Sometimes, the stars just align and in the case of the following story, they did. What looked like a random and senseless killing to investigations turned out to be a cold and calculated murder that was planned months before it happened.
But after a year-long investigation that centered on the use of technology as an investigative tool, justice was finally served. Here’s what happened and why the victim was a target in the first place.
When Carlos Cruz-Echevarria saw a stranded driver near his home in Daytona Beach, he immediately went over to help. Cruz-Echevarria, 60, was a hard-working, self-made man who was loved by everyone that knew him. His genuine heart led him to help the driver in need, but he had no idea it would be the last good deed he ever did.
Helping A Stranger
After bending down to assist the man, Cruz-Echevarria was shot multiple times in the head and his car was torched and found miles away. Police assumed it was a senseless and random killing, but after an investigation that lasted one year, they discovered it was not that at all. Apparently, the killing was set in motion more than six months earlier.
Waving a Gun
According to The Washington Post, in May 2017, Cruz-Echevarria honked his horn at the car in front of him, at it stood stationary at a green light. The other driver, Kelsey McFoley, 28, pulled up beside Cruz-Echevarria at the intersection and waved a gun at him. Cruz-Echevarria managed to write down the car’s license plate number and he was able to pick McFoley out of a lineup later on.
Sheriff Michael Chitwood from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department said that McFoley was a “thug of thugs” with a lengthy criminal record that showed his capacity for violence. After his road-rage incident, McFoley was charged with aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. It was all thanks to Cruz-Echevarria.
McFoley was then scheduled to go to trial in December 2017, but to avoid going back to prison, he hired a team of people to take Cruz-Echevarria out. He enlisted the help of other felons on the outside and communicated with them through phone calls that he made in prison. That’s where a man named Benjamin Bascom came in.
Captain Brian Henderson said that Bascom, 24, had a reputation as a killer. Investigators have also tied him to open murder cases in Orange County, Florida, where Bascom and McFoley were known as “criminal associates.” McFoley reportedly reached out to Bascom over the phone and offered him money to take out Cruz-Echevarria to prevent him from testifying.
Planning The Murder
Over the next few weeks, McFoley and Bascom worked together in coming up with a plan and they enlisted a woman, 21-year-old Melissa Rios-Roque to help. Investigators believe that she is pregnant with McFoley’s child, so it makes sense why he felt she was a reliable source. The trio plotted to kill the army veteran and Rios-Roque’s job was to help stalk him.
Conspiring to Kill
She would also be responsible for helping Bascom escape once Cruz-Echevarria was dead. McFoley got Cruz-Echevarria’s home address from court documents obtained during his road-rage case. Then, the suspects bought a stolen car and began stalking Cruz-Echevarria by driving past him home and staking out the area in Daytona Beach.
According to Henderson, on the night of the murder, Bascom drove the stolen car to Cruz-Echevarria’s house, only to learn that he wasn’t home. Bascom decided to wait for Cruz-Echevarria to get home and as he tried to turn around, his truck became stuck in a muddy ditch.
Then, a passing driver saw Bascom was in need of help and as the man got out of his car, Bascom recognized him as Cruz-Echevarria. As he bent down to inspect the truck, Bascom shot him multiple times in the head. “The stars aligned, unfortunately,” Sheriff Chitwood said in a news conference. “He didn’t even see it coming.”
One Year Later
But why did it take authorities so long to put the pieces together? The answer to this is unknown but as they dug further into the investigation, that’s when they discovered the phone records that McFoley made while in prison. At first, McFoley’s plan worked. The charges against him were dropped and for months, it seemed like there would be no justice in Cruz-Echevarria’s murder.
$10,000 Cash Reward
Investigators even offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s capture and then DNA evidence tied the stolen car and Cruz-Echevarria’s car to Boscom. However, Henderson said that the real “smoking gun” in the case came from the phone records.
Phone Record Data
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office wrote on their Facebook page, “The leads pursued by detectives were numerous, but some of the most crucial evidence turned out to be phone record data from the area of the shooting and the area where the truck was found in Apopka. Bascom’s phone records provided detectives with a good investigative lead which made it clear that he was the one who pulled the trigger.”
Analyzing The Phone Records
Then, “analysis of the records revealed evidence that on the day of the homicide, both Bascom and McFoley were talking on the phone with each other. Specifically, McFoley was giving Bascom instructions on how to carry out the murder. Detectives then obtained phone records for McFoley which implicated his girlfriend, Rios-Roque, when the two of them spoke about the execution and planning to pick up Bascom after the shooting.”
Finding The Co-Conspirators
After learning who Cruz-Echevarria’s killers were, all three of the alleged co-conspirators were arrested in different parts of the state. At first, Bascom tried to flee and he bought a one-way ticket to Texas and was going through airport security at Orlando International Airport when he was arrested.
Then, U.S. Marshals got McFoley in Orlando, when he was released from jail after Cruz-Echevarria was murdered and he wasn’t able to testify. As far as for Roque, she was caught by detectives on a Florida interstate. But their punishment may not end with just locking them up in prison.
Considering The Death Penalty
According to Assistant State Attorney Ryan Will, prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty for the three people charged in Cruz-Echevarria’s death. In the next 30 days, prosecutors will talk with the victim’s family and see what their wishes are moving forward. Then, prosecutors will determine if the death penalty is the best option.
However, for now, capital punishment is a possibility according to Will. Being that Cruz-Echevarria was so beloved by his family, friends, and neighbors, the community has been “brought to its knees” in the wake of the tragedy. Sheriff Chitwood even says he hopes that the defendants get the death penalty as he stresses that Cruz-Echevarria did not deserve to die.
Losing A Good Man
“This tragedy cost our community a good man who was loved by his family and respected by his neighbors. I know that because I have heard about the kind of man he was. I also know what kind of man took him from his family: A pathetic coward who deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cage,” Sheriff Chitwood said.
Someone Will Pay The Price
He continued saying that “this is one of the most heinous, despicable, cowardly acts that I’ve ever witnessed. Somebody’s gonna pay the ultimate price. … A road rage incident where a man does what he’s supposed to do: notify the police, cooperate with the system, and his thanks was to end up with multiple bullets in his head.”