Authorities are investigating a possible link between the murder of a Hudson motorcycle shop owner and an interstate drug smuggling ring.
The beating death of Ronald J. Egyed on March 5 at the annual Bike Week motorcycle rally in Daytona Beach might have stemmed from his supposed association with that ring, nine of whose members were indicted in January in Pasco, Daytona Beach police said.
The killer mistakenly thought Egyed, 56, and his 29-year-old stepson, Randy Manescalchi, were aiding authorities in a federal drug investigation, police said.
"This was not a random crime in any way," said Daytona Beach Police Sgt. Brian Skipper. "It was payback."
However, there is no evidence that either Egyed or Manescalchi were informers in that case, Skipper said. The murder, he said, "could almost be viewed as a huge misunderstanding."
Richard Lozada, an investigator with U.S. Customs, which continues to investigate the drug case, said neither Egyed nor Manescalchi have emerged as players in the investigation. He said the possible link between Egyed's murder and the drug ring remains under investigation.
A massive investigation into that ring involving local and federal authorities netted nine indictments in January, Skipper said. It was a case that Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon called "one of the largest smuggling operations we've ever seen."
Reached by phone Friday, Manescalchi denied that he or his stepfather, who owned Royal Ryder motorcycle shop, were involved in a drug ring.
Manescalchi said he was friends with several people who were indicted _ including suspected leader Russell Cherry, who was best man at Manescalchi's wedding _ but he derided "guilt by association."
Daytona police said there was no evidence Manescalchi was an active participant in the ring.
"My dad's dead," he said. "In his whole life he's never had anything against him."
Daytona Beach police said statements made by the killer during the attack _ cited in police reports released Monday _ pointed them toward the possible drug connection.
Early March 5, the reports said, two men _ Shad Chiszar, 26, and William Russell Speanburg III, 24 _ forced their way into the parked motor home in Daytona where Egyed was staying with his wife, 45-year-old Connie L. Mayo.
While Speanburg stood guard at the door, Chiszar accused Egyed and Manescalchi, who was not present, of being "wired" and working with the police. Chiszar also "confronted Egyed about a shipment of cannabis (marijuana) that was missing and money from the sale of some motorcycles in a business that Egyed owned," the report said.
Ignoring their pleas, Chiszar then beat Egyed and his wife with a baseball bat, forced her to give him $750 cash from her pocketbook and threatened to cut off her finger if she did not hand over a ring, the report said.
Chiszar demanded Egyed put his foot on top of a small table, threatened to shoot Mayo in the head if he resisted and then shot Egyed in the right knee, the report said. Before leaving, Chiszar said, "Tell Randy he's dead."
Mayo survived to identify Chiszar and Speanburg, the report said. Chiszar is in custody, while Speanburg and two other suspects are still being sought.