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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.

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.