A former businessman arranged to have his father-in-law murdered in Sebastian in 2009 in retribution for his cooperating with federal authorities in a multi-million-dollar federal fraud case and for owing him money, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in Indian River County Circuit Court.
Daniel Duffy, 36, of Viera in Brevard County is standing trial for the first-degree murder of John Torres, 45, and for conspiracy to commit the murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in a case expected to last for two weeks.
Duffy didn't pull the trigger of the .38-caliber handgun that killed Torres outside the Pelican Island Apartments in Sebastian the night of Nov. 27, 2009, said Assistant State Attorney Daryl Isenhower. Another man, Brian Smith, 32, of Palm Bay, did and is charged in the case, Isenhower said.
But Duffy "murdered him" by arranging for the shooting, the prosecutor said.
Duffy is serving a seven-year federal prison sentence for mortgage fraud against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and several banks including Stuart-based Seacoast National Bank.
He concealed that he and others were improperly buying and selling properties largely in Brevard and Orange counties, according to federal court records. Among the firms Duffy ran was Sebastian River Holdings, Inc., of Sebastian.
Duffy's wife, Nicole Torres, also was charged in the federal case.
As Duffy was facing the charges, "He was upset with (John) Torres being an informant with the feds" and he felt that John Torres owed him tens of thousands of dollars, said Isenhower.
Before the murder, John Torres gave files to federal investigators, said Torres' former girlfriend, Miranda Artz.
"He (Duffy) had a growing motivation to kill," Isenhower said.
Defense attorney Sean Wagner said "Duffy was very, very angry but he didn't kill (Torres)."
Instead, Wagner said, it was Duffy's wife and Marciano Dort, a 30-year-old Brevard County resident, who arranged to shoot her father to get money from him.
According to Wagner, Marciano Dort was a drug dealer who supplied Duffy and Nicole Torres. Wagner said Duffy turned to Dort for pain medications he couldn't get from his doctor.
Wagner also said Dort was secretly having an affair with Duffy's wife.
When Duffy was arrested, she feared "losing a lavish lifestyle she grew accustomed to" with Duffy: expensive cars and houses, including a house in Aruba in the Caribbean.
Duffy met his wife in New York when she was a prostitute, Wagner said, and "She was not going back to the streets."
After Duffy was arrested and lost his income, "Everyone scattered like roaches," Wagner said.
So, Wagner said, Nicole Torres and Dort conspired to kill John Torres to get $400,000 that Duffy had previously given John Torres to help care for Duffy's children.
"She just didn't take the money," Wagner said. "She killed him."
But she wasn't charged with the murder. Dort, Smith and Dort's brother, Lucien Dort, also of Brevard County, were charged.
Deputies arrested all three soon after the murder as they were driving west from Sebastian toward Interstate 95. Inside the car, investigators found a 38-caliber pistol magazine.
Now both Smith and Marciano Dort have agreed to testify for the state, according to prosecutors.
The trial continues this afternoon.