Man convicted in murder-for-hire of Florida Army veteran on Veteran’s Day, sentenced to life

Benjamin Bascom (Frank Fernandez/The Daytona Beach News-Journal/TNS)

A hit man was paid $1,000 to assassinate a Deltona Army veteran to eliminate him as a witness in a road rage case, evidence showed. Now the hit man will pay for his crime by spending the rest of his life in prison.

A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about one hour on Friday before finding Benjamin Bascom, 28, guilty of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of witness tampering in a capital felony.

Bascom shot Carlos Cruz-Echevarria, 60, four times on Nov. 11, 2017 in the 600 block of Malaga Avenue, State Attorneys Office prosecutors said. A neighbor who heard the shots and at first believed they were fireworks found the body partially under a car stuck in the swale.

Circuit Judge Matt Foxman sentenced Bascom to the three concurrent life terms at the conclusion of the trial at the S. James Foxman Justice Center in Daytona Beach.

The first-degree murder charge carried a mandatory life in prison without parole while the tampering charges were punishable by up to life in prison.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew J. Urbanak told the during closing arguments on Friday that people are used to the movie versions of hit men. But real life is different.

“In real life, a hitman and the results of it are sloppy,” Urbanak said. They’re brutal. They’re bloody. It is tragic because there is a real life lost. It is not the movies.”

The man who paid Bascom $1,000 to kill the veteran is already in prison. Kelsey McFoley, 28, was convicted at trial in 2019 of first-degree murder and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.

The only case remaining open is that of McFoley’s girlfriend at the time, Melissa Rios-Roque, 24, who is also charged with first-degree murder in Cruz-Echevarria’s slaying. At the time, she was pregnant with McFoley’s child. She is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail while she awaits trial.

McFoley, who Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigators said was a heroin dealer, wanted Cruz-Echevarria dead because he was the only witness against him in a road rage case. McFoley was accused of pointing a gun at the veteran on May 2, 2017, in Deltona after the men exchange words in traffic.

McFoley had been offered a plea deal in the road rage case which would have sent him to prison for three years. McFoley’s defense attorney had told him the state’s case was weak.

But McFoley opted instead to have Cruz-Echevarria killed.

That is why Bascom drove from his residence in Apopka in a stolen car to Cruz-Echevarria’s home in Deltona. Bascom parked the car a couple of lots away from the house but when he did the car got stuck in the swale.

Prosecutors believe that either Cruz-Echevarria walked over to try to help Bascom or that Bascom walked up to the house and asked Cruz-Echevarria to help him get his car unstuck.

As Cruz-Echevarria apparently looked under the stuck car, Bascom drew a gun and shot the veteran four times, killing him. Investigators believe he used a .38-caliber gun. But the firearm has never been found.

The plan was for Bascom to set the stolen car on fire after he drove away from the killing. But since the car got stuck, Bascom took Cruz-Echevarria’s truck and it was torched in a wooded area in Apopka.

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigators found a red plastic gas container in the back seat of the stranded car, which smelled of gasoline.

Cruz-Echevarria’s truck was involved in a hit-and-run crash at 7:38 p.m. not far from the scene of the murder minutes after the killing.

Bascom’s defense attorney, Philip Massa, told jurors during his closing argument on Friday that some neighbors reported hearing gunshots between 7:45 p.m. and 8 p.m. Massa said that showed that Bascom could not have been the killer.

Massa added that McFoley’s girlfriend was in the neighborhood at 7:27 p.m.

And he said that all prosecutors had was a partial print on a gas can found in the backseat of the stolen car. But they did not find DNA nor any other print from Bascom in the car, Massa said.

Massa said that the cell phone records that prosecutors used to build their case against Bascom did not prove that he actually had the cell phone in his possession.

Urbanak, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant State Attorney Joe LeDonne, said during closing arguments that no one else had Bascom’s cell phone but Bascom. Urbanak said that when he asked the panel of potential jurors on Monday how many had their cell phones with them, 38 of 40 had the devices while the other two had left them in their cars. He argued that it was not reasonable to think that anyone else had Bascom’s phone but Bascom.

Urbanak also said that Bascom’s effort to convince his girlfriend not to testify against him showed “consciousness of guilt.” It was those efforts that led to the witness tampering charges.


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