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The search for a missing Lyft driver took a disturbing turn when authorities said they found a murder suspect driving the missing man’s car.
“It’s tragic that we’re already investigating a homicide and even more tragic, tragic that we’re now trying to look for and find Mr. Levin,” Wauchula Police Chief John Eason said of the missing Gary Levin, 74, according to WPBF. “That’s the one side of this case that no agency ever wants to have that twist or turn in. But fortunately, at this point, Mr. Flores is in custody. He is not going to be getting out of jail any time soon.”
Police in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, have been looking for Levin, saying he has been unreachable since Monday. His car, a 2022 red Kia Stringer with a Florida tag 81ABTY, was spotted on Wednesday in Gainesville, Florida, authorities said on Thursday.
Levin’s last known location was dropping off a customer in Okeechobee, according to WPBF.
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It was during that time that police in Wauchula, Florida, were looking for Matthew Scott Flores. They believe he shot and killed Jose Carlos Martinez back on Jan. 24. He evaded law enforcement with help from Stefanie Velgara, who ended up being arrested as an accessory after the fact, authorities said.
The search for Flores ended up in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Deputies and their Wauchula police counterparts say that authorities chased him in a vehicle pursuit on Thursday.
“Flores was involved in a police chase that crossed three counties in North Carolina on February 2nd, 2023,” Wauchula investigators said. “Flores was taken into custody and was hospitalized after a crash that ended the pursuit along Main Street and Hollis Road in Ellenboro, North Carolina.”
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“The pursuit entered Rutherford County on U.S. Highway 64 and continued through the Bostic and Ellenboro areas,” Rutherford County deputies said. “The pursuit was terminated by utilizing a pursuit intervention technique. However, the suspect then led troopers and deputies on a short foot pursuit before being apprehended.”
They said he was taken to the hospital because he appeared impaired, and they suspected he used narcotics. Flores faces a slew of charges, including second-degree murder in Florida, but the chase started a new chapter in the search for Levin. Flores had been driving his car, said Eason.
“Then we get the call yesterday afternoon from Palm Beach Gardens Police that somehow there was a connection related between our investigation and Mr. Levin out of Palm Beach Gardens, who’d been reported missing, as you know, on the 30th,” the chief told the outlet.
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday that a man’s remains were found in their jurisdiction earlier that day.
“Positive identification of the person is pending autopsy,” they said.
When a commenter discussed news that this could be Levin, deputies said on Sunday that the medical examiner still had to release a report.
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It is unclear how Levin and Flores allegedly crossed paths.
“But as far as where that interaction came from, when Mr. Flores came into possession of Mr. Levin’s vehicle, from our standpoint, is unknown at this point,” Eason told the outlet.
Palm Beach Gardens police describe Levin as a white man, standing five feet, seven inches, and weighing 170 pounds.
“If you have information, contact Palm Beach Gardens Police at 561-799-4445,” they wrote.
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