More Arrests Made in EMT's Killing

Immigrants booked in murder-for-hire


Jeff Adelson | | Thursday, March 5, 2009

NEW ORLEANS -- St. Tammany Parish deputies have arrested two more suspects who allegedly helped kill a Folsom-area paramedic in a murder-for-hire plot concocted by the victim's wife and an accomplice.

With the arrests of the Jefferson Parish men, investigators believe they have rounded up all those involved in the killing of Mario Scramuzza Jr., 48, who worked for St. Tammany Parish's 3rd Fire Protection District, which covers the Lacombe area, Sheriff Jack Strain said.

Erly Yamil Montoya-Matute, 22, of 1657 42nd St., Apt. C, Kenner, and Luis Starlyn Rodriguez-Hernandez, 26, 1201 Lake Ave., Apt. 115, Metairie, were both arrested in Jefferson Parish late Tuesday and booked with first-degree murder into the St. Tammany Parish jail in Covington, Strain said at a news conference Wednesday.

Gina Scramuzza, 41, and Carlos Rodriguez, 38, of Kenner, who allegedly orchestrated the plot over the course of several months, were arrested earlier. Gina Scramuzza had become distant from her husband and had taken out several insurance policies on him, Strain said.

Rodriguez, Montoya-Matute and Rodriguez-Hernandez were allegedly paid cash by Gina Scramuzza and told that they could take valuables and their victim's pickup from the family home, Strain said.

The men let themselves into the home at 44 Green Hills Drive on Friday, using a key that Gina Scramuzza had provided, and waited for Mario Scramuzza to return home, Strain said. Gina Scramuzza was at work as a CAT-scan technician in Jefferson Parish at the time and the couple's 13-year-old son, Gianni, was not at home.

When Mario Scramuzza returned home, the men subdued him and may have held him at gunpoint for some time before strangling him, Strain said. The St. Tammany Parish coroner's office reported Monday that he had been beaten during the attack.

The suspects, who wore gloves and took other steps to avoid leaving evidence behind, stole items from the home and left with Scramuzza's truck, Strain said.

"It wasn't typical to see a novice murderer take the steps these guys took to conceal their crime," Strain said.

Investigators believe they took the objects both as a form of payment and to bolster their story that Scramuzza had been killed during a break-in, Strain said. The property has been recovered, he said.

Rodriguez and Gina Scramuzza were arrested over the weekend after the paramedic's body was found in his home. Gina Scramuzza initially told investigators that her husband had been the victim of a burglary, but inconsistencies in her story eventually led her to confess the role the pair played in her husband's death, authorities said.

After the pair were arrested, investigators continued to look for Mario Scramuzza's truck, which turned up in Walker on Tuesday, Strain said. After canvassing a trailer park near where the pickup was found, investigators got on the trail of the other two suspects.

With the aid of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, deputies arrested Montoya-Matute and Rodriguez-Hernandez, who are both believed to be illegal immigrants, Strain said. Investigators worked rapidly on the case for fear that the pair would flee the country, he said.

"We knew we had to tighten the noose quickly," he said.

Investigators said Montoya-Matute and Rodriguez-Hernandez knew each other before allegedly being hired for the killing, but it is unclear how they knew Rodriguez, who is not cooperating with investigators, Strain said.

As he announced the arrests Wednesday, Strain criticized federal enforcement of immigration laws and said he would bring up the need for tighter border security at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today. Strain said the "large volume" of illegal immigrants in the New Orleans area have created problems for investigators, who are not able to use tools such as databases that often help them research U.S. citizens.

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