A Mexican national who at one time lived in Virginia pleaded guilty last week to various charges related to a brief spree of severe violence aboard a scalloping boat during the summer of 2018.
Franklin “Freddy” Meave Vazquez, 31, was originally indicted in November 2018 for the brutal attack that left one of his fellow crew members dead and two more injured two months earlier.
On Sept. 23, 2018, a “fishing vessel” called The Captain Billy Haver was sailing “on the high seas” some 55 miles off the shore of Nantucket, Mass. with seven crew members aboard, according to a federal criminal complaint obtained by Law&Crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in a press release, localizes the beginning of the nautical attack “[i]nside the shucking house.”
“At some point in the afternoon, R.H. heard yelling from the deck,” the three-page criminal complaint alleges. “He ran around a corner and received three strikes to the back of his head. R.H. fell on the deck. He saw that he was covered in blood. He looked up and saw Vazquez with a hammer in one hand and a knife in the other hand. Vazquez looked at R.H. and said, ‘Just stay there.'”
After that, the defendant walked onto the deck where he used a long fillet knife to stab a second member of the crew, later identified as the ship’s well-liked chief mate, 54-year-old Javier Sosa. Then, as a third member came out to survey the commotion via the ice hold, he was also struck in the head by Velazquez with the hammer–whereupon the third victim fell back down the ladder he had just tried to scale.
The captain of the boat then intercepted the defendant.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” he said, according to an account in The Virginian-Pilot. “Can anybody hear me? We have a man gone crazy here on the boat, man.” A reply was finally heard and he replied: “One man, I don’t know if he’s dead or what. But one of the crew members went crazy, and he started hitting people in the head with a hammer. I got three men that’s injured now. One I can’t wake him up.”
“He already cut the antenna or something off,” the captain said at one point–apparently unable to hear some previous replies.
That distress call was made around 2:30 p.m. by way of the international calling and distress channel 16, the complaint notes.
A German cruise ship called Mein Schiff 6, which was near the vessel’s location, was the first to arrive after hearing the distress call. The ship’s crew redirected their navigation and came alongside the ill-fated fishing boat. The first victim and Sosa, who “had a visible wound to the head and stab wounds to the torso” were taken aboard, according to the complaint. “The cruise ship’s doctor pronounced [Sosa] dead shortly after he was taken aboard.”
Near the end of the ordeal, according to the captain as the court documents relay, Vazquez shimmied up the mast after being cornered by the remaining crew members. Vazquez eventually threw the knife onto the deck. He was finally arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The defendant remained atop the mast until he was taken into custody later that night. He was immediately transferred to federal custody after arriving in Boston, Mass. the next day.
No one knows what set off the violence as the boat was dredging scallops. Authorities have kept mum on a potential motive.
As part of his plea agreement, the defendant pleaded guilty to one count each of murder in the second degree, attempted murder, and assault with a dangerous weapon. He faces life in prison.
According to the Pilot, Vazquez had previously been arrested in March of that same year for allegedly strangling his 20-year-old wife after she returned from a night out with friends in Newport News, Va.
“He was smiling and laughing after he had just strangled his wife,” his wife’s mother, Lindsay McDannold, told Newsweek just after the seafaring attack. “He had absolutely no remorse.”
The alleged details of that incident would appear to be, in hindsight, something of a dire portent for the coming oceanic nightmare.
“I want you to see reality,” he allegedly told his wife before climbing on top of the woman in their bed and strangling her with both hands, according to the criminal complaint filed in that prior case.
The violence allegedly continued as he pushed his victim, pinned her down and “wrapped a black and red scarf around her head,” before a brief respite that ended when he pulled her back upstairs by her hair.
“Do you hear a voice?” he asked his wife. “Do you see the devil?”
[image via Newport News Police Department]
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