Saturday, November 18, 2017
Public safety

Two face murder charges in I-75 roadside killing in Pasco

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WESLEY CHAPEL — Two men face murder charges in the stabbing death of a third man in an altercation alongside Interstate 75 discovered by an off-duty deputy Saturday night.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office learned of the killing when the deputy, driving south on I-75 in Wesley Chapel about 6:50 p.m., noticed an Acura stopped on the northbound I-75 shoulder.

The deputy, who was off duty but driving a marked cruiser, turned around to investigate what was going on.

The deputy arrested two of the men he encountered — Justin P. Gonzalez, 22, originally from Tampa but now living in Tennessee, and Jesse M. Blair, 23, of Lakeland.

The deputy 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 ago after serving two years on a charge of being an accessory after the fact in a capital case, state records show. Details of the case could not be obtained Sunday.

Blair told deputies that 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.

The Sheriff's Office said Sunday that the men each face first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges.

Gonzalez has a criminal history, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. He was sentenced to a six-month jail term in Polk County in 2009 after pleading guilty to charges that included carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a short-barrel rifle or machine gun, records show.

Blair was arrested in 2007 on felony burglary and larceny charges, but state records available Sunday did not show the outcome of the case.

Gonzalez and Blair were being held without bail in the Pasco County Jail.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

 
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