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    Family pleads for help after Army veteran slain while helping stranger

    Carlos Cruz, 60, shot 3 times in Deltona

    DELTONA, Fla. – Volusia County authorities continue to search for the person who shot and killed a 60-year-old man who offered to help a motorist stranded in a ditch.

    A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the death of Carlos Cruz, an Army veteran and who was married for 34 years.

    Deputies said Cruz heard a stranger having car trouble near his home on Puritan Street in Deltona on Saturday night and offered to help by getting his truck to free the car from the ditch where it was stuck.

    Instead, someone in the car shot Cruz three times and stole his truck, deputies said. The car, which had been reported stolen, was left in the ditch, officials said.

    "The term that comes to mind is 'human trash' for the perpetrators of this crime, and we're not going to rest until this person or person are rotting behind bars," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

    Cruz's niece, Maria Peralta, who lives in Boston, released a statement about her uncle.

    "This past week, my uncle was murdered by someone he was trying to help. Our family has been shaken by this incredibly painful loss. It all feels painfully unreal.

    "Carlos Cruz-Echevarria was many things to many people. He was a small business owner who had high standards for his work. He was an animal lover and raised the most beautifully delicate exotic birds. He was what someone from my generation would call “a maker.” He was a loving husband who wanted his family to be happy and healthy. He liked getting to know people. I don’t think there’s anyone he couldn’t strike up a conversation with. He was the kind of person you’d imagine when you think of what a good neighbor should be. He was always helping someone out with something. He’d drop whatever he was doing to help if you asked. He was the kind of man I hope my son one day grows into.

    "Our family has lost a man who made this world and this life so much more rich and beautiful just for being himself. We lost Carlos well before we should have, because he was doing what came natural to him: helping out when he saw a need. If you know anything about what happened to our loved one, this includes anything that led up to or anything relevant that occurred after his murder, please share that information with the law enforcement investigators. We want to understand what happened and why. Please help if you know anything about what happened."

    Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 888-277-TIPS, visit westopcrime.com or via the app available for download at the website. 

    Tipsters can also call 386-248-1777 to reach the VCSO Communications Center and speak to a dispatcher.


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