A second man will face first-degree murder charges in the Super Bowl Sunday triple homicides, town police announced Tuesday afternoon.
Marcus Steward, 25, was arrested at 12:15 p.m. in Riviera Beach by the United States Marshals Service. In addition to the three counts of first-degree murder, the West Palm Beach-area man also faces one count of attempted murder and one car-theft charge in the Feb. 5 Mohawk Street shootings that killed Kelli J. Doherty, Sean P. Henry and Brandi El-Salhy.
Charles Vorpagel, who rented the home where the shooting happened, was able to leave the scene alive.
Police said Henry’s Honda was stolen from the home and abandoned on Interstate 95 and a BMW was left behind at the scene. Police later discovered the BMW was rented to Christopher Vasata, who was arrested in March on three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting.
Steward’s and Vasata’s DNA were found in gloves and on a T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt and a gun found by Henry’s stolen car. Additionally, two of Steward’s cellphones were found inside the BMW.
Vasata, of Jupiter, told a fellow inmate that he and others planned to rob the people at the rented Jupiter home but “his partner got trigger-happy and so they had to shoot everyone there.”
As of Tuesday evening, police had not said whether Steward was the gunman.
Police had identified at least one other man whose belongings were found in a BMW left nearby the scene. Vorpagel said the same man, who The Palm Beach Post is not naming because he has not been charged, was allegedly a fellow drug dealer who was causing problems and robbing people. Vorpagel told police that he, Henry and Vasata spoke the day before the fatal shootings about killing the alleged drug dealer, according to court documents.
“Vorpagel said he is cordial with the other drug dealers in the area and there were not any turf wars; however, with (name) robbing everyone, it was hurting their drug supply,” police wrote in their report.
But Tuesday, the Jupiter police chief said the case is closed. When asked about what happened to the third person named throughout police documents as a suspect in the triple-homicide, police did not immediately reply.
“Due to the collaborative efforts of all agencies, a dangerous individual will no longer threaten our community,” Chief Frank Kitzerow said in an emailed statement about the arrest. “At this time, there is no further evidence to indicate any other suspects were involved in this incident; and therefore, the case is now closed.”
In the days after the slayings, Kitzerow had said he didn’t think anyone in the neighborhood was in danger and that the fatal shooting did not appear to be “a random act of violence.”
On Feb. 5, Doherty, Henry, El-Salhy and Vorpagel were sitting around a backyard fire pit when they were shot by three masked and armed people just after 10:30 p.m. Police have identified Vasata and Steward as two of them. At the end of the gunfire from a handgun and an AK-47, Doherty, Henry and El-Salhy were dead and Vasata was shot. Police have not said who shot Vasata.
Vasata was dragged from the home, put in Henry’s Honda and driven away from the scene. He was later dumped streets away in the town’s Paseos neighborhood and remained sprawled in the road until he was found by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies nearby. Vasata later told police he was at the party and was also a victim. Vorpagel told police he was not at the party and had not been invited.
Vorpagel, 28, was then arrested on federal gun and drug charges soon after the fatal shooting. He’s expected to plead guilty to those charges Wednesday. In March, Vasata was arrested and placed in the Palm Beach County Jail, where he remains without bail.
In April, Jupiter investigators obtained a search warrant for Steward’s DNA, sheriff’s records state. Steward reportedly learned of the warrant and evaded authorities’ attempts to carry it out.
Authorities tracked him to a Lake Worth home a few blocks south of Lake Avenue and east of Interstate 95. When agents identified themselves as law enforcement, Steward ran.
When authorities brought him to the ground, they handcuffed him and arrested him on a resisting-arrest charge. He pleaded not guilty and served one day in jail in the case, court records show.
According to an arrest report released Tuesday, the sheriff’s office could not analyze the DNA found at the triple-homicide scene with the technology it had at that time. Jupiter police said that at a later undisclosed date, the sheriff’s office acquired a newer technology that allowed it to decipher the different DNAs found on the evidence such as the gloves, clothing and guns.
In that DNA analysis, there were three DNA combinations: Vasata, Steward and a third “unknown contributor.”
As a teenager, “BeastMode” Steward was arrested — and eventually cleared — in the 2009 killing of a 17-year-old in Riviera Beach. Anthony Hughey was shot multiple times before he died in surgery at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, authorities said.
Steward reportedly waited for Hughey that October afternoon and said he’d shoot the teen when he saw him. Steward, Hughey and 15-year-old Earl Johnson exchanged gunfire, authorities said. Hughey took at least one bullet to the face.
But the state decided not to file charges against Steward and he was free by January 2010. The case against Johnson lasted until September 2013, when the state decided not to prosecute him on manslaughter or weapons-related charges.