Friday, February 15, 2008

More charges stem from PSL turnpike killings

By Derek Simmonsen

Friday, February 15, 2008

The two men accused of killing a family of four on Florida's Turnpike in Port St. Lucie were indicted on more charges Thursday — five that now carry the possibility of execution.

Ricardo Sanchez, 24, and Daniel Troya, 24, now face 11 federal charges, including four separate counts of using a firearm in a violent crime leading to death for the killings of Greenacres residents Jose Escobedo, his wife Yessica and their children, ages 3 and 4, on Oct. 13, 2006. Those charges each carry the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, as does another charge they face, armed carjacking.

Previously, Troya and Sanchez faced six and seven counts respectively, and only two carried the possibility of death.

The new indictment also says the men left the home of an unnamed co-conspirator on the day before the killings, called this person shortly after the family was slain, and then went back to the person's home afterwards. Though the name is not listed in the indictment, the person's identity was revealed to the grand jury, which was convened in West Palm Beach.

The U.S. Attorney General has the final decision on whether to seek death in the case, and no decision has been announced.

Charges are also still pending against two others named in the indictment, Daniel Varela and Liana Lopez, who were named "persons of interest" in the killings by the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. Neither has been charged in the killings, but they face drug and weapons charges in connection with a drug ring with ties to the Escobedo family.

Sheriff Ken Mascara has said Escobedo was the head of a large drug operation and Sanchez and Troya "killed their leader" when they shot him and his family to death.

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