Wrong place, wrong time: FDLE details tragic timeline in murder of Lyft driver

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 8:20 AM EDT
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State investigators said Wednesday it was tragic and unfortunate fate that led to the “cold and senseless” murder of a Palm Beach Gardens Lyft driver whose body was discovered in Okeechobee County earlier this year.

FDLE Special Agent in Charge Eli Lawson said Matthew Flores, 36, was indicted by a Florida grand jury Tuesday on charges of first-degree premeditated murder, robbery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the death of Gary Levin.

Matthew Flores was extradited to Hardee County, Florida, on Aug. 8, 2023.
Matthew Flores was extradited to Hardee County, Florida, on Aug. 8, 2023.

The 74-year-old had been missing for days before his body was found in a woooded area of Okeechobee County on Feb. 4.

That's the same month that Flores was arrested in North Carolina while driving Levin's red 2022 Kia Stinger.

During a news conference Wednesday, Lawson said the tragic timeline of events started in late January when Flores shot and killed a person in Wachula, a city in Hardee County, and then fled in a stolen car, crisscrossing central and southeast Florida.

"He's very good at evading police," Lawson said. "He stole several vehicles along the way, changed his hiding locations, and didn't tell his family and friends where he was staying."

Lawson said Flores eventually ended up in Palm Beach County, where an acquaintance called him a Lyft so the fugitive could travel to North Carolina, where he used to live.

"It was unfortunately and sadly at that point, Mr. Levin was the one who responded to that call and picked up Mr. Flores," Lawson said.

Flores and Levin drove into Okeechobee County, where Flores shot and killed the Lyft driver inside his vehicle.

"Mr. Levin had been cruelly dumped in a rural, wooded area," Lawson said. "His murder was cold and senseless and completely unnecessary."

Those who know Gary Levin say he's an avid car enthusiast.
Those who know Gary Levin say he's an avid car enthusiast.

Flores, who was extradited from North Carolina to Hardee County in August, is not believed to be connected to any other murders outside of the Levin and Wachula cases.

Family members of Levin said they were aware of Tuesday's grand jury indictment, but declined to comment to WPTV.

However, Kathi Ginsberg, Levin's girlfriend at the time of his death, spoke to WPTV via telephone, calling Flores "a monster."

"The victim's family, Mr. Levin's family, they're devastated, they're grieving. But I think they're happy that justice is finally being served," Lawson said.

Lawson added that Flores will eventually be brought to Okeechobee County to be arraigned in Levin's murder.

Anyone with any additional information about Flores is urged to contact law enforcement right away.

Scripps Only Content 2023