Saturday, May 26, 2018
Public safety

Man says he wanted out of Plant City grow house that turned deadly

PLANT CITY — Jose Panameno-Chavarria told deputies he wanted out of the marijuana growing business.

But the cost of his freedom was a bullet wound to his calf and the death of his roommate, 27-year-old Moises Alfaro-Ramos, according to a search warrant affidavit filed this week in Hillsborough County court.

Investigators still don't know whether to believe Panameno-Chavarria's account of what happened Sept. 8 at 3220 Bruton Road, a home near Plant City where he and others lived.

"He has given several different versions and is still not being totally cooperative," said Debbie Carter, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

According to the search warrant, Panameno-Chavarria, 49, told deputies he had met a man named "Pelon" three years ago at a flea market, and they moved into the Bruton Road home.

Four months after that, he met Pelon's associates, known only as "El Mastero" and "Coco." The three men wanted to take over a marijuana grow operation on the property. Panameno-Chavarria went along for a while, and took in another roommate — Alfaro-Ramos — three months ago.

But between Sept. 6 and the shooting two days later, Panameno-Chavarria decided he wanted out of the grow operation, the search warrant said.

Pelon told him that wasn't a good idea.

At 2:30 a.m. Sept. 8, "El Mastero" and "Coco" arrived at the house on Bruton Road, and confronted the roommates.

Alfaro-Ramos was shot in the neck. Then he was hit in the head with a gun by Pelon. Alfaro-Ramos ran from a bedroom and fell through a sliding glass door, the warrant said. The shooters then threatened Panameno-Chavarria, and shot him in the calf. He said he played dead until the two shooters left with Pelon. Panameno-Chavarria was found hours later, bleeding at the end of the home's driveway, by a neighbor.

When deputies came to investigate, they found Alfaro-Ramos' body on the back patio of the home, and 50 5-foot harvested marijuana plants in a tin shed behind the house.

Panameno-Chavarria was taken to a hospital and treated for his leg injury. The next day, deputies took him to jail and charged him with trafficking in cannabis, possession for purpose of trafficking, second-degree grand theft and having no valid driver's license. He said he couldn't provide real names for "Pelon" — who had been his roommate of three years — or the shooters.

The Sheriff's Office said the case is still under investigation.

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