A morbid and bizarre tale of love, abuse and death played out from Miami through the Florida Keys on Tuesday, leaving family members reeling and police scurrying hundreds of miles to a crime scene.
In the end, Miami police found a body so badly decomposed that they have not been able to determine whether it is missing 28-year-old Tanya Gonzalez.
Several hours later, they learned that the man they wanted to question about Gonzalez’s disappearance stabbed himself to death with a steak knife after fleeing to the Florida Keys on a boat with his mother and their Siberian Husky.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said Roy Ruz Blanco died at Lower Keys Medical Center on Stock Island shortly after 4 p.m., not long after deputies chased him, his mother, Marta Blanco-Mendoza, and their dog, into the woods.
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As they got close, Blanco’s mom gobbled a handful of pills and Blanco stabbed himself in the stomach, Ramsay said.
“We pursued him. As soon as we grabbed him, he had his hands around his stomach and a steak knife in his belly,” the sheriff said.
Blanco’s mother remained in the hospital Tuesday. The dog was handed over to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Miami police were on their way to Stock Island.
“No one can even script a movie like this. It’s crazy,” said Miami Police Det. Frederica Burden.
Miami police had been searching for Blanco since Monday, a day after the U.S. Coast Guard detained and questioned him following a wayward four-day boat ride aboard a catamaran with his mother and his dog. Police wanted to question Blanco about the disappearance of his former girlfriend Gonzalez, who has been missing since a Sept. 9 shopping spree with her aunt at Midtown Miami.
On Tuesday, a week after she disappeared, police found Gonzalez’s blue, four-door BMW on the grassy curb of a residential Flagami neighborhood. Hours later, with dozens of family members, friends and residents gathered under the blistering sun behind yellow police tape, investigators in haz-mat suits opened the trunk.
Inside was a body so badly decomposed that police said it will take until Wednesday to identify the remains. Gonzalez’s father, Ramon Gonzalez, who had flown down from New Jersey to search for his daughter, had no doubt this was his little girl.
“This is the worst nightmare for anybody, any human being,” he told Miami Herald news partner CBS 4. “I’m panicking. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to turn.”
Tanya Gonzalez, who worked at the Mojito Bar at Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami, had been the focus of a growing manhunt that had out-of-town relatives and private detectives offering help, and local police searching for Blanco, a former boyfriend who friends and family say abused her.
On Tuesday, the scene at first centered around Gonzalez’s BMW, which sat on a grassy median for several days near the corner of Southwest Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue, neighborhood residents said. Several of the homes around the BMW had surveillance video that police will be looking at.
After the car was found, police focused their attention on Blanco, the hulking 33-year-old, six-foot, four-inch-tall, 200-plus-pound former boyfriend. The two had a five-year relationship that many close to Gonzalez said was abusive.
Friends and family of Gonzalez who knew Blanco said she repeatedly told them she feared Blanco would harm her, and that she finally left him and moved into an Aventura apartment.
Brahms Alexis, who worked with Gonzalez at the Mojito Bar, said he helped her move into her Aventura home in early August. He said Gonzalez told him two weeks ago that Blanco “was getting physical with her, and that he had threatened to kill himself.
“She was afraid,” Alexis said.
Ramon Gonzalez said his daughter repeatedly broke up with Blanco, but that “she refused to press charges. We encouraged it.”
Police began to focus squarely on Blanco on Monday, a day after a good Samaritan spotted the rental boat stranded and out of gas just off Big Coppitt Key, more than 100 miles from Miami and 11 miles from Key West.
A Coast Guard report on the incident obtained by the Miami Herald explained how Blanco showed up at Dinner Key on Sept. 10 in a rented Dodge Challenger, and rented the vessel promising to go no farther than Haulover Beach in Northeast Miami-Dade. When the boat wasn’t returned later that evening, the vessel operators called the Coast Guard.
A helicopter was launched and vessels were sent searching for the 25-foot catamaran carrying Blanco, his mother and their dog, according to the report. But the search was well over before police had identified Blanco as someone with possible information on Gonzalez’s whereabouts.
On Sunday, the report showed, the good Samaritan spotted the vessel off Big Coppitt, and towed it in. The Coast Guard questioned Blanco and determined he had not been smuggling undocumented immigrants. Unable to “convict him of any crime based off evidence,” the case was closed and Blanco was issued a warning and let go.
When word reached Miami police, the search intensified in the Keys. Ramsay said a BOLO — a Be On The Lookout order — was sent to all sheriff’s deputies and that fliers were handed out to local businesses.
On Tuesday afternoon a business owner spotted Blanco and called the sheriff’s office.
Deputies tracked him, his mom and the dog into the woods, where authorities said the Blancos gobbled a large quantity of unknown pills before deputies caught up to them. After Blanco stabbed himself, Monroe sheriff’s deputies tried to take him to the hospital by helicopter. But he was in such bad shape, Ramsay said, they ended up transporting him on the ground.
Meanwhile, back in Miami, Gonzalez’s car was towed to police headquarters where investigators could get a better look at it. The body found in the trunk is at the medical examiner’s office, with doctors searching for any markings that could help identify the remains.
“We have to wait for the medical examiner,” said Burden, the Miami detective. “It looks like a murder-suicide. That’s basically what it’s probably going to be.”