Waves from Hurricane Irene pound the beach, on August 27, 2011 in Ocean City, Maryland. The state of Maryland has declared a state of emergency as heavy winds and surf from Hurricane Irene approaches the coast.
Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
KEY LARGO - A 41-year-old Houston, Texas, man suspected of killing his wife was found dead from an apparent suicide after a bizarre incident at sea that began Friday after he stole a boat from friends and tried to flee to Cuba.
Noel Sosa-Ruiz reportedly shot himself in the chest as a Coast Guard cutter approached what appeared to be a stranded boater in distress approximately 11 miles southwest of Cay Sal Island in the Bahamas, according to accounts from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the Coast Guard.
The incident began early Friday when a Key Largo family called the sheriff's office to report that a 21-foot Mako center console boat had been stolen from behind their house on Bonito Lane.
A friend of the family told deputies that Sosa, a family friend, had taken the boat and left both a van he had been driving and a note. The note expressed apologies, but added that he had to get away because of a "death warrant," according to Deputy Becky Herrin.
Investigating, Deputy Matt Koval discovered Sosa was wanted in Houston for homicide, according to an October warrant. The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that Sosa-Ruiz is accused of killing 29-year-old Yodanis Cruz-Rojas, his common-law wife. Investigators said Cruz-Rojas was at work at a dental office last week when Sosa-Ruiz entered the business, fatally shot her and fled, the Chronicle reported.
Friends told deputies they thought Sosa was probably trying to flee to his native Cuba. A neighbor reported hearing a vessel engine starting around 1 a.m. Friday, but figured neighbors might be going fishing.
The van left at the Bonito Lane house belonged to Sosa's sister who lives in Kissimmee, deputies said. Further investigation revealed she had loaned him the van two weeks ago, said Herrin.
The Coast Guard and local police agencies were advised to watch for the boat.
At 10:30 a.m. Friday, the Coast Guard in Sector Key West got words from the crew of a Customs and Border Protection Dash-8 aircraft that two red flares had been fired from a center console vessel that appeared to be dead in the water and in need of assistance, the Coast Guard reported.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Nantucket was diverted to the vessel's position, and an Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami flew over to drop a radio, raft, food and a de-watering pump to the vessel. Sosa-Ruiz only retrieved the radio and pump. He used gasoline from the pump to get his engine started and took off toward Cuba, the Coast Guard reported.
Next, the Coast Guard reported that vessel ran out of fuel and was met by Good Samaritans aboard the motor vessel Four Nabucco, who passed his position to the Coast Guard.
Four Nabucco crew members also took down the vessel's registration numbers. The numbers matched with the boat stolen from Key Largo.
The Cutter Nantucket arrived on scene at approximately 6 p.m. Friday. While making their approach, Sosa-Ruiz fired one shot directly into his chest, The boarding team approached the vessel by smallboat, went aboard and confirmed that Sosa-Ruiz was dead.
A .40 caliber Berretta was recovered and was believed to be the gun used by Sosa to kill himself, according to sheriff's deputies.
The vessel and Sosa's body were both brought back to the Florida Keys on Saturday by the Nantucket. Detectives from the Sheriff's Major Crimes Unit are working with the Coast Guard and with Houston police in the investigation. Sosa's body is currently in the custody of the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.
"What started out as a search and rescue case turned into a law enforcement mission for our Coast Guard crews and partner agencies," said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, Coast Guard Sector Key West commander. "Through close coordination with our partner agencies, we were able to apprehend and keep an extremely dangerous fugitive from fleeing the country."
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