Florida Keys

She was stabbed to death at home. Then, someone lit a match.

Yellow tape surrounds a house at 720 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Key Largo where the body of 70-year-old Mary Bonneville was found Oct. 21, 2017, by Key Largo volunteer firefighters. Detectives believe she died before the fire based on wounds they found on her body.
Yellow tape surrounds a house at 720 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Key Largo where the body of 70-year-old Mary Bonneville was found Oct. 21, 2017, by Key Largo volunteer firefighters. Detectives believe she died before the fire based on wounds they found on her body. dgoodhue@flkeysnews.com

Almost 10 months after a Key Largo woman was found murdered inside her burning home, no arrests have been made, but details about how she was killed before the fire were revealed this week.

Mary Bonneville, 70, was found dead inside her house at 720 Ponce de Leon Boulevard on Oct. 21, 2017, with cuts to her neck and shoulders, according to a Monroe County Fire Rescue incident report that was released this week. The body was found after firefighters knocked down a blaze at the house.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has only stated that Bonneville had “wounds on her body that do not appear to have been caused by the fire.” The agency ruled her death a homicide in early November.

The medical examiner has not released the official cause of death.

The crime shocked Key Largo due to its randomness and brutality. Why would someone target Bonneville? She was a creature of habit whose near-daily routine was to walk from her house to the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on the ocean side of mile marker 102, where she would drink beer and play video poker.

Staff there said she would arrive around 4:30 p.m. just about every day and leave by 8 or 8:30 p.m. She kept faithful to her routine on Oct. 21. But something went wrong after she got home. At 9:40 p.m., a neighbor walking to a gas station called 911 to report Bonneville’s house was on fire.

The Sheriff’s Office is not commenting on the case, but spokesman Adam Linhardt said it is “still an active and open investigation.”

Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward said movement in the case could come soon.

“We’re waiting on some DNA things to come back,” Ward said about samples that detectives sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab.

While detectives have been mum on possible suspects, about 20 minutes before firefighters responded to Bonneville’s house and found her body, a man reportedly threatened his girlfriend with a near-identical crime, police said.

In the VFW’s parking lot, Eddy Lopez-Jemot, 50, who bar patrons told FlKeysNews at the time was recently banned from the establishment, tried to force his way into his girlfriend’s van. When she resisted, he said he was going to cut her head off and burn her house down, according to a Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

The woman, Magdalena Soutelo-Rodriguez, reported the incident two days later, and police arrested Lopez-Jemot. He was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. His next court appearance is Tuesday at the Plantation Key courthouse.

Soutelo-Rodriguez told detectives that Lopez-Jemot boasted to her that night of having killed people in the past and setting their homes on fire.

The Sheriff’s Office has refused to say if the cases are related, but in November, detectives raided a boat on which Lopez-Jemot and at least one other man lived at the time. The vessel was moored just offshore in the bay behind the Murray Nelson Cultural and Government Center at mile marker 102.

Liveaboard transport.jpg
A rowboat sits in the mangroves behind the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Arts Center at mile marker 102 in Key Largo. The boat is used by people living on larger vessels offshore. Police in November 2017 raided a liveaboard vessel while investigating the Oct. 21 , 2017, murder of a Key Largo woman. David Goodhue dgoodhue@flkeysnews.com

In recent weeks, a new board of directors has taken over management of the VFW and shut it down. They thought it was being mismanaged and had strayed far from its origins as a veterans club to become more of a neighborhood dive bar that fostered an atmosphere that invited trouble, these board members say.

Board trustee John Donnelly said that will change when the post re-opens after renovations.

“The new officers of VFW Post 10211 are determined to rebuild, renovate, and recommit the post to the mission it was always intended to serve: Supporting veterans and families,” Donnelly said.

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