A man sentenced to life in prison in December for killing a Florida Keys couple in the fall of 2015 has so far rejected a plea offer for a cocaine trafficking conspiracy charge connected to the same case.
If Jeremy Macauley, 35, doesn’t take the plea deal prosecutors offered him in May, the drug case will go to trial next month, and the names of others possibly involved in bringing more than a dozen kilos of cocaine to shore the summer before the murders will likely be discussed during testimony.
“Unless or until he would take a plea, it is headed for trial,” Michael Edmondson, spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, said Thursday. Palm Beach County is handling the case for Monroe because of a conflict.
Macauley was a charter boat mate on a fishing vessel docked at Whale Harbor Marina in Windley Key at the time of the slayings. Detectives and prosecutors say the cocaine was found offshore by Macauley and his charter boat captain boss, Rick Rodriguez.
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Rodriguez has not been charged and has repeatedly denied knowing about the drugs. He did not immediately return an email requesting comment on the September trial.
Edmondson declined to answer whether prosecutors would subpoena Rodriguez for the trial.
“We wouldn’t comment on the case beyond its status,” he said.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office detectives suspected Rodriguez’s involvement in smuggling the coke to shore from the beginning. Sheriff Rick Ramsay publicly accused Rodriguez of being involved with the drugs right after Macauley was arrested on murder and armed robbery charges in March 2016.
“He’s up to his eyes in knowledge of the illegal activity that started this,” Ramsay told FLKeysNews.com in April 2016. “If it had not been for the cocaine brought on board, there never would have been a double murder, and those kids would still have their mother.”
The drugs were the reason Macauley shot Tara Rosado, 26, and her boyfriend, Carlos Ortiz, 30, to death Oct. 15, 2015. Ortiz, who was among several of Macauley’s friends who helped him sell the cocaine, began sending Macauley a flurry of texts days before he was killed demanding money, saying otherwise he would go to the police about the contraband.
Macauley, prosecutors say, killed Ortiz inside Rosado’s Cuba Road home in Tavernier to shut him up. Rosado was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, killed for being a witness to her boyfriend’s murder. Her three young children were in the house, physically unharmed, at the time.
A jury convicted Macauley on two counts of first-degree murder in November, and Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia sentenced him to life in December.
Prosecutors in May offered Macauley 15 years for conspiracy to traffic cocaine to run concurrently with the life sentence, as well as 15 years for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
In return for the guilty pleas, Macauley’s attorney, Ed O’Donnell Sr., wants the option of backing out of the deal if his appeal on the murder charges is successful with the Florida Third District Court of Appeal.
O’Donnell did not return requests for comment on the status of the plea offer.
At the time of the offer, Macauley argued he needed more time to think about it. He maintains he’s innocent. When he was sentenced, he told the judge the verdict would have been different if several witnesses had showed up at the trial. Those witnesses were scheduled to testify during the trial that the real shooter that night was the twin brother of the getaway driver.
Eric “Bama” Lansford gave prosecutors a sworn statement in October 2016 that Kristian Demblans, brother of Adrian Demblans, the driver of the Toyota RAV4 that took the shooter to the scene the night of the murders, told him he pulled the trigger of the .45-caliber pistol that killed Rosado and Ortiz, not Macauley. Lansford was set to testify as a key witness for the defense, but backed out at the last minute. The conversation, according to Lansford, took place while he and Kristian Demblans were locked up together in county jail during the summer of 2016.
But O’Donnell said Lansford sent him a text saying he wasn’t coming to court because he received death threats about going through with his testimony.
“I’ve never had that happen to me,” O’Donnell said in December. “He was the witness who was going to carry the case.”
Adrian Demblans, 36, pleaded guilty before the trial to accessory after the fact of a capital felony and testified against Macauley. In exchange for rolling over on his friend, Garcia sentenced Demblans to 10 years in prison. He was looking at 30 if his case went to trial.
Demblans, like Macauley, was in the charter fishing business. At one time he was a captain, and his boat was given or sold to him by Rodriguez. In October 2013, Rodriguez transferred ownership of the boat, the Tag ‘Em, to Demblans, who rechristened the vessel the Reel G.