The Florida Keys are hardly a crime-free haven. Residents in the balmy string of islands are used to all kinds of extra-legal shenanigans, from mass drug rings to wild backhoe joyrides. But murder is rare. And the execution-style killing of two young parents just a few feet away from their sleeping children is beyond shocking.
So residents have waited uneasily for months for answers about what happened to 26-year-old Tara Rosado and 30-year-old Carlos Ortiz, who were found shot in the head in the bedroom of their Tavernier home last October while Rosado's three children slept nearby.
This morning, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office says it has arrested the men responsible — Jeremy Macauley and Adrian Demblans. The motives behind the killing revolve around a chance discovery of a huge cocaine load during a deep-sea fishing expedition, a failed tattoo shop business plan, and an extortion plot gone wrong.
"This case was a tough one, and our thoughts are with the families of the victims – especially Tara Rosado’s children, who have been deprived of their mother," Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement. "We are just glad we were able to bring closure to this case with the arrest of these two men.”
Ortiz and Rosado seemed to be a young couple trying to embark on a new life in the Keys, where so many go to escape past turmoil. Rosado had moved from New York a couple of years earlier with her kids after divorcing her husband, the Miami Herald reported after the murders. Ortiz had a lengthy criminal record in Miami, including armed robbery and marijuana trafficking charges.
In Tavernier, though, Ortiz worked to open a tattoo shop that was to be called Ink-Your Dreamzzz. But on October 15, sheriff's deputies swarmed their small house after neighbors found Rosado's three children — aged 3, 4, and 8 — in the front yard. Ortiz and Rosado had each been shot in the head.
Detectives honed in on Macauley — who worked as a mate on a charter boat — after learning that he was an investor in Ortiz's tattoo shop. They soon learned another curious story about Macauley: During a deep-sea fishing trip last summer, the sailor had found a huge stash of cocaine.
It's not clear how Macauley found the coke, exactly. A witness told detectives that he was fishing with another man in June 2015 when he "came into possession of a large amount of cocaine," according to an arrest affidavit. Macauley then began selling the coke around the Keys, police say.
They later recovered cell phone pics and video of Macauley and the drugs. "Macualey (captured) himself on video in front of a large portion of suspected cocaine, as well as individually wrapped clear baggies," police say in their report. "The audio portion captures Macauley verbalizing something like, 'Yea boy, get that god damn money.'"
But Ortiz and Macauley later got into an argument about the tattoo shop, detectives say. Then Ortiz made a fatal mistake: He began trying to extort his ex-partner over the cocaine stash. Police found text messages Ortiz had sent Macauley threatening to turn him into police over his drug-dealing if he didn't cooperate in the tattoo shop.
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Demblans — a local fisherman — was clued into the situation by Macualey, police say, who asked him to drive him to Ortiz's house October 15. Text records showed Macauley and Ortiz corresponding in the moments before he died, with Macauley texting in one message that he was coming to the house.
Video suggests that Demblans drove Macualey to the house and then away from the scene after he killed Ortiz and Rosado, police say. The murder weapon and Ortiz's phone were tossed in a nearby canal, but police later found them — despite Macauley later paying Demblans to scuba dive in the area in an effort to find them.
"Jeremy Macauley's motive was to prevent Carlos Ortiz from going to authorities with information of illegal activities," Officer Vincent Weiner writes in the probable cause affidavit.
Macauley has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and Demblans with being an accessory to murder.