FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Each Friday, Broward County sheriff's Detective John Curcio pulls into the Walgreens on Powerline Road in Pompano Beach to sit and reflect.
Curcio is visiting the site where Chris Reyka, a sheriff's sergeant and Wellington father of four, was killed 3½ years ago, marking one of the darkest days in the agency's history. Curcio has returned to the scenes of cases he has worked in the past - "to clear my head" - but never on a weekly basis.
But this site, this case, is different.
Reyka was one of their own. A respected, admired officer, gunned down without ever drawing his weapon.
He was a man of faith and integrity. He was passionate about his job and active in his community and church. He is remembered, in that parking lot that Curcio visits weekly, with a memorial stone unveiled on the first anniversary of his death.
"When you look at the overwhelming amount of leads from civilians, it shows you the impact the sarge had on the community," Curcio said. "Just drive around and you see his memorial sticker on cars everywhere. This is a guy who went out every night, worked really hard, loved his job.
"I would hope I have some of the same characteristics he had as far as the work ethic and everything else which everybody says he stood for."
Curcio, 52, joined the Broward Sheriff's Office two years ago after his retirement from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where he worked for 29 years. The state's 1992 officer of the year was looking to get back as a homicide detective.
He was assigned the Reyka case last year after the retirement of Dave Nicholson, the lead detective since Reyka was killed, and immediately began reviewing its nearly 3,100 tips and 42 boxes of reports.
"A lot of times with older cases, people tell you they become weaker," Curcio said. "I've never believed that.
"This case is one call away from being solved."
Reyka, 51, was shot multiple times at 1:20 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2007, while investigating a car with a stolen tag. Detectives first believed the car was used by a gang of criminals who were robbing area pharmacies. They hoped for a breakthrough when, in late 2007, Timothy "Back Arms" Johnson, 36, and Gerald "Dread" Joshua, 30, were arrested and charged with the robberies.
A ballistics test of two weapons seized during the arrest of Johnson and Joshua did not match the 9mm gun used to ambush Reyka. Both men were sentenced in January, Johnson to life.
After reexamining the information, Curcio believes the driver of that car may not have been planning to commit a robbery.
Starting at about seven minutes before the shooting, surveillance video from just north of the Walgreens captured an American-made white sedan and Reyka's patrol car on Powerline Road. Curcio said the two cars crossed each other headed in opposite directions at least once before the suspect's vehicle was spotted speeding north just after the shooting.
"The sarge turns around and goes back toward where the suspect vehicle just was," Curcio said. "I don't know if that turn is deliberate because he saw that car and wanted to catch up to it or if he did it for some other reason and the suspect may have seen it in the rearview mirror."
The theory is the suspect may have ducked into the Walgreens lot to elude Reyka and not to rob the pharmacy. Reyka was passionate about running tags and recovering stolen vehicles and was named deputy of the month the previous April for his vigilance that led to the closing of several unsolved cases.
"It's a theory, but I just don't think the car was parked in the kind of position that a robber would park his car," Curcio said.
If that is the case, Johnson and Joshua may not have been involved, although Curcio said: "Until I put handcuffs on somebody, everything is still open."
BSO believes the suspect's car is either a 1998-2007 Crown Victoria LX or 1998-2007 Mercury Marquis GS or LS. The tag - F16 8UJ - was stolen from an Oakland Park plumbing firm. A $267,000 reward remains for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any suspects.
Help from overseas
BSO also is using new technology discovered by a British scientist that could help identify suspects.
John Bond, a forensics scientist from the Northamptonshire police department, has found a way to unveil fingerprints on shell casings by looking for corrosion caused by finger sweat.
Seeking his help, BSO sent a forensic detective to England to deliver the 10 shell casings from the scene. Bond was able to lift prints.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, who said his agency "will go anywhere in the world to solve this case," said those results are being analyzed.
"It's encouraging because those technologies did not exist when Chris was murdered," Lamberti said. "Same with DNA. Improvement in DNA technology is allowing us to go back and reanalyze information."
Curcio continues to sift through leads. He needed more than four months to review all tips and detectives' reports, and he is in the process