DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said a nearly year-old killing, which originally looked like carjacking gone wrong, was a murder-for-hire to silence a witness.
Detectives announced the arrests Thursday of 24 year-old Benjamin Bascom, 28 year-old Kelsey McFoley, and 21 year-old Melissa Roque. All three are being connected with the shooting death of 60 year-old Carlos Cruz-Echevarria on November 11, 2017; the Army veteran was killed on Veterans Day.
That night, deputies found Cruz-Echevarria lying dead next to a stolen truck in a ditch along Malaga Ave in Deltona; very near his home. The Sheriff's Office said Cruz-Echevarria appeared to have stopped as a Good Samaritan and tried to help the driver of the stuck truck get out of the ditch when he was shot.
On Thursday they announced it was no random shooting though, and that they now believe the driver of the truck got stuck on his was to kill Cruz-Echevarria.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said on May 1, 2017 Cruz was involved in a road rage incident with McFoley.
"McFoley reaches into his glove box, pulls out a gun, and threatens to shoot Carlos," said Chitwood.
Detectives said McFoley was already a convicted felon so when he was arrested on assault charges he also faced serious prison time for possessing a gun, and Cruz-Echevarria's testimony would likely put him away. So the Sheriff believes McFoley hired out to have Cruz-Echevarria killed before the December trial date.
"Somewhere along the line these three scumbags decide that Carlos has to die," said Chitwood.
Detectives said phone records showed McFoley giving instructions to Bascom on how to carry out Cruz's murder the day of the shooting.
"Yes, mister Bascom was being paid to commit this murder," said Volusia County Captain Brian Henderson.
Henderson said the group had been stalking Cruz-Echevarria for months as the plan was formulated. On November 11, Henderson said Bascom came to Cruz-Echevarria's Deltona neighborhood again, in a stolen truck, and got stuck in a soft ditch while turning around. That night Cruz-Echevarria actually approached him, detectives said, and offered to help pull the truck free.
"And ultimately shoot him as he's actually bending down in the ditch to get this car out of the ditch," said Henderson.
Investigators said Roque assisted the duo that night and Bascom left the scene in Cruz-Echevarria's vehicle which was later discovered in Apopka. They said DNA in the stolen truck linked Bascom to the scene.
The Sheriff's Office said McFoley and Roque were arrested Tuesday while Bascom was arrested Wednesday at Orlando International Airport where he had a one-way ticket to Texas.
At the time of McFoley's arrest for the road rage case, deputies said he had 29 previous felony charges with one conviction and nine previous misdemeanors with three convictions. The previous charges included robbery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Chitwood said his department is encouraging prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in the case, and a prosecutor for the case Thursday said that would be looked at, though there is much investigation still ahead.
Investigators said that Bascom is also being looked at for possible links to several other deadly crimes in Orange County, though they couldn't go into specifics yet.
Cruz-Echevarria was a small business owner and brother-in-law to a Volusia County Sheriff's Office employee.