A longtime prosecutor and the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office second-in-command was found dead Thursday.
State Attorney Catherine Vogel confirmed that Chief Assistant State Attorney Manny Madruga died. Alyson Crean, spokeswoman for the Key West Police Department, said Madruga was found in his Key West home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
His death comes a day after Dennis Ward, who will replace Vogel as state attorney in January after defeating her in last week’s election, confirmed to The Reporter/Keynoter that he did not want Madruga on his staff.
Madruga, 53, spent his entire legal career since graduating from the University of Miami’s law school in 1990 as a prosecutor in the Monroe County state attorney’s office.
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Ward, who promoted Madruga to chief assistant state attorney during his 2008-12 term, said Thursday: “Manny was a very good prosecutor. I am saddened by his passing.”
The day before, however, Ward said he decided to sack Madruga because he feels prosecutors serving under Vogel did not receive proper “support, leadership and training” and Madruga, as chief assistant state attorney, should have mentored his subordinates more.
“It’s confirmed. He’s not going to be there Jan. 3 when I take office,” Ward had said Wednesday.
Ward also indicated more prosecutors working for Vogel will not work for his administration.
“Top down, we need to evaluate senior positions and make some decisions,” Ward said before learning of Madruga’s death. “I don’t think I need Manny’s services anymore and that’s why I called him up and told him.”
When Ward takes office in January, this will be the second time he will be state attorney for the 16th Judicial Circuit. Vogel, a Democrat, defeated Ward in the primary at the end of his first term from 2008 to 2012. Ward, who had been a Democrat, ran this election as a Republican and received 20,525 votes to Vogel’s 19,173.
The campaign for state attorney was one of the more contentious Monroe County races of the 2016 election season. Along with criticizing Vogel for not leading her attorneys, Ward also slammed her handling of several high-profile cases, particularly the October 2015 murders of Tavernier couple Tara Rosado and Carlos Ortiz. The motive of the slayings was to silence Ortiz, who wanted money to stay quiet about his business partner’s drug-dealing activities, according to numerous sources.
Ward argued on the campaign trail the state had enough evidence to seek the death penalty against the accused shooter, Jeremy Macauley. He said prosecutors erred by not filing a death case within the required 45 days of Macauley’s first-degree murder indictment in March. Vogel said she did not seek a death sentence against Macauley because there weren’t enough aggravating factors needed to sway a jury in that direction.
The Reporter sent Madruga an email Thursday morning asking him for comment on Ward’s decision on staff changes. He did not respond.
“It’s a difficult decision,” Ward said Wednesday of not wanting Madruga on his staff. “But the office comes first.”
Gwen Filosa contributed to this report.