Sheriff: Drug suspect believed to have fatally shot family found along Florida Turnpike

Friday, October 27th 2006, 6:24 am
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ At least one of four federal drug suspects is believed to have shot to death a family found along Florida's Turnpike two weeks ago, the St. Lucie County sheriff said Friday.

Sheriff Ken Mascara would not say which of the suspects is believed to have shot the family. But he said it appeared those responsible for the killings were in custody.

No charges in the killings were immediately filed.

The suspects, Lianna Lopez, 18, of Greenacres, and West Palm Beach residents Daniel Troya, 23, Danny Varela, 26, and Ricardo Sanchez, 23, were arrested Wednesday on unrelated drug charges, but were now ``persons of interest'' in the killings, Mascara said.

Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Jeannette Moran said the four were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and were scheduled to make initial court appearances Friday. She did not have details of the allegations against them.

The bodies of Jose Luis Escobedo, 28, Yessica Guerrero Escobedo, 25, and the couple's sons, Luis Julian, 4, and Luis Damian, 3, were found Oct. 13 in a grassy area off the turnpike near Port St. Lucie, about 100 miles north of Miami.

Mascara said the investigation of the deaths quickly led them to believe it was a deliberate act on the family for drugs, money or both. He said Jose Luis Escobedo's brother was involved in a heroin distribution organization and is believed to be a fugitive in Mexico.

Investigators believe the family's Jeep was pulled to the side of the highway and that someone inside the vehicle shot the family and drove away. Authorities have said the victims appeared to be lying down or kneeling when they were shot.

The Jeep was found abandoned 70 miles south in West Palm Beach three days after the killings.

The family had moved to the Palm Beach County town of Greenacres in June from the Brownsville, Texas, area.

On Thursday, St. Lucie County authorities said they were looking for a 1999 red Dodge conversion van and its owner in connection with the killings, but they declined to give details of any possible link.