Drug suspects tied to Florida turnpike killings

/ Source: The Associated Press

Four suspects being held on federal drug charges were “persons of interest” in the slayings of a family found along Florida’s Turnpike two weeks ago, the St. Lucie County sheriff said Friday.

The suspects were arrested earlier this week on drug charges unrelated to the shooting deaths of Jose Luis Escobedo, 28, Yessica Guerrero Escobedo, 25, and the couple’s sons, Luis Julian, 4, and Luis Damian, 3, Sheriff Ken Mascara told reporters.

He identified the drug suspects as Lianna Lopez, 18, of Greenacres, and West Palm Beach residents Daniel Troya, 23, Danny Varela, 26, and Ricardo Sanchez, 23. They had not been charged in the killings, he said.

The family’s bodies were found Oct. 13 in a grassy area off the turnpike near Port St. Lucie, about 100 miles north of Miami. No motive has been revealed.

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.