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Man tied to Lyft driver killing charged with first-degree murder in separate case

Matthew Flores, 35, accused of killing man in Hardee County
Matthew Scott Flores was in court on Feb. 3, 2023, after he was arrested in North Carolina in connection with a homicide in Hardee County, Florida, while driving the vehicle of a missing Lyft driver from Palm Beach Gardens.
Posted at 10:24 PM, Feb 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 08:54:27-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A man who police said was driving the car of a dead Palm Beach Gardens Lyft driver was charged with first-degree murder and other counts Tuesday in a separate case.

A grand jury in Hardee County indicted Matthew Flores, 35, on an upgraded charge from second-degree murder, as well as grand theft auto, possession of a firearm by a felon and tampering with evidence, according to court records. The first-degree charges potential makes him eligible for the death penalty.

The indictment relates to the Jan. 24 fatal shooting of Jose Carlos Martinez, 43, in Wauchula. Police were searching for Flores in that case by Jan. 30, when Lyft driver Gary Levin, 74, disappeared after dropping off a customer in Okeechobee, about 70 miles east of Wauchula.

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 after a chase through three counties, officials said. A body found in Okeechobee after Levin disappeared was eventually identified as the driver, according to the family.

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

No charges have been filed in the disappearance and death of Levin.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not even released the cause of Levin's death.

Flores was being held in Rutherford County, North Carolina, on a $2 million bond with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on charges that include driving Levin's stolen Lyft car and a felony charge of leading authorities on a high-speed chase.

Also Wednesday, he will have an extradition hearing to Florida.