Prosecutors in North Carolina say they are dropping charges against a man formally and informally accused of murder in Florida so that authorities there can begin to prosecute him just a little bit faster.
On Jan. 30, Gary Levin, 74, went missing after completing his final fare as a Lyft driver. His body was found some five days later the woods of Okeechobee County, Florida, his family said – though authorities in the area declined to identify the remains.
Two days before the missing man’s body was found, however, Matthew Scott Flores, 35, was arrested in North Carolina on various motor vehicle-related charges – after attempting to elude law enforcement. At the time, Flores was allegedly driving Levin’s car.
Flores has since been charged with murder in the second degree over the Jan. 24 shooting death of Jose Carlos Martinez, 43, who died in Hardee County, Florida. A grand jury later indicted him on a count of murder in the first degree for that fatal shooting.
In the Sunshine State, the defendant is technically still just a person of interest in Levin’s death.
Authorities in the Tarheel State aim to change that.
Flores is currently being held in Rutherford County on parole violation there and extradition warrants out of Florida for the murder charge.
The parole violation charge could keep the defendant out of Florida for several months at least.
“The District Attorney’s Office is sending the pending North Carolina charges against Matthew Flores to the Grand Jury for indictment in a process called “dismissal to indict,'” Rutherford County District Attorney Ted Bell said in a Facebook post on March 11. “[We have] been in close communication with the State Attorney’s Offices in Florida involved in his matters, and it was ultimately decided that it was important to get Mr. Flores extradited to Florida as soon as possible to face the murder charges, which will also help bring closure to the family of the victims.”
But, Bell noted, his office’s charges are only being dropped for the time being.
“The ‘dismissal to indict’ on Mr. Flores’s North Carolina charges of driving while impaired, felony fleeing to elude arrest, and possession of a stolen motor vehicle will allow the District Attorney’s Office to still pursue these North Carolina charges while letting the Florida murder charges take precedence and allow his return to Florida,” the DA’s statement continued.
Once Flores arrives in Florida, he will be subject to a court-ordered mental health examination, The Palm Beach Post reported.
No charges have been filed against the defendant in Okeechobee County. The death of Levin, who was last seen driving his red Kia Stinger for Lyft, is still under investigation, authorities say.
“My dad was truly a one of kind person, if you knew him or even met him once you know exactly what I mean when I say that,” Gary Levin’s daughter, Lindsay DiBetta, said in a Facebook post last month. “The stories I have received about him from friends, family and complete strangers over the last week have lifted me up more than you can ever realize.”
A memorial service honoring Levin’s life was held Feb. 19 at Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida.
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