Daytona Beach, FL -
Three people are now facing first-degree murder charges and the possibility of the death penalty for what Volusia County's Sheriff calls the "heinous" and "sickening" plot to kill a 60-year-old U.S. Army veteran last Veterans Day.
Mike Chitwood announced the arrests today (September 6th) of Benjamin Bascom, Kelsey McFoley
and Melissa Rios Roque (photo above this article)
, all of whom are accused of murdering Carlos Cruz-Echevarria (photo below this article)
as he helped them get a stuck vehicle free from a grassy ditch near his Deltona home.
"This is one of the most despicable, cowardly acts that I've ever witnessed," Chitwood added during today's press conference. "It's also probably one of the greatest pieces of police work that I've ever witnessed in my career that was done by these gentlemen standing behind me."
McFoley hired Bascom to kill Cruz-Echevarria so he couldn't testify in a road rage incident from May 2017, according to Captain Brian Henderson of VCSO's Major Case Unit.
"They were actually stalking [Cruz-Echevarria]," Henderson added. "They were there to murder him. It just so happens that they got stuck in the ditch. The kind-heartedness of our victim, [Cruz-Echevarria] stopped to help them and the stars aligned, unfortunately."
According to VCSO, McFoley pointed a gun at Cruz-Echevarria after Cruz-Echevarria honked at McFoley for not moving when a red light turned green at an intersection.
Per the incident report, McFoley chased Cruz-Echevarria down after he went around McFoley's vehicle, pulled the gun out of a glove box and pointed at him, at which point Cruz-Echevarria reported the incident to law enforcement.
"While McFoley was not immediately identified as the suspect, by the end of the month, a VCSO detective was able to determine he was the driver, and Cruz-Echevarria was able to identify his picture," stated VCSO spokesperson Andrew Gant.
As the December 2017 trial date for that incident came closer, that's when McFoley decided to hire Bascom to kill Cruz-Echevarria, with Rios-Roque - who is now pregnant with McFoley's child - helping to organize Bascom's getaway, according to Chitwood.
"This tragedy cost our community a good man who was loved by his family and respected by his neighbors," Chitwood noted. "I know that because I have heard about the kind of man he was. I also know what kind of man took him from his family: A pathetic coward who deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cage. My heart is with Carlos’ family and friends and everyone in the VCSO family who played a role in bringing these murderers to justice."
Deputies found Cruz-Echevarria's body near the disabled vehicle - which was later determined to be stolen - at the intersection of Malaga Avenue and Puritan Street. His truck was found torched in Apopka soon afterward.
Bascom's DNA was found in the disabled vehicle quickly, according to Gant, but it took much longer for VCSO to unravel the full extent of the plot.
"Bascom’s phone records provided detectives with a good investigative lead which made it clear that he was the one who pulled the trigger, killing Cruz-Echevarria," Gant noted. "Analysis of the records revealed evidence that on the day of the homicide, both Bascom and McFoley were talking on the phone with each other. Specifically, McFoley was giving Bascom instructions on how to carry out the murder."
Detectives then obtained more phone records for McFoley which implicated his girlfriend in the act, per Gant.
McFoley has an extensive criminal history which includes 29 previous felony charges with one conviction and nine previous misdemeanors with three convictions. That means he's looking at significant prison time if convicted in this case, but Chitwood said during the press conference that he'd like prosecutors to go for the death penalty if possible.
Bascom's arrest took place on Wednesday after police caught him at Orlando International Airport just before he boarded a flight to Texas. McFoley and Rios-Roque went into custody the day prior, with members of the U.S. Marshals arresting him while working for a moving company in Orlando and VCSO arresting her along Interstate 4.