O’Connor’s Pub and Package Store in the Sandalfoot Plaza, located well west of the city of Boca Raton has been a popular meeting place in that spot for more than a decade. For those who like smoking cigarettes with their drinks it’s a welcome retreat. Monday’s are college night/ladies night with live DJ’s spinning tunes on Friday and Saturday nights. Karaoke is offered every Wednesday and Sunday.
Many regulars will tell you that the food is good, with the kitchen open very late serving reasonably priced drinks making it their favorite local watering hole.
According to a review found on Yelp, it’s “a really popular pub for after party hours for anyone who wasn’t ready to call it quits”. But not all the reviews are so flattering, giving it a total overall 2 ½ star rating.
It was a typical hot South Florida summer night at closing time when all hell broke loose in the parking lot outside O’Connor’s. There were nearly two dozen patrons still milling about or heading for their vehicles when gunshots fragmented the early morning hours as many exited the pub. When the chaos calmed down to an eerie silence the bullet riddled body of Christo Maccius was lying on the ground.
Maccius was pronounced dead at the scene. Six of seven gunshots fired found their mark.
Three hours before the chaos erupted, Christo “Sto” Maccius was enjoying his evening out in the crowded bar when he noticed that someone he didn’t immediately seem to recognize appeared to be staring at him. The occurrence concerned him so much that he pointed out the man who kept looking at him to two of his friends who were both off-duty police officers. Both of the men had accompanied Christo to the pub for a night out. As the hours passed by the man who Maccius actually did know, and knew fairly well, blended into the crowd while Christo and his friends put the episode behind them and continued to enjoy their night out.
Maccius was known as a popular standout football player at West Boca Raton High School where he now occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. According to those who knew him, he was well-liked by everyone including his students.
At the time of the shooting a black pickup truck was seen fleeing the scene. Nobody attempted to pursue the apparent suspect at the time most likely due to everyone being overly intoxicated. The following month a man named Garry Pierre was arrested in Broward County.
The atmosphere in the parking lot before the shooting occurred at the pub which is located off State Road 7 just south of Palmetto Park Road was calm, and those who were leaving gathered in good spirits just before the terror began.
Oscar Montes of Coral Springs, who was at the locale with his cousin at the time of the shooting, witnessed the pandemonium begin and was quoted as saying “I heard about five, six shots… People started running and yelling. I heard someone yell, ‘My younger brother got shot.’ My first instinct was to hide behind the wall. I wasn’t trying to get hurt.”
“It was calm,” Montes said. “This had nothing to do with O’Connor’s.”
Montes then described a dark car or truck speeding off. He went on to say “Before that, the mood inside O’Connor’s was mellow.
According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, it appeared that Maccius, who was 25 at the time of his death, and Pierre did know each other.
Another witness, who spoke to a reporter covering the homicide, said “the shooter and Maccius had a beef dating back four years and explained that the gunman waited three hours for Maccius to leave O’Connor’s… then he put about six or seven shots in him”.
No arrest had been made as of the following day and the sheriff’s office searched the area around the plaza during the day looking for evidence, while investigators from the office’s Violent Crimes Division simultaneously worked the scene of the shooting.
Later that morning nobody inside O’Connor’s that was still sparsely filled with customers at 8:30 a.m. would speak with reporters. One man, identified as a member of the bar’s staff asked a reporter to leave the property.
When questioned by another reporter from a local news source a bartender said “We don’t know what happened”.
It wasn’t long ago that the Sandalfoot Plaza was considered to be a safe suburban section of town. But lately, at least according to some people who work in the area it appears to have suffered decline.
Alan Bernstein, who is the assistant manager of Tire Choice on State Road 7 not far from O’Connor’s told reporters that at least two people have been found dead nearby over recent years.
A pharmacist named Susan Roberts was found dead in her car by the Watergate Mobile Home Park which is just south of O’Connor’s, and Antonio Caceres was stabbed to death in nearby Sandalfoot Cove. Whoever killed Roberts is still at large, and the disposition of the Caceres case was unknown at the time of the latest incident.
Bernstein owns a licensed gun and told reporters he was thinking of bringing his weapon with him to work which is something he never thought about until recently. “I’d keep it in my car,” he said. “I’m concerned… This is not the greatest area,” the suburban Boca resident said. “I’d love to move, but I can’t afford to.”
Another West Boca Raton resident, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, said “crime has become more common in the area along State Road 7 between Palmetto Park Road and the Broward County border”. He described how his tools and two trailers were recently stolen and also mentioned that prostitutes have approached Tire Choice’s customers.
Others had the opposite to say about the neighborhood and said the fatal shooting surprised them.
Andre Carniro, who lives about eight blocks from the Plaza, said “I’ve never seen this before… It’s usually quiet and people mind their own business.”
Tips and clues on different social media platforms helped detectives connect Pierre to the murder. A pair of blood-stained boots found inside his residence led to his arrest.
Last month at trial it was illustrated by the prosecutor that Maccius intervened in a fight between a friend of his and Pierre months before at the same venue. She went on to tell the jury that Pierre was the man inside the bar that was glaring at Maccius before he ambushed him as he stepped out of the bar as the fatal shots were fired, telling the jury that Pierre did not forget the prior exchange and also had previous run-ins with Maccius.
In the trial that concluded at the end of last month the prosecutor told the jury during opening arguments that Pierre laid in wait for Pierre to exit the bar for hours. In her opening statement she expressed that “Maccius was executed. More than one witness would testify that they saw Pierre “pull the trigger. Not once, not twice, but seven times. Six of those shots went into Mr. Maccius’ body.”
The jury also was shown the security video which clearly showed a shooting took place but the defense argued that the quality of the recording was too blurry to render a positive identification.
The defense relied on three major points of contention.
First it was basically stipulated that all of the witnesses and others in proximity to the shooting were highly inebriated after a night of heavy drinking. It was also emphasized by the defense that on more than one occasion witnesses picked out the wrong person’s images from provided photo arrays. They also went on to tell the jury that Pierre was in fact in the bar before the shooting took place but he’d left and went to another club much earlier than when the shooting occurred.
But the strongest evidence the prosecution was able to present was a jailhouse confession which was given by a cellmate who coincidentally knew both Maccius and Pierre for a long time.
The testimony of Dillon Krosecky, who during the time Pierre was awaiting his trial shared a cell with him at the Palm Beach County Jail’s medical unit in November, 2016 seemed to slam the door on any argument the defense could bring forward if the jury believed him.
Krosecky testified that he wasn’t aware of Maccius’ murder before Pierre confessed to him that he was responsible for his death. Krosecky had been incarcerated since the time of his own arrest in June 2016. He was being held on armed burglary and aggravated battery charges at the time. Krosecky has been convicted for both charges since and is now serving a 10-year sentence.
Krosecky testified in court that Pierre admitted to “staking out” the bar’s parking lot and “waiting a long time” before unloading his weapon at Maccius when he left O’Connor’s. He went on to say that Pierre told him that he was getting revenge for a previous fight which Maccius had intervened.
“He said that Pierre told him he found the perfect opportunity to get the last laugh”. “He was kind of bragging about it,” Krosecky said “He sounded proud about it.”
As would be expected, the defense pressed Krosecky if he was testifying in the hopes that his sentence would be reduced. But Krosecky balked at the allegation and countered the defense attorney by saying he was offered nothing by prosecutors and was testifying only because he wanted “justice for Christo… He was a good person,” Krosecky said. “He didn’t deserve it.”
The prosecution also revealed to the jury Pierre’s previous criminal record. He had 14 previous arrests with convictions for possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, evidence tampering, resisting arrest, distributing cocaine and possession of cocaine. Although these charges and convictions didn’t rise to the level of murder it became another apparent nail in his coffin.
It took less than one full day for jurors to unanimously convict Gary Pierre of first-degree murder with a firearm. Shortly after the verdict was read the City Court Judge presiding over the case sentenced Pierre to life in prison without parole.
Pierre and his attorney indicated they would appeal the ruling.
Michael B. Cohen is a Fort Lauderdale based Criminal Defense Attorney specializing in the defense of Homicides and all related cases.