The Florida Keys, haunted dots of green floating in the Atlantic, have long attracted despondent souls plotting violent escapes from reality. In 2011, a prominent and sadistic Wisconsin surgeon named Glen Tucker shot to death his wife, Joan, before turning the gun on himself.
His death, as we reported last year in a cover story, spilled a lifetime of horrific secrets exposing what Tucker had fled: a million dollars in claims that he'd purposely botched several plastic surgeries.
Now the pattern continues.
Last week, deputies discovered a 2004 Honda Element tucked among the trees on a rural street on Big Pine Key. There was a tube running from the exhaust pipe into the back window of the car.
But Monroe County Sheriffs soon found that carbon monoxide hadn't killed the pair. The man, Jim Ovecka, 49, had loaded a handgun and shot his 54-year-old wife, Michelle, in the head. Then he pressed the gun to his own temple and pulled the trigger.
The mystery deepened from there. The pair, who held Arizona driver's licenses, had traveled a long way to this isolated stretch of road. They had escaped, actually.
They were once prominent restaurant owners in Corpus Christi, Texas, operating the successful Two Georges Seafood. But in 2011, the restaurant suddenly closed after allegations that Ovecka and Chapman had been charging customer credit cards thousands of dollars extra. One person told Corpus Christi investigators the couple had added $14,000 to their restaurant bill.
In all, the restaurant owners had defrauded their patrons of more than $200,000 in one of the more brazen -- if not outright insane -- scams in recent times.
The couple ditched town and disappeared for two years. They re-emerged earlier this year only when, in February, federal authorities arrested them at their home in a trailer park in Tuscon, Arizona. They pleaded guilty to the fraud charges, and a Texas court ordered them repay the $200,000.
Instead, they climbed into a a 2004 Honda Element and steered it south until they arrived at Big Pine Key: the world's last stop.
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SHOW ME HOW
There, Ovecka pulled out a gun, and he and his wife finally escaped a mistake that had been chasing them for years.
Send your story tips to the author, Terrence McCoy.