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Missing engineer found in grave

TAMPA — Charles London Beck, a meticulous civil engineer who brought his mother flowers the last time he saw her, was found dead Friday in a shallow grave in Highlands County.

Detectives are still investigating how this 25-year-old Tampa professional's life ended more than 100 miles from home, a fatal bullet wound to his head.

They say two people are responsible: his girlfriend, Nicole Sylvester, 20, of Tampa, and someone neighbors describe as Sylvester's friend, Byron Moorehead, 20, of Lutz. Both were arrested in Palm Beach on Thursday.

Beck and his silver 2002 Mercedes disappeared a week earlier, after he didn't show up to work on March 13. Palm Beach deputies found Beck's missing 2002 silver Mercedes in an apartment complex Thursday.

As law enforcement kept an eye on the vehicle, Sylvester and Moorehead arrived in a rented car to pick it up and were taken into custody.

According to Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter, here's what happened:

Sylvester phoned Beck sometime between March 12 and 13 to meet her at Moorehead's place, 7808 River Resort Lane, Apt. C. — off N 56th Street near E Sligh Avenue.

Beck arrived, and Moorehead and Sylvester held him at gunpoint, took his wallet, bound him with duct tape and stuck him in the trunk of his prized Mercedes.

They drove south on Interstate 75, stopping near the Ellenton exit near Bradenton and pulling to the side of the road.

Beck managed to escape from the car, thanks to an emergency release inside the trunk, Carter said. But Sylvester and Moorehead caught and subdued him. That's when detectives think Moorehead shot Beck, loaded his body into the Mercedes, and drove with Sylvester to Highlands County, where they buried him.

Genny Beck, 46, reported her son missing earlier this week after his employer at Marlin Engineering called and said he hadn't shown up to work on March 13 as expected.

His mother said Beck made her proud. Growing up, he did housework and helped the single mom manage her two youngest children. He earned his engineering degree from the University of South Florida in less than three years.

When he introduced Sylvester to his mother as his girlfriend, Genny Beck said she had a bad feeling.

Beck and Sylvester dated off and on for about three months, said Carter. But neighbors at Sylvester's residence, 3404 N 55th St., laughed when told she was dating a man. They said Sylvester, whom they call "Stud," has had a relationship with exotic dancer Michelle Martin, 20.

Martin was arrested Tuesday on violation of probation after detectives questioned her about Beck's disappearance.

She was in Orient Road Jail on Friday.

Sylvester and Moorehead are being held in Palm Beach County. Both are charged with first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and armed robbery.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Missing engineer found in grave 03/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 11:56am]
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