DADE CITY — One of two men who faced first-degree murder charges in the death of a third man in an altercation along Interstate 75 last fall has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Jesse M. Blair, 24, pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge last week, according to court records. Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa handed down the sentence.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office learned of the killing when a deputy, driving south on I-75 in Wesley Chapel about 6:50 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2013, noticed an Acura stopped on the northbound shoulder.
The deputy, who was off duty but driving a marked cruiser, turned around to investigate.
The deputy arrested two of the men he encountered — Justin P. Gonzalez, 22, from Tampa but now living in Tennessee, and Blair, of Lakeland.
The deputy also found Leon A. Mascorro, 20, of Bristol in Florida's Panhandle, critically injured inside the car. He later died.
Mascorro had been released from the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections about two months earlier after serving two years on a charge of being an accessory after the fact in a capital case, state records showed.
Blair told deputies he and Gonzalez wanted to kill Mascorro because he was a "snitch," authorities said.
Gonzalez told investigators he was driving the car when he handed a knife to Blair, sitting in the back seat.
Blair, deputies said, then started stabbing Mascorro, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.
Blair said Gonzalez also stabbed the victim with the same knife, deputies said. But prosecutors dropped the charge against Gonzalez, court records show.