RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — A murder suspect out of Florida was arrested Thursday night after a police chase across three counties in North Carolina. A judge gave him a $2 million bond in court the next morning.
The Rutherford County Sheriff said Matthew Scott Flores is wanted for at least one killing in Hardee County, Florida. Authorities shared photos of them searching a pond in Wauchula for the murder weapon.
Flores was hospitalized after a crash when the chase ended along Main Street and Hollis Road in Ellenboro.
Breaking Rutherford Co- sheriff deputies say a murder suspect out of Florida has just been arrested after a more the 50-mile chase through three counties. Watch channel 9 for updates on this developing story. pic.twitter.com/QEWQikwRQL— Dave Faherty (@FahertyWSOC9) February 3, 2023
The North Carolina Highway Patrol and U.S. marshals started chasing Flores just before 6 p.m. Thursday. It carried through McDowell and Burke counties for more than 50 miles before Rutherford County deputies joined.
The Highway Patrol was forced to use stop sticks and conduct a PIT maneuver, which caused Flores to crash the Kia Stinger he was driving.
Flores jumped out and ran, but troopers caught up to him and took him into custody.
Sheriff Aaron Ellenburg said Flores complained he was hurt, so they brought him to a hospital in Rutherfordton. That night, Ellenburg said they would walk Flores out of the hospital and take him to jail.
Ellenburg said it was a dangerous chase in very wet conditions.
“But this is one situation where you have to keep going,” the sheriff said. “You’ve got something of this caliber and our citizens could be at risk with this type of suspect in the county. We have to take all risks and do what’s necessary to take the suspect into custody.”
Ellenburg said that an extradition hearing Friday morning at the Rutherford County Courthouse would determine if Flores will waive extradition back to Florida. Sheriff’s deputies said they were so concerned about safety that they did the court appearance by video.
The judge in the case decided to increase his bond from $600,000 to $2 million over concerns about the murder charge and his attempt to elude authorities. During his court appearance, Flores spoke quite a bit about the bond amount and visibly shook his head when the second-degree murder charge was read.
“If I can get on the phone right now and bond out and get $2 million bond, I can go?” Flores asked.
“I’m ordering you not to leave the state of North Carolina,” the judge said.
Police planned Friday to execute a search warrant on the Kia Stinger to see if it’s linked to another investigation involving missing 74-year old Lyft driver Gary Levin near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Deputies said the car matches the description of the one that belongs to Levin. Investigators said he has not been seen for several days.
Palm Beach Gardens is about 120 miles away from where authorities are conducting the murder investigation Flores is tied to.
Levin’s family said they knew something was wrong.
Rutherfordton- new information tonight on the arrest of a murder suspect from Florida after a 3-county chase in NC. We’re asking if he’s also linked to the disappearance of a 74-year old Lyft driver who hasn’t been seen since Monday. The story tonight on eyewitness news @ 530. pic.twitter.com/kDLOg41hDk— Dave Faherty (@FahertyWSOC9) February 3, 2023
“He wouldn’t just on a whim just take off and go somewhere,” said his son Jonathan Levin.
Ellenburg said they are working closely with authorities in Florida, who arrived in North Carolina Friday as part of their investigation.
“Why would he come all the way to North Carolina? Right now, that’s still unknown in the investigation,” he said. “I’m sure there’s still more to come here in the next day or so. I do know that Florida authorities are heading this way this afternoon.”
Flores is scheduled for another hearing in Rutherford County on Feb. 22.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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