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Autopsy results pending on body found during search for missing Lyft driver

Human remains found Saturday in Okeechobee wooded area during search for Gary Levin, 74
Gary Levin with car
Posted at 5:08 PM, Feb 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-06 09:52:28-05

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. — Autopsy results are pending and could determine if human remains found over the weekend in Okeechobee are those of a missing Lyft driver from Palm Beach Gardens.

Investigators said a badly decomposed body was found Saturday in a wooded area near State Road 70 and Northeast 40th Avenue.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office are working together on this investigation to determine if the remains are those of Gary Levin, 74, who was last seen Jan. 30.

Investigators said autopsy results could be released as soon as Monday.

Gary Levin of Palm Beach Gardens was last seen Jan. 30, 2023.
Gary Levin of Palm Beach Gardens was last seen Jan. 30, 2023.

Matthew Flores is behind bars for probation violations after serving a year-and-a-half in a North Carolina prison on drug and assault charges.  

Flores potentially faces charges connected to the disappearance of Levin.  

Prosecutors in central Florida want him brought back to face murder charges in the shooting death of a man in Wauchula.

“Rest assured that this individual will be returned to Florida," said well-known western North Carolina defense attorney Stephen Lindsay, who is not connected to the Flores case. "It probably will be within the next couple of weeks. It could be even sooner than that."

"My sense is there's not going to be any negotiating going on. It's going to be, how quickly can we get him back?" Lindsay said. "And from the defense's perspective, what can I do to protect him in the interim?"

Laura Powell, Rutherford County's chief public defender, whose office is defending Flores for now, said: "I'm certain that as soon as they arrested Mr. Flores, that the state of Florida, just because of the seriousness of the charges, already started the extradition process."

Flores has been in the Rutherford County Detention Center since Thursday, after deputies said they caught him during a high-speed chase driving Levin's Kia Stinger.

A body was found Saturday morning in Okeechobee County, not far from where Levin, 74, dropped off a Lyft passenger, but it has not been identified, and Levin is still considered missing.

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

Positive identification of the remains is pending an autopsy.

Flores has not been charged with any crime against Levin at this time.

Powell said Florida has likely asked for a governor's warrant, which would allow Florida to bring back Flores if North Carolina's governor signs the paperwork.  

"Then, he'll issue the governor's warrant and then the state of Florida can come up and extradite, or take, the individual back to the arresting state," Powell said.

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