information for defense attorneys for the suspects was not immediately available.
[Photo: Volusia County Sheriff's Office]