Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa man in jail accused of second murder

TAMPA — A man already in jail on a murder charge was accused Monday of killing someone else just days earlier, setting that victim's vehicle ablaze to try to conceal the body inside.

Investigators say the two killings in March shared a link: a getaway driver in one was a victim of the other.

Jason Smith, 30, of Tampa was charged Monday with second-degree murder, arson, fraudulent use of a credit card and grand theft of a motor vehicle in the killing of Heriberto Cortes, 28.

Early March 3, Hills­borough County Fire Rescue was called to douse a Nissan Pathfinder on fire in an orange grove near Tampa. After putting out the fire, crews discovered a body inside. It was identified as Cortes, from Tampa.

Later that day, Cortes' girlfriend discovered his apartment had been ransacked and reported him missing. A friend told investigators he had seen Cortes' sport utility vehicle at a convenience store, but that two strangers were driving it.

Detectives reviewed Cortes' phone records and found the phone had been used after his death. One call, detectives said, went to a relative of someone who was killed about the same time.

With the help of Tampa police Detective Danny Rhodes, investigators began looking at the killing of Michael Smith Ayuso.

Ayuso, 39, had been shot and killed March 6 in a parking lot at Florida and Kentucky avenues.

The shooting was captured on a surveillance camera, and Smith was charged in that killing.

Investigators reviewed security video and transactions from the convenience store where Cortes' SUV had been seen, at Himes and Waters avenues.

They identified one of the men as Smith. Authorities identified the second man at the store as Evelio Oliveras, who told investigators he had noticed a sheet covering an object in the SUV when Smith picked him up.

At the store, Oliveras said he bought cigars and Smith got two jugs of gasoline. When Oliveras asked what the gas was for, according to investigators, Smith said he planned to burn the SUV because it belonged to someone who owed him money.

Once the SUV was at the field and on fire, it was Ayuso who gave Smith and Oliveras a ride.

Investigators later searched Smith's girlfriend's car, where they found Smith's sneakers smeared with blood. A DNA test linked it to Cortes.

Tampa man in jail accused of second murder 05/16/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 16, 2011 11:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park


    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  2. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash


    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

  3. Hernando Sheriff's Office identifies bank robber killed after chase, places 7 deputies on administrative leave


    Authorities have identified a bank robbery suspect fatally shot by Hernando County sheriff's deputies after a wild chase Friday in which the fleeing suspect rammed several patrol cars in Brooksville.

    Scott Michael Chamberlain, 44, died after a deputy-involved shooting Friday. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that Chamberlaine attempted to rob a bank before taking deputies on a pursuit. (Florida Department of Corrections)
  4. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  5. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]