POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The “final piece of the puzzle” in a years-long quadruple murder investigation in Pennsylvania was hiding in Lake Alfred, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors.
“The violence involved was just unprecedented,” said John Adams, Berks County district attorney.
Agents took Pedro “Javi” Sanchez-Laporte into custody Tuesday in Lake Alfred.
He was indicted in October 2019 in connection to drug trafficking and a January 2018 quadruple murder.
Laporte was a member of the “Trinidad” drug trafficking organization, according to authorities.
They were responsible for the killing of four people in Reading, Pennsylvania they believed were selling drugs in their territory, Adams said.
One of the victims was Laporte’s nephew, who was part of the opposing group.
All other suspects were arrested but Laporte slipped away.
“His whereabouts were unknown,” said Adams.
Investigators believed Laporte was traveling between Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico. It is unclear how long he was in Lake Alfred.
“We’re just really pleased that he has now been apprehended. He was the final piece of the puzzle,” said Adams.
The FBI offered up to $25,000 as a reward for information leading to whereabouts.
Tips are what lead agents to the Sunset Circle trailer in unincorporated Lake Alfred where he was taken into custody without incident Tuesday morning.
Lake Alfred Police were notified about the investigation by the FBI.
“He was not on our radar in the city limits. The place where they picked him up is just outside [city limits]. We didn’t have a whole lot of contact there at all,” said Lake Alfred Police Chief Art Bodenheimer.
Still, Chief Bodenheimer acknowledges Laporte may have been traveling within the city while he was evading law enforcement.
He reminds residents to get to know their neighbors and report anything suspicious.
“If it’s nothing, then it’s nothing. But it might be a situation just like this where you’ve got a dangerous criminal living right next door that has committed some really heinous crimes,” said Chief Bodenheimer.
People in the area are surprised to hear a wanted fugitive was hiding in the small Polk County city.
Neighbors were shocked to learn what happened but did not want to speak to a reporter for fear of retribution.
“We don’t need people like that around here,” said Lake Alfred city commissioner Charlie Lake. “The fact that he was hiding out here is even worse because nobody knew about it.”
So how does a fugitive hide out for years?
“Somebody could come and move into a neighborhood, have an assumed identity. They could not go out of the houses very much. They could be living off funds derived from illegal activities from other relatives,” said David Waller, retired resident agent-in-charge at the Lakeland field office for Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “They could be actually living with relatives and have very little contact with the outside world.”
Waller said he isn’t surprised somebody took advantage of the large $25,000 reward offer.
“It could have been somebody from up in the area where he was wanted from. It could have been someone in our local area. $25,000 does talk,” he said.
Laporte will be returned by the U.S. Marshals Service to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
He is indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and murder in the course of using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.