DELTONA, Fla. – The killing of Carlos Cruz-Echevarria, a 60-year-old Army veteran, seemed random at first. But authorities now say it was all too deliberate.
The body of Cruz-Echevarria was found Nov. 11—Veterans Day—near a disabled, stolen car on the side of a Deltona, Fla., road, the Orlando Sentinel reports. He had been shot in the head multiple times. His own truck was gone, later discovered burned some 30 miles away.
This week, authorities arrested three suspects in the killing, which they now believe is connected to a murder-for-hire plot hatched to keep Cruz-Echevarria from testifying in a road rage case. Six months before he was murdered, Cruz-Echevarria honked at a vehicle that didn’t move when a traffic signal turned green. The driver of the other car—later identified as Kelsey Terrance McFoley, 28—caught up with Cruz-Echevarria and brandished a gun.
Cruz-Echevarria got McFoley’s license plate number and later identified him in a police photo lineup. With a record that included 29 felony charges, per the AP, McFoley was facing serious prison time. He discovered Cruz-Echevarria’s address on a court document and, authorities say, hired Benjamin Bascom, 24, to kill the man before his Dec. 7 deposition.
Driving around the area near Cruz-Echevarria’s home, authorities say, Bascom’s vehicle got stuck in a ditch. Cruz-Echevarria pulled up to help, and Bascom shot him in the head.
The case went unsolved for months, and the road rage charges against McFoley were dropped. Later, though, investigators used DNA evidence and phone records to link McFoley, Bascom, and McFoley’s girlfriend, Melissa Rios Roque, to the slaying of Cruz-Echevarria.
All three face first-degree murder charges.