Articles Posted in Murder

In last month’s blog post, I began the story of Dalia Dippolito, a Boynton Beach woman who was convicted of the attempted contract killing of her husband, and then sentenced to twenty years in prison for the charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder with a firearm in 2011.

The incident was initiated after Boynton Beach Police were tipped off that Mrs. Dippolito was looking for someone to kill her husband Michael.

Mrs. Dippolito’s solicitation was offered to a person who turned out to be an undercover police officer, posing as a hitman who she paid $7000 to commit the crime.

The scene opened with a text placard reading:

Contract Killing

It then fades out to a passage showing the entrance of the Boynton Beach Police Department where the narration by a detective begins as follows:

“We received a call that was transferred into our detective bureau related to a woman who wanted to hire a hitman to kill her husband”.

This article is about the case of a Clearwater High School teacher named Cara Ryan who admitted to the shooting death of her ex-husband, John Rush, a retired Sergeant for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

You can find the lead-in to this blog post on my Website by clicking here

Ms. Ryan was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in March, 2015. Investigators didn’t believe that Ryan lured Rush to the apartment with the intent to kill him.

Her bail was originally set at $500,000 but was cut in half by the same Circuit Court Judge a few days later.

The judge stated that although the evidence against Ms. Ryan was “pretty significant,” her family ties in the area made her a low flight risk. She was released on bail the following morning, about a week after her initial arrest.

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If you or someone close to you is accused of any type of the many serious types of charges associated with a homicide it is essential to consult with knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who specializes in these types of cases at the earliest possible time before or after charges are filed.

Although innocent until proven guilty, it is conclusive by his own statements to detectives that Andres Diaz shot and killed Ricky Iglesias during an incident of road rage which occurred on a street in Southwest Miami in the twilight hours late last month. The single gunshot wound to Iglesias’ chest ultimately led to his death.

A conviction for a second degree murder charge tried as a first degree felony can lead to a sentence of up to not less than 25 years in prison. The prosecution may also request a lengthier sentence depending on the circumstances, including life in prison.

In November of last year, a jury found Rafael Andres guilty of the first-degree murder of Ivette Fariñas, a waitress who worked at Miami International Airport. He was also found guilty of first-degree arson for the fire he set in her home in his attempt to destroy the evidence of the crime he committed, as well as robbery with a weapon, and burglary with battery.

The evidence against the handyman was damning to say the least. Moments before the victim’s home went up in flames a neighbor identified him fleeing from the premises with a gas can in his possession. Secondly, a washcloth, covered with blood that contained DNA that matched his was found in close proximity to the body, not destroyed by the fire. It was also discovered that after the time of Fariña’s death, Andres used her debit card to make cash withdrawals from an ATM, make purchases at a Home Depot, fill up his car with gasoline, and book a room at the Miccosukee Resort and Casino.

This also was not the first time that Andres was found guilty for a homicide charge.

Almost thirty years ago he was convicted for the fatal beating and stabbing death of Linda Azcarreta who was an apparent friend of his at the time of the homicide. Azcarreta’s son Rene, who was seven years old at the time of the crime, found his mother’s body in their Miami home. Now, thirty-five years old he was present at the sentencing for Andres’ current crime and broke down when the details of his mother’s murder were discussed during trial. He was comforted by Luisa Moya, the 63 year old mother of Andres’ latest victim.

However, Andres who agreed to a plea agreement of nine years for the first homicide only served eighteen months in prison for that crime based on good behavior as well as the then-overcrowded prison system.

After hearing all the evidence against Andres in the primary trial for the killing of Fariñas, it took the jury approximately nine hours of deliberations to return a verdict of guilty of all charges listed in the criminal complaint against him.

A month later, during the penalty phase, the jury recommended that Andres be put to death by a vote of 9-3. Florida is the only state in the nation where only a simple majority is required for a sentence of death to be instituted. Early last month, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dava Tunis affirmed a resounding confirmation by formally sentencing Andres to death fulfilling the wishes of the majority of jurors.

She spoke directly to Andres as she handed down his sentence stating “As you tightened the cord around her neck, she was alive. She was losing her ability to breath. Duct tape was tightened around her nostrils while you deliberately, atrociously and cruelly tightened that cord around her neck.”

This story was first reported on my Google+ page on May 6, 2015. To read my post along with the corresponding newspaper article associated to it click here and scroll down to the matching date.

Although Andres will be jailed directly, it will likely take many years before he faces the ultimate legal penalty. The last person to be executed in Florida for a capital crime was Johnny Shane Kormondy, who was convicted as the leader of a home invasion robbery where a banker from the Florida panhandle was murdered and his wife was raped in July, 1993. He was sentenced eleven months later. From the commencement of his incarceration he filed numerous appeals through his attorneys’ including a last minute appeal that delayed his execution by nearly two hours but was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court. He was executed on January 15, 2015, more than twenty years after his sentence was imposed.

At the time of the writing of this blog post, twenty two persons have been executed in the State of Florida during the twenty-first century. The next person in line for execution is Jerry William Correll. Correll was sentenced to death nearly thirty years ago for the murders of his ex-wife, her mother and sister, as well as his daughter in a brutal stabbing frenzy. However, in this case, the execution has been stayed pending a US Supreme Court decision which will hear a case involving lethal injection protocol due to a botched execution in Oklahoma. The Florida Supreme Court said it “must err on the side of extreme caution” and decided to stay the execution until the opinion of the highest court is decided since Florida uses the same method.

To read further about capital crimes, visit this page on my Website. The definition as well as an explanation of the two-phase process can be found along with my personal experience and the history of capital punishment accessible by the link at the bottom of the page.

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When police responded to a 911 call made by an agitated North Miami woman whose husband was murdered while playing with the couple’s 20 month old son the previous month, they found the bullet riddled body of Ilam Nissim who had been shot numerous times by the 911 caller, Janepsy Mesa Carballo.

Carballo, 35, first called police emergency to report a battery, but called again a short time later telling the dispatcher that she shot an intruder.

When police arrived at the scene, she told them that she was in the process of transporting furniture out of her home located on NW 12 Avenue in North Miami, while packing to move. When she went back into the house to get more items she found Nissim suddenly appearing in a hallway. She went on to say that Nissim grabbed her by her blouse; ripping it, and demanded to know the whereabouts of a warehouse where her late husband stored his possessions. She explained to police that she then watched him turn his head and body in a threatening manner, leading her to believe that he was reaching for a gun. Believing her life to be in danger, she ran into a room of the house to retrieve a gun of her own and shot him six times. She went on to say that she feared for her safety and the welfare of her son, believing Nissim had intentions of harming them.

Fred Topous Jr. is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 1999 to the charge of assault with intent to penetrate a thirteen year old minor female who just happened to be his boss’s daughter. He can easily be labelled a career criminal as his records show that he’s either been imprisoned or on parole for all of but three years between the years of 1984 and 2006 for three individual criminal convictions.

But after his release from prison in 2006, Topous hit the lottery… I mean he literally hit the lottery!

In 2008, Topous picked the six winning numbers in Michigan’s $57 million State Lottery. The proceeds netted him a whopping thirty-four million dollars in a one-time lump sum payout.

In some cases, ex-convicts’ who have significant amounts of money or receive windfalls after their release have been ordered to give a substantial amount to the state to cover the expense of their upkeep for the period of time they were incarcerated. But in Topous’s case, the attorney general’s office didn’t pursue any economic payback. So to sum it up Topous got to keep the full payout, his debt to society already paid in full.

But this article isn’t about Fred Topous Jr., not directly at least. This is a story about Murder for Hire.

In late 2009, Topous began a business venture with a well-known area lawyer named Clarence K. Gomery. Together they purchased what was originally a golf course and redeveloped the property into Northern Meadows, a wedding and banquet facility by way of the newly formed company. T&G Real Estate Development LLC that Gomery setup. Before going into private practice Gomery held the positions as an Assistant County Prosecutor as well as County Prosecutor in two separate jurisdictions.

The purchase was made for $500,000 of which Gomery didn’t contribute any funds. However, Gomery had Topous sign a document which was subsequently altered (as decided in a civil suit judgment) to indicate Gomery as fifty percent partner on the property deal. Gomery’s law firm Gomery and Associates, also handed Topous a bill for legal services rendered in the amount of $25,000 which Topous paid. Topous charged that he paid approximately $500,000 and didn’t receive accounting of the purchase of the property. During the course of its operation, T&G Real Estate Development LLC only received one payment of $1500 from Northern Meadows.

Hence, Topous sued Gomery in the 13th Circuit Court on the grounds that he had made several demands requesting the operating accounting and the agreement but received no satisfaction. He hired Chris Cooke to act as his attorney in the case.
According to court documents Gomery had primarily refused to produce any books, records, or accountings. Attorney Cooke charged that Gomery “induced” his client to invest funds in the new business and then “used the business to host weddings for family members at Plaintiff’s expense.” According to court documents the attorney also accused Gomery of “fraudulently editing the operating agreement giving him fifty percent ownership and fifty percent interest in the property with no monetary investment on his own part.” He also claimed that Gomery named Topous as the responsible party for property taxes associated with the property owned by the newly formed LLC.

Last May a jury established that Gomery did indeed induce Mr. Topous into the agreement by violating ethical rules as well as committing malpractice and fraud by altering the operating documents at the same time he collected $25,000 from his new business partner under the pretext of settling a lawsuit which threatened Topous’ brother, Jeff, by making it “go away.”

The jury awarded the property to Topous in full with exception of $13,000 which went to improvements made by Gomery before the lawsuit was filed. Besides losing the property Gomery was ordered to pay Topous $314,000 to cover court costs and attorney’s fees. Additionally, Judge Thomas Power issued a sanctions order against Gomery in November. The following April, Gomery filed for bankruptcy placing his payment obligation on hold. Topous then opposed the stay of debtor payments.

It is not clear exactly when and the reasoning behind it, but at some point Gomery came to the conclusion of having Mr. Topous’s lawyer killed. But it’s easy to speculate that perhaps he felt the lawyer did too good a job which ultimately caused him to wind up in his current dilemma.

But Dale Fisher, the man that Gomery allegedly hired to kill the lawyer said “That he [Gomery] had just lost so much money in the lawsuits and that he was interfering in his bankruptcy and it was destroying his life… It was destroying his wife, his family.”

Gomery knew Fisher when he hired him to do some work at his home and arranged a meet in his office to discuss his “detailed plan”. But what Gomery didn’t count on was that Dale Fisher was a man with a conscience.

Fisher agreed to meet in Gomery’s office on several occasions and then alerted police to Gomery’s plan which would be carried out using him as the instrument. He also told police that he was paid $1000 to purchase a rifle with a payment of $20,000.00 pledged to be paid after the deed was done. In a later interview, Fisher was quoted as saying “I couldn’t fathom why somebody would choose me to commit such a heinous crime.”

Fisher also alerted Cooke to the threat who was stunned at the revelation. He later said that he “went to the authorities and they acted expeditiously to analyze the threat.”

Upon learning of the plot, police had Fisher meet with Gomery at his home while wearing a listening device. They heard Gomery and Fisher discuss the type of weapon that was to be bought and where it was to be purchased, how the murder would go down and where and when it would happen.

Gomery was arrested in mid-July after detectives tracked him down at his daughter’s home; but not until after a drawn out drama and negotiation with police transpired. Police units from five different departments arrived at the scene to assist with the arrest. He was first contacted by police in mid-evening on the evening before his eventual arrest. When a detective first contacted him he allegedly told him that police would need to prepare to “dig in… it was going to be a long night.” After that first exchange, police surrounded his daughter’s house and decided to just wait it out, instead of breaching the home to take him into custody; avoiding an unpleasant and possibly dangerous confrontation.

At approximately 9:30pm, one of the detectives made contact with the suspect by phone and told him they were waiting for him at his own home. He asked him to go there as an arrest warrant had been issued. The detective explained that Gomery told him that he wasn’t prepared to do that “due to the fact that he does not want to sit in jail overnight.” Afterward, Gomery turned off his cell phone while police continued their surveillance and established a perimeter around the home. Attempts by a detective to contact him by way of a bullhorn from the driveway of the house were unsuccessful as Gomery stayed put.

At approximately 4:00am that following morning, police noticed lights being turned on in the house. Not long after that, Gomery’s wife exited the house and entered an SUV in the driveway. She was immediately stopped by police while in a separate SUV, Gomery’s daughter and her passenger being the suspect attempted to leave. When stopped by police his daughter told them they were preparing to drive to the County Jail where her father intended to turn himself in. Gomery was then taken into custody.

He is now facing the felony of soliciting murder. Because the crime involved the carrying of a weapon with unlawful intent he will also face a separate charge of solicitation of a felony.

After his arraignment by a District Court Judge he was remanded to the County Jail on a $5 million cash surety bond.

Two days after his arrest Gomery answered a motion that was filed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to dismiss the case.

In District Courtroom testimony Fisher affirmed that there was a plan in place, devised by Gomery to kill Cooke using him as the assassin along with the specifics of the plot and the amount to be paid.

The case continues… Check back here for updates as it moves toward its conclusion.

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It was more than twenty years ago when Lynne Friend went to meet her estranged husband to pick up a check that was due for child support. After that evening, the then thirty-five year old Lynne Friend vanished.

For eighteen of those twenty years, her ex-husband, Clifford Friend lived his life as a free man and continued with his life. He remarried in 1995 and together with his new wife they raised his son Christian the product of his first marriage. He opened a pawn shop and the couple bought a home in Pembroke Pines. Although he was the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, charges against him were never filed.

But in March of 2012, a Grand Jury indicted Friend for the charge of first degree murder in his wife’s death. Over the years, the case had gone before Grand Juries three previous times but it wasn’t until the latest review that an Indictment was returned.

Back then, after making his first appearance before a Miami-Dade judge, the Lighthouse Point man was denied bail. At the time, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office introduced new evidence that apparently made the difference although Lynne’s body was never found.

Investigators asserted that they had new evidence that was gathered during the course of their investigation stating that they had confirmation of Mr. Friend and Alan Gold (one of his former friends) throwing an oversized bundle from Gold’s boat that was drifting off the coast of Miami Beach in the area of Government Cut. The information was provided by U.S. Customs officials who told investigators that they witnessed the act on the last night Lynne Friend was seen, approximately one hour after Friend spoke with his wife about picking up the payment.

The boat was later searched revealing a quantity of light gauge rope and two cement blocks. However, in spite of a considerable search of the area, no human remains or evidence of a large package or container of any type was ever found in the water or neighboring area.

The prosecution’s case hinged on Gold’s testimony who until recently remained silent. He was offered immunity in the case in exchange for becoming a witness against his former friend. He stated that he promised Mr. Friend that he would never reveal the episode that transpired that night and had no intentions of doing so. But his fear of being prosecuted as an accessory to the crime caused him to accept the immunity deal. At trial, in his own words when he was asked why he decided to testify he told the prosecutor: “Only because you put me in a box and I don’t have any choice.”

Prior to making that statement, during questioning the prosecutor asked Gold if he helped Friend on the night in question by throwing a parcel off a boat into the water. His answer was in the affirmative. The prosecutor’s then asked if he suspected what was in the bag that was thrown overboard to which he responded definitively and without hesitation “His wife, Lynne.”

During further questioning Gold stated that Friend told him that he strangled his ex-wife during a heated argument and he only agreed to help his friend get rid of his ex-wife’s body to keep him from getting arrested and sent to jail leaving their son, Christian without either parent. His son Christian was five years old at the time of his mother’s presumed murder. Gold went on to say “I basically didn’t want to see the kid fatherless.”

Friend had previously lost a long bitter custody battle and his ex-wife was preparing to leave the state with their son. This apparently infuriated Friend.

The two week long first-degree murder trial that concluded in July resulted with the jury deliberating for five hours before returning a verdict of guilty of the lesser charge of second degree murder.

Before the sentence of life in prison was announced last month, Friend’s current wife Janet told the judge that her husband was a good man. “His smile, his guidance and his presence as a father will be missed. I’m requesting you to consider that he had no criminal history and was an outstanding citizen, phenomenal father and wonderful husband.” The couple had been married for nineteen years.

His son Christian, now twenty-five also stood by his father saying that his father was innocent of the crime. “He raised us to know the difference between right and wrong. I know he loved me. He loved too much to hurt me by taking my mother from me. After sitting here for weeks, I have never been more sure of his innocence.”

But Lynn Friend’s former fiancé, Ed O’Dell had a completely opposite viewpoint. After the sentence was imposed he told reporters that he though Friend should have received the death penalty.

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Cesar Limas made his living by selling cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Yet he became the prosecutor’s key witness in a first degree murder trial that led to fourteen months of jail time for Carlos Hiracheta Perez, 29, of Dade City pending trial.

Limas told police that he and another man wrestled a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol away from Perez outside an abandoned house in Dade City after two shots were fired inside the house.

Within the residence lay the motionless body of Arturo Escamilla. Limas told Sheriff’s deputies that after he grabbed the gun away from Perez, the suspect ran from the scene. Perez was apprehended afterward, and detained by Dade City police officers. He was later charged with attempted first degree murder and held without bail at the Pasco County Jail. The charges were elevated to first degree murder when Escamilla died the following day at Bayonet Point Hospital as a result of his injuries that took place in mid-May of last year.

Based on the arrest affidavit, Perez got into an argument with Escamilla inside the house leading prosecutors to contend that Perez was the person who gravely injured Escamilla when he shot him twice in the head.

However, at trial, the advocate for Perez placed doubt on Mr. Limas’s testimony pointing out contradictions in his original statement to police, as well as a lack of any evidence directly attributing Perez to being the shooter.

The assistant public defender argued that at the time of the shooting there were five men inside the abandoned house including Perez and Limas. Perez maintained that he was sleeping on a couch and ran when two gunshots rang out, believing he was running for his life. After Perez sprinted out of the house first, four more men followed and hopped into a vehicle and raced away. This was corroborated by neighbors who witnessed the events unfold. This contradicted Limas’s original statement to police that he and another man disarmed Perez.

A photograph of Limas was also revealed in possession of a .45-caliber handgun that was taken a few days prior to the shooting which more than likely could have been the gun that killed Escamilla. Additionally, members of Escamilla’s family stated that he never had any problems with Perez, but often had battles and heated disagreements with all of the other men in the group who all rushed out of the previously vacated dwelling after the shots were fired, including the prosecution’s central witness.

Perez’s court appointed attorney described to jurors that based on the presentation of the prosecution’s case it appeared they had more evidence against their star witness than they did against his client, and placed doubt in their minds by establishing that any of the other four men could have been the actual trigger-man.
The jury’s deliberations took a little more than an hour when they returned to their seats with a unanimous verdict. Judge Pat Siracusa cautioned Perez and his family to remain passive and quiet regardless of what the results were prior to the reading of the verdict. And they did as instructed, because the silence was deafening when it was revealed that the finding of all jury members was not guilty.

When the outcome of the verdict became apparent to Perez’s mother, with the speaker of her cellphone activated she was overheard excitedly repeating the word “libre”. Translated from Spanish, the word libre simply means “free”.

She next saw her son walking down the corridor that led out of the courthouse, exiting through the sliding glass doors into the lobby where she, his sister and niece came together around him in a mutual hug ending Carlos’s fourteen month ordeal this past July.

In Pasco County, a not guilty outcome in a first degree murder case is uncommon. It had been almost four years since it previously occurred when Anthony Harris was exonerated for the first degree murder charge of killing a drug dealer in 2010.<!–

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Otto Wright’s first trial for felony first-degree murder ended in a mistrial when a jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision. But his second trial ended with a guilty verdict when the previously self-proclaimed “look out” admitted that he participated in the robbery of a West Palm Beach Chick-Fil-A restaurant.

Nicholas Megrath, the 18-year old manager of the restaurant that was located at the now non-operational West Palm Beach Mall was shot and killed by one of the other culprits. But Wright’s taped confession stated that although he watched the robbery unfold and was a part of it he didn’t fire the fatal gunshot. There was no physical evidence placing him at the scene but after a seven hour interrogation by police Wright confessed to the robbery naming two of his accomplices as Terrance Watson and Darrell Howard. Watson and Howard were never accused by police or charged with the crime. A little more than five-hundred dollars in total was stolen from the store.

Wright’s lawyer argued that the confession obtained by police was given under duress and they manipulated his client by lying to him when they told him that they had physical evidence implicating him which was found at the crime scene. They also played a good cop, bad cop routine by utilizing the help of an officer who knew Wright for many years and had previously assumed the role of a father figure to him in order to a coerce Wright into confessing to his role in the robbery.

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