Who killed Gary Levin? North Carolina prosecutor clears return to Florida for person of interest

Gary Levin, 74, of Palm Beach Gardens was reported missing on Jan. 31, 2023. Levin, a driver for Lyft, failed to return from picking up a fare, family members said.
Gary Levin, 74, of Palm Beach Gardens was reported missing on Jan. 31, 2023. Levin, a driver for Lyft, failed to return from picking up a fare, family members said.

A man identified as a person of interest in the disappearance and death of Palm Beach Gardens Lyft driver Gary Levin last month has had substantive charges in North Carolina dismissed, paving the way for him to soon be extradited back to Florida.

Describing it as a procedural move, District Attorney Ted Bell of Rutherford County said his office dismissed substantive charges to indict Friday, meaning that the western North Carolina county will delay presenting its charges to a grand jury so that Matthew Scott Flores’ cases in Florida can take priority. The move allows North Carolina to still pursue its charges at a later date.

"Doing it in that fashion will allow the Florida extradition warrant to take precedence, and so it's our intention to get him back to Florida as soon as we can," Bell said Monday.

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Flores, 35, of Arcadia has been named a person of interest in the death of Levin, 74, whose remains were discovered in a wooded area of northern Okeechobee County on Feb. 4, days after his family reported him missing.

Last month, a grand jury indicted Flores for first-degree murder in a separate case, with authorities in Hardee County charging him in the fatal January shooting of a man in Wauchula, about 50 miles southeast of Tampa.

To date, Okeechobee County authorities have not filed any charges against Flores. Bell said the decision to delay pursuing the charges in North Carolina followed conversations with prosecutors in Florida.

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“I was hoping that we could do a quick disposition on ours,” he said. “It became more apparent that that was not going to happen, and the soonest that we could dispose of ours was going to be June or July.  There are victims down there who are having to live with this and deal with this, and in talking with the folks in Florida, it was agreed among all of us that the most important thing was to get him to Florida to face his charges there.”

Flores has been in the custody of North Carolina authorities since Feb. 2, after state troopers arrested him following a multi-county chase in which Flores reportedly was driving a stolen red Kia Stinger that belonged to Levin. It remains unclear how he came to be in possession of Levin’s vehicle.

In North Carolina he faces charges of DWI, fleeing and eluding and possession of a stolen vehicle. Last month, a judge in Rutherford County ordered that Flores undergo a mental competency exam at the request of a public defender. Following Friday’s decision to dismiss the substantive charges, Flores still faces a parole violation charge.

Bell said he could not give a timetable for Flores’ return to Florida as the extradition warrant is still being coordinated between the states’ respective governor’s offices.

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Gary Levin went missing Jan. 30, days before remains found

Flores' pending extradition is for his Hardee County case. According to multiple published reports, he is suspected of killing Jose Carlos Martinez on Jan. 24 in Wauchula. It remains unclear if, or when, Flores could face charges in Levin's death.

Levin was reported missing to Palm Beach Gardens police on Jan. 31, a day after he failed to return from picking up passengers while working for the ride-sharing company Lyft. Those who knew Levin said he picked up a fare in Delray Beach on Jan. 30 and at some point traveled to Okeechobee before he vanished.

A subsequent review of highway traffic sensor data placed Levin's Kia in Miami and Okeechobee before tracking it to Sumter County northwest of Orlando, and then to Gainesville in northern Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported on Feb. 4 that human remains were found in a wooded area of northern Okeechobee County. The remains were positively identified by the medical examiner for Okeechobee County, and Levin's family publicly confirmed his death shortly afterward.

Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at jwhigham@pbpost.com and follow him on Twitter at @JuliusWhigham. Help support our work: Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Lyft driver homicide, person of interest returning to Florida