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Tampa authorities looking into local slaying suspect

MANATEE — A man charged with shooting a woman to death in a wooded area off Rye Road may be connected to another homicide case in Tampa.

Jose Luis Marrero, 34, allegedly shot 22-year-old Lauren Lichon once in the head and once in the chest as she sat in her car in a wooded area off of Rye Road near Rye Wilderness Trail on Feb. 5, 2009, according to a warrant complaint.

Marrero, who was arrested Wednesday, went before Judge Edward Nicholas at first appearance Thursday and remains in jail without bond.

Tampa Police Department detectives are interested in talking to Marrero in connection to an unrelated homicide case, said Charles Britt, Marrero’s criminal defense attorney. Marrero has not been charged in that case, according to authorities.

“It’s another curve ball we may or may not have to deal with down the road,” Britt said after investigators seized a multi-tray DVD copier and 2,785 pirated DVDs from a search warrant executed at his residence, according to court documents. The victim in the Tampa case reportedly owned a similar model, Britt said.

According to documents, Marrero appeared to be running a business by pirating DVDs.

Laura McElroy, spokesperson for Tampa Police Department, said Tampa detectives were working closely with authorities at Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to investigate Marrero. Tampa police are looking at Marrero in connection to an “ongoing investigation,” but she declined to go into any further detail.

Sheriff’s office detectives arrested Marrero after his 15-year-old nephew — who reportedly witnessed the shooting from the backseat of the car — told detectives what he saw this week.

“You look at that and say, ‘Can we weigh that much on one person?’ ” Britt said.

Lichon, who had Marrero riding in her car, was on her way to purchase 300 Roxicodone pills after he reportedly helped her broker the drug deal, according to documents.

While male DNA was found inside Lichon’s car on the steering wheel cover, it did not match Marrero’s, according to court documents. Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said they were waiting for more DNA evidence to come back from the lab.

When a search was conducted inside Marrero’s residence, the gun was not listed among the items recovered in the complaint warrant.

Steube would not disclose whether or not investigators found the weapon used in the shooting.

“From what I’m hearing with the case, it doesn’t seem to me there’s a lot there, but we’ll see,” said Britt, who plans to meet today with Marrero.

Marrero served a five-year prison sentence after he committed burglary, grand theft and robbery with a deadly weapon in 1996. He was released in 2001.

“I’ve known him a long time. He’s never been someone directly involved in something. He’s always been peripherally involved,” said Britt, a former Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detective, who arrested Marrero in the past. For example, Britt noted a time when Marrero was a getaway driver during a robbery.

“He’s always been cooperative with police and done the right thing when the rubber hits the road,” Britt said.

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