Heartbreak & hope: Family pushes for change after delivery man arrested in loved one’s homicide

Heartbreak & hope: Family pushes for change after delivery man arrested in loved one’s homicide
The Udell family never imagined that Evy, a grandmother and devoted wife of 55 years, would have her own story end the way it did. (Source: Family of Evelyn Udell, WPTV)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Evelyn Udell spent decades working in libraries and was always surrounded by novels of intrigue and mystery.

“Evy was a very social person,” said Sloane Udell, Evelyn’s daughter-in-law.

Evelyn surrounded herself not just with books, but family and friends as well.

“She was completely devoted to her family. I mean she lived for her boys and for her grandchildren. She was completely devoted to her husband, she was completely selfless,” Udell said.

The Udell family never imagined that Evy, a grandmother and devoted wife of 55 years, would have her own story end the way it did: making national headlines.

"The hardest part is just the horrific nature of what she went through," said Udell. "We now have to live with what her final moments were like."

Udell, 75-years old, was brutally murdered inside her Boca Raton home on Aug. 20, 2019.

Police allege 21-year old Jorge Dupre Lachazo beat Udell with a mallet, doused her in a chemical and set her on fire.

Sloane Udell told FOX 29 more than 50 percent of her mother-in-law’s body burned in the attack. Evelyn underwent emergency brain surgery but died the next day.

“When I think that a 21-year-old kid did this to her, how sick and depraved it is, I mean she had a grandson his age,” Udell told FOX 29. “I mean, my son will graduate from college in about a year-and-a-half, and she was already making plans to go to his graduation.”

Lachazo was there that fateful day in August delivering and installing a new washer and dryer for Udell. He faces charges of first-degree murder with a weapon, burglary, robbery, and first-degree arson.

Prosecutors also filed notice that they intend to seek the death penalty in the case.

Lachazo has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and his next court hearing is scheduled for April 17, 2020. Police have not identified a motive behind the attack.

The Udell family says the brutal murder robbed her of her golden years.

"She was 75, but she was a very young 75. She wasn’t slowing down at all,” Udell said.

A NATIONAL EPIDEMIC

In early 2018, Jorge Dupre Lachazo was arrested after allegedly stealing a cellphone. Prosecutors initially charged him with a felony, but that was reduced to a misdemeanor. After completing a pre-trial diversion program, the misdemeanor petit theft was wiped from his record.

"There does not appear to be any vetting whatsoever of their subcontractors," said the Udell family attorney, Nick Panagakis.

Panagakis works for Morgan & Morgan, the same firm where Evelyn's son and Sloane's husband, Harran Udell, practices law.

The family has filed a lawsuit against Best Buy, JB Hunt & X.M Delivery Service (the two subcontractors behind the delivery), as well as Lachazo, salespeople from Best Buy who sold the washer and dryer, the owner of XM Delivery, and the delivery driver.

Panagakis called incidents of delivery workers attacking vulnerable customers a "national epidemic."

"It is happening all through America and affects every one of us potentially," said Panagakis.

Udell's case was not unique.

FOX 29 found dozens of similar incidents nationwide.

A convicted sex offender with a lengthy criminal history faces charges for allegedly raping and killing a woman in her own home in Richmond, VA. The suspect was hired to stain the victim's deck earlier in the year.

And locally, a handyman from Hallandale Beach was recently arrested and accused of allegedly raping a woman while she babysat her grandchild. Also, a delivery man faces charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman in the Greenacres area after delivering furniture. The incident occurred just weeks before Udell's death.

FOX 29 reported in 2016 on a case of a repairman accused of attacking a mother while her children were home. The suspect, Dario Dotto, plead guilty to multiple counts and was required to register as a sex offender. Dotto had a prior conviction, after returning to the home of a customer in 2009 and stealing pain meds from their bathroom.

In Udell's case, police say Lachazo admitted to using cocaine and vaping marijuana earlier in that day.

“The information that we have confirmed very recently is that there was no pre-employment drug screen,” Panagakis told FOX 29.

PREVENTING ANOTHER TRAGEDY: “WE DO NOT WANT EVY TO HAVE DIED IN VAIN”

"If this can just stop one of these crimes then hopefully that'll make us feel better," said Sloane Udell.

The Udells want action in the wake of Evelyn's death.

The family has teamed up with Republican State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, to ensure consumers know who will actually show up at your home for each and every delivery in the state.

“We want the tragedies to stop, we do not want Evy to have died in vain," Fitzenhagen told FOX 29.

Rep. Fitzenhagen works for Morgan & Morgan, the same firm behind the Udell family's lawsuit.

Fitzenhagen says she is crafting a bill in Evelyn's name that would require retailers to notify customers when they are using a subcontractor for deliveries.

Fitzenhagen said, "If they are coming over the threshold, we want to assure the retailer requires all the subcontractors that they use to have a level two background check.”

Best Buy has told FOX 29 previously that the company joins “with the Udell family in calling for legislation regarding mandatory background checks across the retail industry, and any other reasonable steps that can be taken to ensure this kind of tragedy does not occur again.”

Sloan Udell told FOX 29 that they are “just trying to find some good in all of this.”

The Udell family hopes that Evy's Law will pass in the Florida Legislature during the upcoming session, which will help turn the page on this dark chapter in their lives.

Copyright 2019 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.