The Virginia-based fishing boat was 55 miles off the coast of Massachusetts when its captain sent out a distress signal in September.
“We have a man gone crazy here on the boat, man,” the captain said in the Sept. 23 mayday call, the Boston Globe reports. “One of the crew members went crazy. He started hitting people in the head with a hammer. I got three men that’s injured right now. One, I can’t wake him up. I don’t know if he’s dead or not.”
The suspected attacker — Franklin Freddy Meave Vazquez, 27 — was also wielding a knife during the afternoon rampage on the seven-crew member boat, which is known as the Captain Billy Haver, prosecutors said. Meave Vazquez is accused of attacking three crew members, then climbing up the boat’s mast as other crew members sought to catch him.
A German cruise ship responded to the distress call, and brought aboard two injured crew members from the fishing vessel — one of whom the ship’s doctor pronounced dead, prosecutors said.
Javier Rangel Sosa, 54, is the crew member Meave Vazquez is accused of killing with a hammer, MassLive reports.
Sosa was “the greatest fisherman in Virginia, for real,” Jesus Sosa, the victim’s 27-year-old nephew, said of his uncle, according to the Virginian-Pilot. “In my family, everybody wants to be just like him. He always helped everybody, was good to everybody.”
Meave Vazquez was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on charges of second-degree murder, attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts announced. He’s been in custody since Sept. 24, when he was arrested and charged.
Prosecutors said Meave Vazquez is a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally, and that he was arrested in March in Newport News, Virginia, on suspicion of abduction by force, intimidation or deception, but was later released on bond.
That earlier arrest was in connection with the strangling of Vazquez’ wife, the Globe reports. The felony charges he faced were dropped, and he instead admitted to a misdemeanor, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
His wife’s family said his wife “really didn’t think he was capable of murder until it happened,” and neighbors were surprised as well, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
“He kept to himself, but every time we talked, he was friendly as could be,” said Donald Gilman, a 23-year-old neighbor, the Virignian-Pilot reported.
Meave Vazquez faces up to life in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted on the murder charge alone, according to prosecutors. An attempted murder conviction would carry a sentence as long as 20 years in prison, and assault with a dangerous weapon carries up to 10 years in prison.
Following any prison sentence, Vazquez would face deportation proceedings, prosecutors said.
The boat had been dredging scallops from the ocean when the attack occurred, the Virginian-Pilot reported.