When Monroe County Sheriff's deputies arrived at a small bungalow on a sandy Key Largo side street in October 2015, they found the worse murder scene the Keys had seen in more than two decades: a young couple, Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz, brutally executed in their bedroom just a few feet from Rosado's three young children.
For months detectives were stumped by the double homicide until a cell phone found floating in a nearby canal helped them unravel a bizarre, uniquely Florida tale. Ortiz, they learned, had been blackmailing a local fisherman who had found a massive stash of cocaine floating at sea and was now selling it around the island.
Today a jury convicted that fisherman — 34-year-old Jeremy Macauley — of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary.
As New Times reported in a feature story earlier this year, the murder case illustrated a bizarre fact of life in the Keys: Every year, dozens of fisherman around Florida find thousands of dollars' worth of drugs floating at sea and then have to decide whether to turn them in or keep them.
Few fisherman have seen a worse fate than Macauley for choosing to keep the drugs. Prosecutors say Macauley enlisted a small group of local drug dealers, including Ortiz, to help him unload the cocaine. But Ortiz soon turned on Macauley, demanding ever more drugs and money and threatening to turn him in to police.
Finally, on October 15, 2015, Macauley agreed to meet Ortiz at the home he shared with his girlfriend, Rosado, the 26-year-old mother of three children, and executed both of them in their bedrooms.
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Macauley's attorneys had argued he was set up by Adrian Demblans, a well-known local drug dealer who police say drove him to and from the scene of the murder. (Demblans cut a deal to testify against Macauley in exchange for ten years in prison for his role in the crime.)
Ed O'Donnell, Macauley's attorney, argued that Demblans and his brother Kristian actually carried out the murders. A jailhouse snitch had told police that Kristian had confessed to the crime while in jail on unrelated charges. But during the trial, O'Donnell says, the snitch refused to testify.
"The witness wouldn't come because he was in fear for his life," O'Donnell tells New Times. "I have texts and everything. He said, 'I don't care about contempt of court.'... He just wouldn't show. We did everything we could."
Macauley faces life in prison at his sentencing next month.