MIAMI – Florida Department of Transportation construction crews were putting up guard rails and fencing along the canals south of Homestead when they heard a terrorizing scream.
A worker discovered a gator thrashing from side to side. In its mouth – a man's body.
The incident -- which happened on Feb. 7, 2011 -- would have been shocking by itself – but this was no accident, police say. The man was murdered.
When investigators pulled the body from the water, they discovered 18 feet of heavy duty, steel chain wrapped around the victim's legs. They also saw he had been shot several times - executed.
They believe whoever did it dumped the man in the gator-infested waters to conceal the murder, hoping the alligators would devour the body, and thus, the evidence.
Detectives worked quickly to identify the victim. He was wearing some distinctive clothing and had several tattoos. There was also $370 cash in his pants pocket.
But no wallet. No identification. Fingerprints were taken from the body. A match. Oddly enough, they were on file with the FBI. His name: Juan Luis Perez. The 41-year-old man had a record and currently was on federal probation.
Days later, a tip came. Perez vanished three days earlier after a friend drove him to a strip mall at Coral Way and Southwest 87th Avenue. He met a friend – Gabino Gomez.
Gomez was taking Perez to buy a used car and reportedly had $7,000 cash on him. That money was missing.
Detectives were baffled. They did a little digging. They learned Perez first met Gomez in a Miami halfway house after each was released from prison. Perez was locked up in the U.S. federal system on various drug trafficking charges. He was on federal probation when he vanished.
Gomez, detectives would discover, served a federal prison sentence himself, his conviction stemming from a massive DEA operation in the late 1980s. It was known as "Operation Pisces."
Gomez was considered one of the Colombian drug cartels' biggest money launderers. Convicted on a variety of charges, Gomez wouldn't cooperate with the feds and refused to give up any names. He wouldn't snitch, earning him high praises among the drug lords. Gomez served 23 years of his 30 year sentence.
"Gabino Gomez is nowhere to be found," said Miami-Dade Police Homicide Det. Juan Segovia. "At this point in the investigation, Gabino Gomez is the person we need to speak to. Gabino Gomez is going to have some answers, and may be able to piece this whole thing together. He may have more than just a few answers. He may actually be involved."
The current whereabouts of Gomez are unknown. He has ties to California, Florida, New York and Colombia.
"We're not only looking at Gabino Gomez pertaining to this investigation," said Miami-Dade Police Homicide Det. Jon Sabel, "but we're also concerned for his safety. Because, his family has reported him missing, as well, and we'd like to know, to see if he's's okay."
If you have any information about the case, or the whereabouts of Gabino Gomez, call Miami-Dade police or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers.