Detectives arrest suspect in post-Irma Florida Keys murder

  • In US
  • 2021-09-14 22:57:59Z
  • By Miami Herald

In the weeks after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Florida Keys, leaving much of the island chain in ruins, firefighters made a grisly discovery inside a smoldering Key Largo home. A 70-year-old woman was dead in a hallway with knife wounds to her neck.

The Oct. 21, 2017, murder shook the Upper Keys, where there is plenty of petty and drug crime, but this type of seemingly random act of violence is rare.

Residents and patrons of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars bar where victim Mary Bonneville was a frequent customer - including on the night of her death - desperately hoped police would find the killer.

Monday night, almost four years after her slaying, Miami-Dade County police arrested Eddy Lopez-Jemot, 54, on a Monroe County warrant for murder and arson charges. He will be transferred to Monroe County to face those charges, Monroe Sheriff's Office spokesman Adam Linhardt said.

A judge set his bond at $1.25 million, Linhardt said.

"I want to thank our Major Crimes Unit for their relentless work on this case," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement Tuesday. "It took countless hours of police work to put this case together. I hope this provides some closure to the family and friends of the victim as well as to everyone in the Upper Keys."

It's not clear where Lopez-Jemot was arrested, but his last known address was 10415 Southwest 88th Street in south Miami-Dade County, Linhardt said.

Eddy Lopez-Jemot
Eddy Lopez-Jemot  

Keys detectives had their eyes on Lopez-Jemot soon after the murder. The night of Bonneville's death he threatened during an argument in the VFW bar's parking lot to cut off the head of Magdalena Soutelo-Rodriguez, a woman he used to date, and burn her house down.

"I am going to burn up your house so you know what it would be like to have nothing," he said, according to the Oct. 23, 2017, arrest affidavit.

He also tried to force his way inside her van, according to detectives.

The bar is just 660 feet west of Bonneville's home on Ponce de Leon Boulevard - the one Key Largo firefighters found ablaze at 9:40 that night. The confrontation between Lopez-Jemot and Soutelo-Rodriguez happened at 9:20 p.m., police said at the time.

Cops arrested him two days later on charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon and burglary.

He ended up pleading no contest in January 2018 to aggravated assault. A judge sentenced him to a year in county jail, with credit for time served, plus three years probation.

Monroe cops never said publicly that he was a suspect in Bonneville's death, but they raided the boat on which he lived at the time, docked behind the Murray Nelson Government and Arts Center on the bay side of U.S. 1 at mile marker 102 weeks after she was killed.

The mooring field is home to many "live-aboards" who live on boats, some of them barely seaworthy, in the Upper Keys. Many residents are homeless and squatting on abandoned vessels. Many also took to land after Irma looking for work cleaning up people's yards of debris left behind from the Category 4 storm and doing repairs.

A rowboat sits in the mangroves behind the Murray E.
A rowboat sits in the mangroves behind the Murray E.  

Linhardt said Tuesday that detectives finally linked Lopez-Jemot to Bonneville's murder through DNA evidence found in Bonneville's home, including a beer can and a towel. He wouldn't comment on a possible motive.

A daily routine

Neighbors and VFW regulars at the time said Bonneville was a creature of habit and pretty much had the same daily routine. Around 4:30 in the afternoon. she'd walk to the VFW bar, where a few hours would be spent drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and playing video poker.

Then, she'd get up and walk home.

"She always played 'Show me the Money.' She drank her beer. Played her dollar hand. She loved it," her friend from the bar, Stephanie Matlock, told the Miami Herald/FLKeysnews.com the day after the murder.

Later that night, a neighbor walking to the nearby Circle K convenience store smelled smoke and saw flames coming from Bonneville's home. The man banged on the door, and after getting no response, called 911.

Two Monroe Sheriff's deputies arrived and went to the back of the house. The back door was wide open, but the smoke inside was too thick and the flames too intense for them to go any farther.

Key Largo firefighters came next and knocked down the flames. When they went inside, they found Bonneville dead.

State Attorney Dennis Ward, whose prosecutors and investigators worked closely with the sheriff's office's major crimes detectives said Tuesday that he is relieved a suspect in the case was finally arrested.

"Thanks to the sheriff and his investigators for never letting go on this case and continuing to do a very good job not letting this become a cold case," Ward told the Miami Herald.


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