Trial begins in Turnpike killings, will reveal drug trade - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Trial begins in Turnpike killings, will reveal drug trade

By Lindsay Cohen email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) -- Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday in the murder trial of two men accused of killing a family of four on the side of Florida's Turnpike in October 2006.

Authorities say 28 year-old Jose Escobedo, his wife, 25 year-old Yessica, and their sons, 4 year-old Luis Julian and 3 year-old Luis Damian, were shot multiple times execution style. The bodies of the Greenacres family were found near Port St. Lucie on October 13th, 2006.

In the 27 months since the trial, an international mystery unfolded, and authorities say they have linked the Escobedos to a lucrative drug trade stretching into Texas and Mexico.

"This is probably one of the biggest cocaine rings, not only in Florida, but in the eastern United States," said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara in April 2007.

The Escobedo family moved to Palm Beach County in April 2006 from Brownsville, TX, to expand their drug operation, authorities say. Investigators believe Escobedo took his family on some sort of drug deal on the night of the murders, and that the family was followed by Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez, Jr., both 25. Authorities say Troya and Sanchez were settling a dispute when they killed the family and took their car.

In the hearings leading up to Troya and Sanchez's trial, attorneys have revealed threats to the witnesses and talk of Mexican drug cartels.

The trial is expected to last three months, with no witnesses to the actual crime and no murder weapon. Prosecutors will rely on video surveillance from the Turnpike, as well as cell phone records records and fingerprints they say belong to Sanchez that were found on a turnpike ticket for Escobedo's Jeep. More than 300 potential witnesses could also be called.

Opening statments in the trial of Troya and Sanchez begin on Tuesday. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

Attorneys for the men will argue that their clients were nowhere near the crime scene when the shootings occurred.

Two other people -- 28 year-old Daniel Varela and 20 year-old Liana Lopez -- also face weapons charges in connection with the case. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

All of the suspects have pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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