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Family: Vehicle of missing Palm Beach Gardens Lyft driver found in North Carolina, man in custody

Gary Levin, 74, last seen Monday driving red 2022 Kia Stinger, family members say
Law enforcement officers escort Matthew Flores out of a Rutherford County, North Carolina medical center on Feb. 2, 2023.jpg
Gary Levin of Palm Beach Gardens was last seen Jan. 30, 2023.
Posted at 10:48 PM, Feb 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 13:14:47-05

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Family members of a missing Lyft driver from Palm Beach Gardens said his car has been found in North Carolina, where authorities said a murder suspect is now in custody.

Gary Levin, 74, was last seen Monday. Family members told WPTV they lost contact with him after he went to go pick up a customer for Lyft.

"For him to go completely off the map, that's not at all normal," Lindsay DiBetta, Levin's daughter, said Wednesday.

DiBetta said a man driving her father's red 2022 Kia Stinger was taken into custody in North Carolina. However, Levin is still missing.

Rutherford County, North Carolina, Sheriff Aaron Ellenberg confirmed to WPTV that Matthew Scott Flores, 35, was apprehended after a three-county chase on Thursday.

Ellenberg said authorities located the Stinger in McDowell County and a chase ensued, leading into Rutherford County.

The sheriff said deputies used stop-sticks to stop the car, which crashed in Ellenboro, about 11 miles north of the South Carolina border.

Ellenberg said Flores took off running after the crash, but was soon apprehended and taken to a North Carolina hospital because it appeared he was under the influence of drugs.

Flores was later released from medical care and transported to the Rutherford County Detention Center.

Law enforcement officers escort Matthew Flores out of a Rutherford County, North Carolina medical center on Feb. 2, 2023.jpg
Law enforcement officers escort Matthew Flores out of a Rutherford County, North Carolina medical center on Feb. 2, 2023.

According to a news release from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, Flores was wanted in Florida for second-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm in public, and violation of supervised pre-trial release.

The Wauchula Police Department, located in Hardee County, said Flores shot and killed Jose Carlos Martinez on Jan. 24.

Police said a woman named Stephanie Velgara assisted Flores in fleeing from law enforcement in Florida, and has been arrested for being an accessory after the fact for second-degree murder.

"As the investigation continues, we will focus on and identify those who aided or assisted Flores to ensure they are charged appropriately for their role in Flores’ flight from law enforcement," the Wauchula Police Department posted on Facebook.

Ellenberg said Flores will eventually be extradited to Florida to face charges.

“We are devastated and disgusted with everything and we don’t even want to know all the details at this point about this criminal who was driving my dad's car," Dibetta told WPTV in a statement. "All we care about is his whereabouts. We are nervously awaiting details on my father from the authorities.”

Levin was scheduled to pick someone up shortly before 1:30 p.m. Monday.

"We don't know if he actually picked up the person, or if he picked up a person as it was completed, or what happened," DiBetta said.

DiBetta was told by police her father's car was spotted in multiple cities throughout Florida, including Miami, Okeechobee and, most recently, Gainesville. There is still no sign of Levin or his cellphone.

"We kind of don't believe that he's with the car," DiBetta said. "Why would he drive around with his phone off?"

Police also said Levin has made no threats to harm himself and has no known medical conditions.

A Lyft spokesperson released the following statement regarding Levin's disappearance:

"Our thoughts are with Mr. Levin's family and loved ones during this deeply concerning time. We've been in touch with his family to offer our support, and have reached out to law enforcement to offer our assistance with their investigation."

Anyone who may have seen Levin or his Kia Stinger is asked to contact the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department at 561-799-4445.