Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Crime

Pasco man lost thousands playing cards, set the winner on fire, deputies say

Michael Psilakis, of Hudson, faces first-degree murder and other charges. The victim has not been identified.
Left: A burned Ford Taurus, found near Key Vista Nature Park, pictured in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office's forensics building. Right: 21-year-old Michael Psilakis, of Hudson, is accused of killing the unidentified man whose body was found in the car. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
Left: A burned Ford Taurus, found near Key Vista Nature Park, pictured in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office's forensics building. Right: 21-year-old Michael Psilakis, of Hudson, is accused of killing the unidentified man whose body was found in the car. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
Published Nov. 12
Updated Nov. 12

A bloody garage, a scalded shin and a Ford sedan burned nearly beyond recognition were among the clues that led Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies to an arrest in the death of a man earlier this month, according to a report released Tuesday. Deputies said the Hudson man charged with first-degree murder, 21-year-old Michael Psilakis, killed the victim after losing several thousand dollars to him playing cards.

Deputies arrested Psilakis on Nov. 2 on weapons charges as they investigated the death of a man found by construction workers in a burned car in the woods near Key Vista Nature Park. Several days later, Psilakis was charged with murder. Deputies have not identified the victim and cited Marsy’s Law, a state constitutional amendment designed to protect crime victims.

The investigation began when the victim was reported missing. Witnesses said the victim, who had been driving a rented Ford Taurus, was last seen on Oct. 30 with Psilakis, according to an arrest report. A deputy interviewed Psilakis, who said the victim had dropped him off at his mother’s house that evening. Psilakis also revealed a large burn-blister on his shin. The deputy noted blood seeping through his tube socks. Psilakis told the deputy his girlfriend had thrown hot oil on him during a fight.

Another witness told deputies he’d played cards on Oct. 29 with Psilakis and the victim, and that the victim took Psilakis for $1,000, which upset him. The next day, the witness said, Psilakis texted the witness to say he was about to play cards with the victim again, and then to say that he’d just lost another $2,500 playing cards. He also asked the witness if he should kill the victim. Psilakis used a racial slur to refer to the victim.

The witness told him not to, he told deputies, but Psilakis later called to say he was still thinking about it.

RELATED: Hudson man, 21, charged with homicide in Pasco County death

About an hour after deputies found the burned car with the body, they interviewed Psilakis’ mother. She said she had found blood smeared in her garage.

During the interview, Psilakis called his mother. A deputy recorded the call, according to the report. He told her he’d burned his legs when gas he threw on the car blew back on him. They needed to coordinate their stories, he told his mother, and he drove to her house.

When he got there, deputies searched his car and said they found a stolen handgun, leading to the first arrest. They also searched his cell phone and found searches for phrases including “can u shoot through a seat” and “how to treat burns.”

Another witness told deputies she’d found $20,000 in a safe Psilakis used and a pair of his bloody underwear in her washing machine. She also said he’d texted her just before 10 p.m. on Oct. 30: “I just got 3 degree burn.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement later matched a shell casing found at the scene to the handgun found in Psilakis’ car, according to the report. Four other shell casings were too burned to be tested.

Psilakis faces several charges in addition to the murder charge, including the weapons charges, grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest. He’s being held at the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center on no bond. No court dates have been set.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The victim in Friday's shooting at a Tampa police officer's home has been identified as 15-year-old Bradley Hulett of Lithia. Hulett is pictured here on the Facebook page of Operation Lotus, a Hillsborough County non-profit that supports families coping with tragedy and is raising money for Hulett's family. [Facebook]
    Bradley Hulett, 15, was described as sweet, intelligent and charismatic.
  2. Off-duty detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, 32, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol early Saturday morning. A four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s office, Ricketts was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  HCSO]
    Detention Deputy Leighton Ricketts, a four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the results of an internal affairs investigation.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    “With guns you always want to assume they’re loaded,” said a Hillsborough sheriff’s captain.
  4. Mark Edward Allen, 60, was sentenced in federal court on Friday to 5 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Allen was arrested in June and charged with leaving an explosive device on the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System campus May 29. [Pinelllas County Sheriff's Office]
    Mark Edward Allen, 60, was sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty to VA bomb scare
  5. This is a booking photo of Eric Banks, who police say robbed a Dunkin Donuts in Gulfport in September. [Sarasota County Jail]
    The robber used a ball cap, clothing and sunglasses to try to conceal his identity. But he couldn’t cover everything.
  6. Jonathan Aldea Valdes [Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
    Troopers said Jonathan Aldea Valdes overcorrected into the southbound lanes of U.S. 301, hitting and killing Lauren Simone Lee.
  7. Eric Anthony Hall, 42, faces charges of felon in possession of a firearm. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    The man who rented the semi-automatic pistol his companion was shooting faces charges of felon in possession of a firearm.
  8. Blake Faine is charged with DUI manslaughter. His booking photo on that charge was not available Friday afternoon. This is a booking photo from a 2018 arrest. [Pinellas County Jail]
    A 71-year-old woman, Dorothy Wertz, was killed in the crash on Tuesday night.
  9. Steven Irizarry Marin, pictured after his arrest in 2018, was convicted by a jury last week of second-degree murder. He will be sentenced next month.
    Steven Marin will be sentenced next month. He faces 25 years to life in prison.
  10. Joshua Leon Carmona is accused in the 2017 fatal beating of his mother, Tahirih Lua D'Angelo. He faces trial in January 2020. [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
    Joshua Carmona is accused of beating his mother to death in their Riverview home in 2017. New documents shed light on why the crime may have occurred.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement