Monterey Death Still A Mystery
Police seek murder charge in overdose.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
Four months ago, a young Monterey man, the member of an extended local clan, died in his mother''s Spencer Street home. At the time, it was described as a suspicious death. Within days, the few short news pieces dropped off, an obituary was printed, a funeral was held and nothing more was heard, leaving neighbors, friends and family to wonder what happened. On the street, the rumor circulated that it was a drug overdose, but that he didn''t do it to himself.
Monterey detectives are now calling it murder.
Sunday, June 15 was Father''s Day and Tony Flores, 36, called his little brother Anthony, 20, to see if he wanted to have dinner. Anthony said he didn''t want to--he was just hanging around the house that weekend, doing laundry since his mother, Rose, was away.
The Flores family has long been involved in commercial fishing--Tony, the oldest of five brothers, worked for years as a fisherman, but got out a few years ago. Now he runs a sheet metal and air conditioning business, and Anthony worked for him.
When Anthony showed up for work on Monday, Tony says, everything seemed fine. "We had a great day," Tony recalls. Once the work was over, they went back to the family house at 442 Spencer St. in New Monterey, where Anthony lived with his mother. They ate some microwave pizzas. Then Tony went home to his own family at their house nearby.
"I said I guess I''ll see you in the morning, and that was that," Tony says.
Tuesday morning Anthony did not show up for work. Tony called him a half-dozen times through the day but there was no answer. "I worked that day without him, here in the shop," Tony says, standing outside his business in a Sand City industrial park.
On his way home that Monday night, he passed the family house and saw Anthony''s car, a snappy black Volkswagen Golf, in the driveway.
"I didn''t think anything of it until I got a phone call from my brother Frank," he says. It was around 7pm, and Frank told his brother that he was worried about Anthony. That struck Tony as odd.
Another call came to Tony, and his wife took it. He remembers that she told him: "You better get down there."
When he got to the family house, he says, he found all the doors and windows open, and Frank was there--with Anthony''s body.
"I found him," Frank said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "He didn''t look good," he said, getting choked up. "I wasn''t happy with what I saw."
Anthony was laid out on a bed in Frank''s old room. He had pants on but no shirt. Tony could see that his brother was dead, and thought to himself there was no way his mother would ever live in that house again.
Tony says Anthony''s upper body was bruised. There were patches of blood on the mattress. "There was a pretty lousy clean-up job. It was obvious," Tony says.
Something about the scene clearly was not right, not to Tony or police investigators. The initial reports called it a "suspicious death" and left it at that.
Police investigators now say that Anthony died of a drug overdose, that heroin and a mix of other drugs were found in his system. But Tony doesn''t believe his brother would have done that to himself.
For one thing, Tony had gotten to know his little brother pretty well by working with him for the previous year and a half, so when police told him it looked like a drug overdose, that didn''t seem right.
"He was afraid of needles. He wasn''t into that shit," Tony says. "He was afraid to go to the doctor. If he was afraid to go to the doctor why would he mess around with that?
"With Anthony it''s hard to say. He was a good working kid. He was a good brother. We were friends. I was just getting to know him really well. He didn''t have any issues," Tony says.
Although they both acknowledge that they barely speak to each other anymore, Frank echoes his older brother''s feelings.
"As far as I''m concerned, my brother [Anthony] didn''t do that stuff. Someone stuck it in him. You can go from there." The police agree. They, too, believe that someone else was involved.
Over the summer, detectives filed a report with the county District Attorney''s office asking for murder charges.
"We''re going for the max," says Lt. Randy Roach, head of investigations.
During an interview on Friday, Oct. 3, Roach said detectives filed their report to the DA as a murder case, but he would say little else except that a suspect was an "acquaintance" of Anthony''s who was with him on the night he died.
Friends and family say the man, who comes from a well-off Monterey family, was ten years older than Anthony, and was not a close friend. They say the man is a drug user, and they don''t know what Anthony was doing hanging out with him. One friend of the family called the man a "waste of skin."
Four months have passed since Anthony died and his family wants to know what happened. For now, the death of this 20-year-old Monterey man remains a mystery.
Tony goes back over what he saw that night, and doesn''t know what all of it means. He wonders if his brother''s black-and-blue body looked like it did because of a beating, or because blood collected there after he died. He says the stuff in Anthony''s room had been moved around, and that a hole was cut out of the rug.
If the house had been cleaned and Anthony moved, "nobody knows" who did it, Tony says.
"The bed he was on had three large blood spots--eight inches in diameter--in the mattress in a triangle, like he had been moved a couple times," Tony says. He says he didn''t see any wounds, but he believes someone had cleaned up his brother''s body.
"The coroner said there was one point of penetration but he wouldn''t tell me where," he says. "To me it looked like he had some kind of hemorrhage."
Soon after Tony got to the house, he says, Frank called 911. The fire department arrived, then the police. The brothers stayed outside all night while police worked in the house. The next morning, more investigators showed up.
Since then Tony has talked to numerous investigators. He has a wallet full of their business cards.
"I''m just minding my business until it all gets figured out," he says. "It looks like they''re putting it aside in the hope that everyone forgets about it."
Since soon after Anthony died, Tony says, he hasn''t seen Frank.
Over the years, Tony says, he and Anthony had been at odds with Frank and another brother, Salvatore. He says he''s estranged from Frank and Salvatore. According to court files, there was an incident in 1997 where Frank was charged with pointing a gun at Tony during an ugly altercation in the Monterey boat harbor. Lt. Roach says no family member is a suspect in Anthony''s death.
After four months, Tony feels he''s been waiting too long to know how his brother died. He says the police are dragging their feet. The police say they did a thorough investigation and they''ve given what they''ve got to the DA''s office. The DA''s office says it''s waiting for results from the state crime lab.
"We have an open investigation into the death of Mr. Flores, and that''s about it," says Ed Hazel, the deputy district attorney who''s handling the case. Hazel says that pending results of laboratory tests are holding up the work.
With the investigation ongoing, Hazel remains tight-lipped for fear that any comment might jeopardize the case. He says there are pieces of evidence still being collected and hopes to have it wrapped up "relatively quickly."
But Hazel says investigations into mysterious deaths can take a very long time before someone is charged.
"We''ve had murder cases that take years to put together," he says.
The detectives'' report--said to be very extensive--has been with the District Attorney''s office since summer, but no charges have been filed, angering the Flores family.
Hazel is not the only official to hear from them. The Monterey Police have reportedly gotten an earful, too.
Chief Carlo Cudio, who served previously on the Los Angeles and Chicago police forces, says in those big cities this case would not get so much attention.
"We''ve been accused of not doing enough but the reality is we did a lot more than most places," he says. "We think there will be a prosecution because we think a crime occurred."
Like Tony, Cudio says something at the Spencer Street house didn''t quite add up. Witness statements appear to be contradictory and in conflict with other evidence, police say. The chief says the first officer on the scene grew suspicious right away.
"It didn''t hold up in the officer''s mind as a classical overdose," Cudio says. "We think something good is going to come from it, but it''s not a cookie-cutter standard crime."