WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday they will seek the death penalty for two men accused of murdering a family along Florida's Turnpike in 2006.
Documents filed in federal court announced the possible death penalty if defendants Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez Jr. are convicted. Their trial has been on hold to allow the U.S. Justice Department time to make its decision on capital punishment.
The men have pleaded not guilty in the shooting deaths of 28-year-old Jose Luis Escobedo, his 25-year-old wife Yessica and their two young sons. Their bodies were found in October 2006 along the turnpike near Port St. Lucie.
Authorities have said Escobedo was part of a large drug trafficking ring that included the two alleged killers. Court documents show the family was killed "to eliminate these victims as possible witnesses" against others in the drug organization.
A grand jury indictment against Troya and Sanchez, both 24, says they stopped a Jeep carrying the Escobedo family along the Turnpike in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 2006. After fatally shooting all four family members, they allegedly stole the Jeep.
Authorities later discovered the men possessed an arsenal of weaponry, including an AK-47-type assault rifle, several shotguns, a .44-caliber magnum pistol and several other handguns.
Attorneys for the two men did not immediately respond Wednesday to e-mail messages seeking comment.
The men are not charged with murder outright but with armed carjacking resulting in deaths, conspiracy, weapons counts and drug offenses. Three other people are also charged with the cocaine distribution aspects of the case but are not facing the death penalty.
The death penalty is justified for a number of reasons, federal prosecutors said, including the fact that the two Escobedo boys were only three and four years old when they were slain. Prosecutors also say the men have been involved in other murders and violence in the past and are "likely to commit criminal acts of violence in the future."