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Drug dealer on trial accused of paying hitman to kill Deltona veteran

News-Journal - 1/9/2019

Jan. 08--DAYTONA BEACH -- Instead of taking a deal which would have sent him to prison for three years in a road-rage case, investigators say a drug dealer paid a hit man $1,000 to kill a Deltona Army veteran, who was the victim and the only witness against him in the road rage case.

Kelsey McFoley, described by Volusia County sheriff's investigators as a heroin dealer, is accused of first-degree murder in the killing of Carlos Cruz-Echevarria on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2017.

The 60-year-old Cruz-Echevarria was gunned down by the hitman, Benjamin Jaquaric Antonio Bascom, 25, whose stolen car became stranded in a ditch while he stalked Cruz-Echevarria near his home, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Cruz-Echevarria was being a good Samaritan trying to help the stranded motorist and had no idea he was helping the man who had already decided to kill him, investigators said.

McFoley, 28, the accused hitman, Bascom, 25, and McFoley's girlfriend, Melissa Rios Roque 21, are all charged with first-degree murder in Cruz-Echevarria's killing. They all face life in prison if convicted.

Testimony began on Tuesday before Circuit Judge Matt Foxman at the S. James Foxman Justice Center in Daytona Beach.

McFoley had been offered three years in state prison on the road rage case in which he is accused of pointing a gun at Cruz-Echevarria and had faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted at trial.

But after Cruz-Echevarria was killed, McFoley demanded speedy trial and prosecutors were forced to drop the charge in the road rage case.

Only McFoley is on trial at this point.

Roque, who was pregnant at the time with McFoley's child, spotted Cruz-Echevarria working in his driveway and alerted the others. Bascom was the triggerman, shooting Cruz-Echevarria in the face, head and neck.

Cruz-Echevarria, a U.S. Army veteran, was killed at the intersection of Malaga Avenue and Puritan Street in Deltona, near his home. He was found dead near a disabled vehicle that was stuck in the grass along the road. He was also killed less than a month before he was scheduled to give a deposition in the road rage case.

The disabled vehicle at the scene was determined to be stolen out of Orange County, officials said. Cruz-Echevarria's truck was later found burned in south Apopka.

Based on the evidence available at the outset of the investigation, it initially appeared Cruz-Echevarria was shot and killed for his truck, according to sheriff's spokesman Andrew Gant, but detectives later learned that wasn't the case.

"I've been a cop for 32 years and this is one of the most heinous, despicable, cowardly acts that I've ever witnessed," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said when the suspects were arrested.

Bascom was linked to the disabled vehicle by DNA evidence, the Sheriff's Office said. Additionally, phone record data from two crime scenes -- the area of the shooting and from the area where the truck was found in Apopka -- also linked Bascom to the killing, investigators said.

Bascom spent days doing surveillance on Cruz-Echevarria and had planned to shoot and kill him, the Sheriff's Office said.

Roque, meanwhile, assisted Bascom during the planning stages and was called to the scene to help Bascom escape after he had killed the victim, according to the Sheriff's Office.

McFoley has 29 previous felony charges with one conviction and nine previous misdemeanors with three convictions, according to the Sheriff's Office.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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