4 Indicted in Murder-for-Hire

Victim's wife devised scheme, officials say


Benjamin Alexander-Bloch | | Friday, April 24, 2009

NEW ORLEANS -- A Folsom-area woman and three Jefferson Parish men were indicted Wednesday on first-degree murder charges accusing them of the hired killing of the woman's estranged husband.

Mario Scramuzza Jr., 48, who was a paramedic and firefighter-in-training with the Lacombe-area Fire Protection District No. 3, arrived at his Folsom-area home Feb. 27 to find three hitmen, who beat and strangled him, authorities said.

His wife, Gina Scramuzza, 41, had taken out several insurance policies on him and had concocted the murder scheme several months earlier with Carlos Rodriguez, 38, authorities said. Though investigators said they did not uncover any evidence of a romantic relationship between them, employees at the Lacombe fire district referred to Rodriguez as Gina Scramuzza's "boyfriend."

The Scramuzzas' marriage had been on the rocks.

"Though they both lived under the same roof, it became evident that they each led separate lives," St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain said after the killing.

Rodriguez, along with Erly Yamil Montoya-Matute, 22, of Kenner and Luis Starlyn Rodriguez-Hernandez, 27, of Metairie, let themselves into the home at 44 Green Hills Drive using a key that Gina Scramuzza had provided them, authorities said.

When Mario Scramuzza returned, the men subdued him and possibly held him at gunpoint for some time before strangling him, Strain said. He was beaten before his death, according to the parish coroner's office.

Scramuzza is the nephew of Al Scramuzza, the New Orleans seafood market proprietor whose quirky TV commercials made him famous.

Gina Scramuzza allegedly told Rodriguez, Montoya-Matute and Rodriguez-Hernandez that they could take the orange Dodge Ram 1500 SLT quad-cab pickup truck and other valuables from her family home, both as a form of payment and to bolster the alibi that her husband had been killed during a break-in, Strain said.

Though Strain confirmed that money also had changed hands as part of the deal, he declined to specify the amount.

Gina Scramuzza initially told investigators that her husband was the victim of a burglary, but inconsistencies in her story soon led to her confession and to her implicating Rodriguez as an accomplice, Strain said.

Authorities discovered Mario Scramuzza's body on Feb. 28. Gina Scramuzza and Rodriguez were arrested March 2.

Montoya-Matute and Rodriguez-Hernandez were apprehended March 3 after investigators tracked down Mario Scramuzza's stolen truck in Walker.

A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. District Attorney Walter Reed has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

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