Man tied to Lyft driver slaying charged in separate case

A man who police say was driving the car of a dead South Florida Lyft driver was charged with murder and other counts Tuesday in a separate case.

A grand jury in Hardee County indicted Matthew Flores, 35, on charges of first-degree murder, grand theft auto, possession of a firearm by a felon and tampering with evidence, according to court records.

The indictment relates to the Jan. 24 fatal shooting of 43-year-old Jose Carlos Martinez in Wauchula. Police were actively searching for Flores in that case by Jan. 30, when Lyft driver Gary Levin, 74, went missing after dropping off a customer in Okeechobee, a small city north of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Wauchula.

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Levin’s red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami, Okeechobee and Gainesville in north Florida after his disappearance. The vehicle was stopped Feb. 2 in North Carolina, where a U.S. Marshals regional task force asked authorities to be on the lookout. Flores, who was driving the car, was arrested following a police chase through three counties, officials said. A body found in Okeechobee after Levin went missing was eventually identified as the driver.

Flores was being held in North Carolina on a $2 million bond with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. He will eventually be returned to Florida. It was not known whether Flores had a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.