BOCA RATON, Fla. – A Hialeah man severely beat a Boca Raton woman and doused her with a liquid chemical, burning her, after delivering a washer and dryer to her home that had been purchased from Best Buy, police said.
Boca Raton police spokesman Mark Economu said Tuesday the woman, identified in a police report as Evelyn Smith Udell, 75, died of her injuries.
Jorge Lachazo, 21, was arrested Monday. He now faces charges of first-degree murder, first-degree arson and armed burglary with battery.
Police said Lachazo and co-worker David Gonzalez dropped off a washer and dryer at the woman's home in the Colonnade at Glen Oaks.
While the men were installing the new appliances, Gonzalez went outside to return a work call, leaving Lachazo alone with the woman.
After hearing screams coming from the house, Gonzalez went back inside and noticed blood on the floor of the laundry room. He also found Smith Udell on the floor.
While Gonzalez was outside calling 911, Lachazo got into the delivery truck and drove away, police said.
A nearby police officer on patrol in the area stopped the truck and noticed that the hairs on Lachazo's legs were burnt and had ash on them, police said.
During a search of Smith Udell's home, detectives found burn marks on the washing machine and door frame leading to the laundry room.
"Burn marks and charred debris was observed in various locations on the tile floor within the room," Detective Scott Hanley wrote in the probable cause affidavit. "A strong odor of a chemical was present. A wooden-handled mallet was on top of the washing machine. Blood was observed on the mallet. A glass wine bottle was on the floor in front of the washing machine. Long hair was observed in the dried blood on the lower front portion of the washing machine and wine bottle."
An open can of acetone was also found on the kitchen counter, its plastic lid on the floor next to the washing machine, Hanley wrote.
After Lachazo was treated for his injuries at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, he was interviewed by police at the Boca Raton Police Department.
Lachazo admitted to detectives that he used the mallet to hit Smith Udell on her head and then went into the garage to get a chemical that he poured on her, according to the report. He claimed it spontaneously combusted.
Police said Lachazo admitted to using cocaine and marijuana earlier in the day.
Smith Udell was taken to Delray Medical Center, where she later died.
Best Buy CEO Corie Barry released a statement Tuesday, saying the company closed its Boca Raton store Tuesday out of respect for the victim and her family.
"We are profoundly sorry and offer our deepest sympathies to our customer and her family," the statement read. "Beyond working with law enforcement in any way we can, we have suspended our relationship with the small, local company that was subcontracted to deliver to the customer's home. In the hours after we initially learned what happened, we immediately revisited our delivery and installation programs and, in the coming days, will do two things: 1) ensure all our processes were followed and 2) work with our delivery partners to do anything more we can to help ensure that this type of tragedy will not happen again. Additionally, we are hiring an independent security firm to review our existing screening, audit and safety programs and share with us their assessment on how we can improve.
"For more than 20 years, millions of Americans have trusted us to come into their homes and, on days like this, I am fully aware of how precious that trust is and how vital it is that we do everything in our power to earn it. Today, we redouble our efforts to do just that."
A Florida Atlantic University spokeswoman told Local 10 News reporter Janine Stanwood in a statement that the victim was a longtime employee of FAU libraries.
"Evelyn worked at FAU from November 2003 until April 2018 as a cataloger in the technical services department," the statement read. "Evelyn will be remembered as a kind, caring and hard-working member of the staff. The university is devastated to hear about Evelyn's passing. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and former colleagues."