Matthew Flores pleads not guilty to murder in shooting death of Gary Levin

Murder suspect appears in Okeechobee County courtroom for arraignment
Matthew Flores enters Okeechobee County courtroom for his arraignment, Oct. 2, 2023
Posted at 10:29 AM, Oct 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-02 15:46:18-04

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — A murder suspect accused of killing a Palm Beach Gardens Lyft driver earlier this year has pleaded not guilty.

Matthew Flores pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder during his arraignment Monday morning in Okeechobee County.

Matthew Flores appears at arraingment in Okeechobee County, Oct. 2, 2023
Murder suspect Matthew Flores faces an Okeechobee County judge during his arrangement, Oct. 2, 2023, in Okeechobee, Fla.

He's accused of shooting and killing Gary Levine, 74, in February. Levin's body was found in Okeechobee County a few days after his disappearance.

Flores was indicted by a Florida grand jury last month.

Prosecutors have announced their intention to seek the death penalty.

Flores, who is also facing a murder charge in Wauchula, was arrested in North Carolina, where he was driving Levin's stolen Kia Singer. He was extradited to Florida in August.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Eli Lawson revealed during a news conference last month that Flores shot and killed a person in Wauchula and then fled in a stolen car, eventually making his way to Palm Beach County.

Lawson said an acquaintance hailed a Lyft for Flores so the fugitive could travel to North Carolina, where he used to live.

"It was unfortunately and sadly at that point, Mr. Levin was the one who responded to that call and picked up Mr. Flores," Lawson said.

Gary Levin with car
Those who know Gary Levin say he's an avid car enthusiast.

Flores and Levin drove into Okeechobee County, where Flores shot and killed the Lyft driver inside his vehicle.

"Mr. Levin had been cruelly dumped in a rural, wooded area," Lawson said. "His murder was cold and senseless and completely unnecessary."

Judge Laurie Buchanan set Flores' next hearing for Dec. 13.