Of scale contains adult themes and violence and is not intended for all audiences, listener discretion is advised.
And when I open the door and I saw him, I said, Jesus, Freddy, what the hell happened? I've been attacked. It kept saying, I'm dying. I did not die. Hold on. Breathe.
Hello and thank you for joining us. This is Season eight, Episode one eighty one of Soad and Scale show that reveals the worst monsters. A real. Well, thank you for joining us. It's going to be an interesting one, this one may make you think a little bit if you're into that sort of thing that a lot of people are. It's kind of hard, but this one does challenge a lot of the preconceived notions of what mental illness is and how we deal with it in the justice system when we choose to apply it when we don't.
We're joined by Sun-Sentinel reporter Mark Freeman. Last year was a rough year, right? Luckily, some of us have developed coping skills in our youth and some just within the last 12 months that help us deal with the stresses of covid life. The Psychology Today article titled Understanding and Choosing Better Coping Skills. They say coping mechanisms are skills we all have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.
When life gives us lemons, our coping skills help us see this as an opportunity to make lemonade without the coping skills to convert disappointment over one missed opportunity into an increased resolve. It's easy to get stuck in a revolving door of letdown after letdown. In this week's case, we can see how quickly poor coping skills can send a person spiraling into unimaginable darkness. Tucked into the miles and miles of interconnected cities stretching down the southeast coast of Florida is the city of Greenacres not to be confused with the town from the hit 1960s sitcom Green Acres.
That town is actually called Hooterville nostalgic throwback seaside.
This Greenacres is nestled in the center of Palm Beach County and is true to its name, Greenacres.
Pflugerville says the city of Greenacres has been named a Tree City USA since 1992 by the National Arbor Day Foundation due to the demonstrated commitment to plant and maintain trees in public spaces at roughly six square miles.
The city really is acres and acres of green among its highways and city streets dotted with trees are residential neighborhoods and tucked away cul de sacs on one particular cul de sac.
During the early evening of November 19th, 2015, not long after the sunset and just when the southern heat was beginning to subside, a fight broke out. No one to replace biomedical does not want any police, fire, medical, police. There's a real fight going on whether the address will work. But it's like two houses down just east of us. How many people are fighting? I don't know. I can't see him. I could just hear him screaming your names like they're banging up against cars and stuff.
If you just come down to a circle, go into the cul de sac at the end and it's right there on the left, on the normally quiet street, Greg Carroll was taking out his trash when he heard a horrible ruckus.
He heard yelling and what sounded like banging against a car, this being completely out of character for any of his neighbors and not recognizing any of the voices. Greg was immediately alerted by the sounds of the fight. He wasted no time running into his home, shutting the garage door and calling 911 one at six or eight p.m. less than two minutes later, 911 one received another call from next door to the altercation. This call confirmed Greg suspicions there was something serious going on on the Chickasaw Circle cul de sac, nine one one later.
Paramedics, police and a medic just attacked my neighbor and he's lying on my belly. But I don't know if I knew that.
This is Ruth Amoroso. She called nine one one because her neighbor next door, Freddy Sanchez, had just collapsed on her doorstep. His face and body covered in blood, suddenly bleeding badly.
What does it act with? I don't know when they say I know a nice guy. OK, yes.
Albert Amoroso, Ruth's husband of 50 years, was tending to Freddy on their front doorstep. That's who she was yelling to when the 911 operator asked what he was attacked with.
Ma'am, do you have any idea who did this? But I have no idea who did know, so to speak, information.
While Albert stayed with Freddy waiting for the paramedics, Ruth slowly approached her neighbor's home, putting her own life at risk. She needed to know if Freddie's husband and partner in a floral business when Dixon was OK or if he'd been attacked too many times, said, Oh my God, how many people were stabbed?
How many people were there to try to kill victims?
When Ruth turned the corner of Freddy and Wayne's house and caught view of the entryway, she knew there had been more than one victim.
Oh, God, there's blood all over. Where were they stabbed, man? Everybody don't know. All over this house. Are they inside or outside what is outside my front door and came over. And I don't know where Wayne is right now. I don't want to go in the car wash.
With tensions obviously running high, Ruths panic made it difficult for the operator to get any useful information from her.
Well, coming down tonight, not raining yet. Where's the other one? In seventy five and the other one. Seventy four. Seventy five. Thirty four. Seventy five to two. I don't know man. These are neighbors. They don't have any information other than to. So I've been on top and I had a college gone. Do you know where they were. Did they drive. Tell me the car that they would drive. I'm. You know, I love color, but a black Toyota like an SUV.
Yes, yes. OK, so the onus is on it. Why would it usually be there? Yes. Yes, definitely.
And the rush to gather information, Ruth noticed a very important detail. The married couples, black Toyota SUV was missing from their driveway. This detail and the fact she had known the couple for years removed any doubt that there was another person involved and that the person fled in their SUV.
Were they fighting against each other or is there somebody else? No, no. Yeah, they they don't have a lot of information. I have police on the way, so I'm going to get the rest of the information from are both victims conscious if someone is in the house? I don't know where he is. I don't want to run long enough blood all over.
It would take four minutes for officers to respond in another nine minutes for paramedics to reach the two stabbing victims. They were both immediately transported to the hospital by the only two trauma hawks in Palm Beach County. About an hour after the first night when one call both Freddy Sanchez and his husband, Wayne Dixon, were pronounced dead. Back on Chickasaw Circle, officers tried to make sense of the alleged attack, to do so, they interviewed the Ambrosio's individually.
My husband and I were sitting in our front room carrying my wife and myself, screaming, we're in the computer room. I was on the computer. And all of a sudden this terrible, terrible banging was on the front door. And there was a loud banging at my front door. And I kind of jumped up, said, holy hell, it could have been ran to the front door. And it was my neighbor, Freddy Sanchez, covered with blood saying, help me.
And I said, My God, Freddy, what happened? And he said, he was stabbed. So I went to get a town to wipe his face off or something. I come out even laying on the ground. I said, Freddie, can you hear me? And he said, yes. And I wiped his face off, which I probably shouldn't have done. But and he says to me, he says, I'm having a hard time breathing.
And that's when I came out and I called 911.
But their stories were identical. Abbott tried to keep Freddie awake while he was bleeding out and Ruth went to see if Wayne was OK. I said, Where's Wayne? Wayne is his partner. He's in the house. So my wife started over to the house. I told her, don't go inside because I don't know what's inside the house. I was going to go over and see where Wayne, you know, his his partner husband was all right. And I opened the front door and I said, I don't think I should go in there.
There's blood all over now. I heard Wayne call. What was this? I could tell something. And all I said to him was the police are on their way with with a with an ambulance to both you and Freddy.
When she opened the front door, she witnessed a horrific scene. The entrance to the home was bathed in blood from the door to the kitchen and down the hall, blood smears intertwined with the blood droplets and footprints. The walls were a mix of blood, castoff smudges and arterial spray. The scene was bloody and violent, but before the officers started looking for a suspect, they needed to know one thing. What was their relationship like?
They all go back and forth fighting and weighing like a basic domestic couple. I don't know. They're married, right? Yeah, I know. Like any other. Like any other couple. Yeah.
It's normal procedure to question the relationship between two men or any married couple that have both been found in this condition. You first have to rule out whether they did this to each other.
So I you know, I heard he kept saying he was going to die and I kept saying no, OK, but did he say at all who did it? A white man. Like when you were talking to Freddie, did Freddie say anything to you? Did he did he tell you who hurt him or he thought it was a white guy? That's all he said was a white guy. He didn't give a name? No. Just say I was a white guy.
The only lead was a mysterious white guy. So the officers asked if the Ambrosio's knew any white guys or guys in general that perhaps frequented the Dixon Sanchez home. Did they say anything?
There's a missing vehicle here. Supposedly it. Did Freddie say anything to you about the missing vehicle? Yeah, somebody stole my car. Do you know any white guys that normally visit these two gentlemen? Yes, I do. I know his first name, like, OK. Did they ever have visitors or anything come over? Yes. Like frequent guys or. Well, this one kid, like, I don't even know his last name. What does he do?
Nothing. What does he look like? He's about 20, 25, you know, around the thin kid, you know, he's a white male, white male. Yes, yes. This might drive. Yeah. What does he do? I don't know. You don't have an 11 year driveway's vehicle some time. Which one's going vehicle? The yellow one. The van here. Yeah, I haven't seen him. He was here Sunday and he was going to mow the lawn, but he fell asleep.
OK, he's been in all kinds of trouble, this kid. The only reason I even thought about him was he would go with a caucus for the only thing I could think of is the dog didn't bark at nothing. There was no noise. What does that mean to you? I'm speculating they lose. That's why I'm asking what you think it means. That's all it means that they knew who was ever in the house. This is terrible, isn't it?
It's not good. Do what Ruth, the officer didn't know was that both Freddy and Wayne had already been pronounced dead over two hours before, this wasn't an investigation into an assault. It was an investigation into a double murder. And the only lead was a white guy named Mike Kusama.
This guy named like I want know you know about Mike, please. I know every time I talk to him. And he was polite and he did some more jobs. We create jobs and stuff like that.
Wayne and I visited back and forth quite a bit in the evening if Mike was there. He was just stretched out on the couch like, you know, like he's just about a twenty, twenty five year old kid. He is on what he calls old people drugs. He's already I know he took and stole a lot of Wayne and Freddie's house, Freddy's wedding ring with the diamonds in it. And Wayne went and got it out of what. He also stole Freddie's mountain bike and Wayne got it out of hock.
After that, Freddie said he couldn't go in the house. He said Mike and Mike couldn't go in the house anymore. And then they let him in. And then Freddy said he can only go in if somebody is in the house because he steals things. Freddie didn't really like him, but Wayne kind of felt sorry for him. So he had them mow the lawn and he did reside with them. Exactly how long? I don't know this old people drugs.
What are you talking about? He told me it was OxyContin and obviously the other one I know she kept saying because I said I argued with them. I said there's no such thing. So Mike told you this or he told me when he tell you this? Oh, about a month ago he was mowing the lawn. And I said to Mike, You're hot. You better be careful. You don't have any shoes on. And he said, I'm fine, I'm fine.
I said, you're not you're high on something. And I said, what the heck? You take it. And he looked at me and he said, Oh, people, drugs, people, drugs.
OK, good. Think about a drug problem. Yeah, well, you know, he was I was on drugs coming about it. My wife come out with a headache or someone take care of myself as Xanax and he said they're all people drugs. So he said, you need some, I can get sick. So we just left it off. The Ambrosio's told officers about Mike, the guy that Wayne felt sorry for and would give odd jobs to.
He even lived there for about two years. He was close to the two men and familiar with the interior of their home. Oh, and he had a drug addiction and was prone to stealing things to sell for cash to the officers.
It seemed like they had their prime suspect and a possible accomplice.
Mike has a heavy set. He does have facial hair. Does he not like this other guy he used to hang around with? OK, just about what does he look like? Does he ever come over here? He's been here a couple of times. He's not a frequent visitor right now. OK, he's white. You know his name? No, no, exactly. Heavy shit, and he's got some kind of facial hair, I don't know if it's a beard or a mustache.
I can't. To be honest, I can't think, you know, you just get a feeling. I mean, feelings don't count. I understand that there's a reason for that. He'll get a feeling.
I mean, I always make sure when I lost my doors that way, Mike and the fat boy sounds like a failed TV plot, but to police, it was their only real lead other than the stolen SUV. The scene didn't tell them much, other than whatever happened was extremely violent. We don't know for sure what happened, but we do know what the details suggest. The altercation seemed to have started in the entrance to the home. Most of the blood was concentrated in this area.
There had to have been a massive struggle according to the amount of blood on the floor walls and down the hallway in the living room, there was a broken baseball bat leading investigators to believe that the residents defended themselves unsuccessfully, following the smudges of blood to the end of the hall and next to the door into their floral shop converted garage was a large pool of blood. Wayne Dickson collapsed there, trying to escape, stopped by the locked door. From there, Wayne called for help from Ruth Amoroso in the 911 call, leading away from the front door, where two sets of footprints, one set belonged to Freddy Sanchez, leading around where the now missing SUV was once parked and straight to the Ambrosio's front door.
The second seemed to be that of the culprit making an escape while Freddy and Wayne bled out from over a dozen stab wounds. Each could old person, drug addict Mike and his fat friend have anything to do with this? Could Freddie and Wayne have had enemies that their neighbors didn't know about?
Either way, Mike was worth checking out, but the officers never got the chance to look much further into Mike and his friend because what the officers and the residents of Chickasaw cul de sac didn't know was, well, a lot. Hey, if you have thirty three minutes, you never have to worry about a break in at home ever again, that is how quick and easy it is to set up a security system from simply safe. It's the kind of thing that's so easy to do.
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Dotcom Rigaud, Freddy Sanchez and Wayne Dixon were murdered in their own home and the only suspect was a young man named Mike who waited, felt sorry for and had sort of taken in.
He showed up a few times to try to get money from Freddy and Wayne. Also, Mike had a friend who Ruth Amoroso described as Fat Boy before the officers could really suss out if they had anything to do with it.
News came that the actual culprit, not Mike and the fat boy, spent the night on a long and destructive crime spree that nine forty five a.m. the following day, over 15 and a half hours after the first night when one call and more than one hundred and fifty miles away from the Dixon Sanchez home, a young man was taken into custody near the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Near the airport was a government run weather station where George Bonilla was working when a man burst in the back door and demanded the keys to his van.
Hauge reluctantly followed the man outside to the van, where the man then started transferring items from a black 2011 Toyota Forerunner SUV into the van. All the while, the man continued to demand the keys, but George continued to refuse. That's when the man came at him with a knife, the very same knife he'd used to stab Freddie and Wayne. He's now up at a small government owned weather station near the Titusville airport because he needed it to continue. His journey is where he tries to steal a van.
And the airport worker at the weather station puts up a fight and he gets his throat slashed.
This is Mark Freeman, a court reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He also reports for The Sun Sentinel's true crime podcast, Felonious Florida.
My name is Mark Freeman. I'm a court reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. And I've been covering primarily Palm Beach County civil and criminal courts for the past eight years. And I've been with the newspaper for 17 years.
George's throat was slashed, but he would survive the man well, he ran into the woods. It's in these woods near this airport that there's a this final confrontation where police are chasing him with a canine. And it's at this point where they finally, I guess, have him cornered.
When officers arrived at the scene, a passer by had stopped to help George, who had directed officers to the wooded area near the weather station. Officers employed a police dog to search for the man. Quickly, the dog sniffed out the man hiding amongst the undergrowth. When the dog went to subdue the man, he produced another knife and stabbed the police dog. That was when an accompanying officer shot him four times in the torso at close range. Still, another officer had to take him to take him into custody.
The man was barefoot and only wearing a shirt and boxer shorts. Most of his skin and clothes were soaked in blood, presumably that of Freddie and Wayne. Despite his wounds and being tasered, the man was handcuffed and walked out of the woods to the nearby road to wait for a medical helliker. Opted to take him to the hospital, he was identified as Zachary Pena, a twenty five year old who had recently started living in Greenacres.
No, he's he's not a particularly imposing character or tall. He's just a kind of a regular build.
Zachary Pena is a normal looking guy in every sense of the word. His hair wasn't clean cut, but it wasn't Shaggy either. He had a slight beard, maybe a couple of weeks growth. He was five feet, seven inches and two hundred pounds. He didn't look maniacal or demented. His eyes weren't absent of emotion. He had none of the telltale signs of the type of gruesome killers we usually cover on certain scale. So who is Zachary Pena and why did he kill Freddy and Wayne?
And where was he for the 15 hours plus after the murders?
To answer that, we have to go over the hours leading up to the brutal double homicide.
And to help us with that is Edna Keenan, Zachary's aunt, who he recently started living with yesterday, called me and said he wanted me to pick him up early from work.
That's Aunt Edna, a 72 year old woman living alone in Greenacres, Florida. Well, she did live alone until she agreed to take Zachary in after he had bounced between family members until they couldn't handle him any longer.
It all started when Zachary was at his job, did some filing for a security company.
Zachary's mother helped him get a job at American security and fire through one of her friends, apparently all the employees there or told that Zachary was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and that if he appeared odd to them, that was the reason. Zachary worked at American Security and Fire Alarm System Inc, located in Delray Beach.
It's about 18 miles and half an hour from on Ednas home.
After picking him up, she took him to Rocko's New and used auto parts where his car was waiting on a new tire. This was another 18 miles and a half an hour drive back in the direction she came, he said, come up now, OK? I went and got them. I took them to Rocko's to pick up the tire, OK? And it wasn't in yet. And then he left to go to the gym.
Zachary was angered when his car wasn't ready to be picked up rather than go home, and that he decided to walk off his anger on the way to the gym. Planet Fitness was four miles away and an hour and 20 minute walk from the tire shop. It's unlikely that Zachary ever made it to Planet Fitness because there wasn't enough time between when his aunt dropped him off and when he attacked Freddy and Wayne at a little after 6:00 pm. If he called his aunt at three and she picked him up half an hour later, only to drive for another half hour to the tire shop, it would have been at least four p.m. if he walked to Planet Fitness, it would have been five twenty five pm less than an hour before killing the two men.
It's more likely that he walked straight to his aunt's house, never even going to the gym, Zachary called and said that he wanted to get in.
And I didn't leave the remote in that thing because that day I was running around all day. I never came back home to put the remote in the mailbox. OK, so he wanted the number for my key code, but I don't give out my number for key code or my key to my house. Right. So I didn't give it to him and I said, I'll be right there. I came home with the gentleman from around the world, around the back right where you are.
Yeah, but I brought the gentleman home, OK? That fierce I was here. Right. And my window was broken and the poor man was also upset. I didn't even tell him about this at all. He has no idea that this is happening. He's 100 years old.
OK, it's cute to picture 72 year old Edna on a date with a 100 year old man. What isn't cute is that when she interrupted her dinner plans to go home and let Zachary inside, she arrived to find her home broken into.
I went to take the man home because I had him right. I came back and I called the police, but they didn't come for it. I was like, forty five minutes. There is a lot of stuff happening. I didn't know around the corner was happening. I was calling him the whole time. Six thirty three. Six thirty three. Six thirty three.
But Edna didn't stop or go into the home. Instead she took her date home first, calling the police on the way. The police, however, wouldn't show up for some time, even though Edna could hear sirens nearby. When officers finally arrived and swept the house, checking for Zachery or anyone else that might have been responsible, they found a bedroom window broken and blood everywhere.
The bloody I guess the kid cut himself. It was all over the house. I went over to the flagstone and when I went down to Firestone, I saw the ambulance and I looked quick because I thought maybe it was Zachery that he bled to death and he was picking him up. It was all over my wallpaper. There's some stuff here. This was some on this wall. There was something in the room. There was some on the floor here.
There was some floor here. There was all over there in my bedroom door. I washed the baby's crib. I didn't know I should've left it alone, but there was blood all over that. He hated that baby doll. He couldn't stand to write. So he just said, that's just stupid doll. That's a dead doll. And I said, no, it's it's OK.
Zachary had broken into the home through a bedroom window in the process. He had cut his leg badly on the broken glass and trailed blood throughout the home. He stripped off his shirt and shoes and he stole a couple of things, a necklace and a ring. Neither one was really worth anything. They were nothing more than attractive costume jewelry. Then he left, half dressed through the back door and over a backyard fence. What Edna got a call about Zachary's car, it was finally ready.
She went to tell them that she couldn't pick up the car today and the police put it inside so it wouldn't be stolen. On her way back home, she spotted an ambulance. Her first thought was of her nephew. But what she didn't know was that Freddy or Wayne was in that ambulance en route to the trauma hawk and it was because of her nephew. What's interesting about this is the proximity of Edna's home to that of Freddie and Wayne's.
Behind the home Zachary shared with his aunt was a small field with scattered patches of trees. On the other side of this field was Chickasaw Circle. Zachery apparently walked through the woods, half dressed and emerged on the quiet street.
One thing to know about this is that it was a complete random act. He had no knowledge of this couple or this particular house or had ever seen them before that anybody knows at this point, it's not really clear what his intentions were or where he was going. But as it was relayed to the jury, he approaches a property that as a kind of a well-kept single family home, and he sees a Toyota forerunner in the driveway and he decides at that point that he needs that car and he's going to need the keys to that car.
He burst through their front door. He quickly overpowers these two men. I mean, it becomes just this. There's blood everywhere in the house. Keep in mind, he's bare feet. At this point. These total strangers suddenly get into this deadly, extremely violent confrontation where Zachary stabs them more than a dozen times each. But he does take their car, you know, before the police arrive to the scene.
We need to take a moment here to sort out this timeline. Zachary decided to walk home at about 4:00 p.m. at six 00, 4:00 pm. Aunt Edna called the police about her broken window by six oh nine p.m., Ruth Amoroso was on the phone with nine one one and Zachary was long gone. Edna had just missed her nephew, but she did get a voicemail from him. It's basically a butt dial that went to voicemail, so it's hardly understandable.
But bear with us.
It says, you killed my husband. You just killed my husband, my girlfriend, hers.
I think that's when he took the call. I want people to know that I don't know what happened between you and me. It's terrible news. There are no. You can kind of make out the words killed my husband, but not much else until you hear the recognizable beep beep of the SUV being unlocked and then the door closes. Zachary had unwittingly left a voicemail while committing a double murder at that point, kind of had the keys to the Toyota and he was already driving south and the county at about six thirty only minutes after fleeing Chickasaw Circle.
And while EMTs were trying to save Freddie and Wayne's life, Zachary was spotted miles away in Boynton Beach. He's not done with this crime spree.
Eighty six year old Elaina Morini, who required a cane to get around, was on her way to an AA meeting at her development's clubhouse. She would be Zachary's next unsuspecting victim. He approached her and tried to snatch her purse and in the process pushed her to the ground during the struggle for her purse. He also tried to steal her shirt, but was unsuccessful before leaving the elderly woman battered and bruised on the sidewalk. He ripped the license plate off of her SUV.
He didn't unscrew it. He literally tore it from the vehicle after he encounters this woman again, another stranger. That point he continues to drive the Toyota that he had stolen over to a coworker's house in Delray Beach after assaulting an elderly woman in Boynton Beach and trying to literally steal the shirt off her back.
Zachary heads further south to Delray Beach. I know. I know Florida has a lot of beaches in the city of Delray Beach is the home of his short time co-worker, Jacob Buth. He had been there only once before when he gave Jacob a ride to work.
By the time he got into Jacob's house, it was ten, thirty pm hours after the incident with Mrs. Morini. Later in the trial, Jacob describes the events of that evening like this. Zachary showed up to his home shirtless, only wearing blue jeans. His arms and legs were noticeably covered in blood. He asked Jacob to borrow a shirt, explaining he was jumped. Jacob invited him inside and gave him a shirt with the American Security and Fire Company logo on it.
After Zach put the shirt on, he asked Jacob to come with them. As soon as Jacob refused, Zachary pulled out his knife and threatened to kill him if he didn't come along. Jacob immediately ran, but stopped after Zachary chased him and swung the knife. Adam Jacob wasn't looking to get stabbed, so he decided to play along. Zachary grabbed him by the arm and led him to the passenger seat of the stolen SUV. Then, bizarrely, he climbed over Jacob to get to the driver's seat rather than just walking around the SUV.
He essentially kidnaps the co-worker at knifepoint.
Once the two were in the vehicle, Zachary drove off to Jacob. He seemed calm and collected, not agitated or angry, but he was acting weird. He asked Jacob to pray for his arms and legs. So Jacob did. He prayed out loud for the well-being of Zachary's arms and legs. As he did this, Jacob described, Zachary is acting like the prayers were working instantly and that his injuries were healing right there. And then for a moment, it seemed Jacob gained Zachary's trust in an attempt to think his way out of this situation.
Jacob asked his kidnapper to stop somewhere, to get something to drink, and they wind up at a McDonald's drive thru and the coworker jumps out.
Jacob hit the ground running and sprinted across the street. In his haste to escape, he fell into some bushes, scratching his hands and arms pretty badly. Zachary tried to follow him, but Jacob had run down a dead end street. Zachary wasn't able to follow in the SUV, so he gave up and drove away. Once the coworker bails at that point, Penha then drives the car all the way north. He starts to run out of gas about maybe one hundred and seventy miles into this journey up I-95.
And he winds up in Titusville, of all places. This is where he gets involved in yet another altercation with get an. Other stranger, it seems, Zachary was on the run up the coast of Florida as he began to run out of gas. He decided he needed another vehicle. This is where he would try to steal George Bonilla's van and ultimately be shot and tasered by police in the nearby woods inside George's van. There were two license plates and a bloody towel.
Next to the van were several items, including more bloody towels, two additional license plates, a white bucket and Mrs. Marina's purse. At the hospital, officers were able to finally see all of Zachary's injuries.
The tops and bottoms of his feet were lacerated from walking through the woods behind Aunt Edna's house. And later in Titusville, his right shin was stapled, closed from the laceration. He got climbing through the broken window. Both of his thighs were severely bruised, consistent with being hit with a baseball bat. His right index finger had two deep cuts, indicating that while he was aggressively stabbing Freddie and when the knife slipped from his grip, cutting himself twice, his hands and forearms were covered in cuts.
His bottom lip was cut and left side of his face and forehead were covered in scratches. He was immediately taken into surgery to treat his gunshot wounds. His left lung collapsed and he was intubated. After surgery, he was placed in a recovery room.
He required mechanical ventilation through a tracheostomy tube.
He had a colostomy bag and a catheter, several IV lines medicated him with that, no Propofol, Lorazepam, Sauchiehall and Haldol, the first three are used to treat pain and anxiety, but the last two are used to treat schizophrenia as well as other mental and mood disorders after he was out of surgery and in stable condition. Officers went to interview him. You can hear me just fine.
All right, big guy. I got a lot going on now. As I said before, we got a phone call there regarding these two people. This gentleman named Wayne Dixon. Do you recognize? I don't know.
How about this gentleman, Freddy Sanchez, right there. Both of those people live in the house. The photo showed you on. Interestingly enough, you got here in their car. You know what I'm saying? So can you tell me how you got there? Vehicle.
When officers showed Zachery pictures of the house on Chickasaw Circle, along with pictures of Freddie and Wayne, he denied knowing who they were or having ever seen them. But when they pointed out the fact that he was arrested in possession of their SUV, he immediately asked for a lawyer. Zachary's crime spree, or more aptly, his rampage was over. But officers were no closer to understanding. Zachary Penas rampage was over, the singular evening had taken its toll on him between running through the woods, the knife fight and ultimately being shot several times, he was in pretty bad shape.
All he could do now was wait for his eventual day in court and his Florida grand jury indictment. He was charged with four counts for the stabbing death of Freddie Sanchez and Wayne Dixon. He was charged with two counts of first degree murder with a weapon for the purse snatching. He was charged with one count of robbery with a weapon for the kidnapping of his co-worker, Jacob Buth. He was charged with one count of false imprisonment with a weapon.
This was absolutely a horrific case. And the state of Florida tried it as a double murder case. And Zachary Penny's defense presented an insanity defense. In other words, they argued that Zachary was insane at the time of the killings and was off of his medications. Prosecutors said that it was purely an evil act, and Zachary knew exactly what he was doing throughout the entirety of this crime spree that he went on.
Basically, the defense isn't denying that the murders were committed by Zachary. Instead, they're arguing that Zachary not only didn't know what he was doing or that it was wrong, but that he was entirely detached from reality during the entire crime spree. One of the things about the insanity defense is that Zachary Penny's side is acknowledging that there's no other explanations for the deaths of Wayne Dixon and Freddy Sanchez. They are coming right out from the off the bat and saying, Zachary did these crimes.
He's responsible for these killings, and he's also responsible for the other acts as well. His lawyer at the trial explained it as just this sudden break with reality and that he was believe that he was a God. And that was kind of the heart of the defense, was that he believed he was the something called the moon God and that he was driven by these demons. Defense attorney, you know, made a point of saying that he's got the knife, he's in the Dixon Sanchez home.
And the voices said, do it, stab them, attack them. And it's the voices that made him that made him do it. Some details of this story seem to back up the insanity defense. First, he decided to walk for miles in south Florida. Heat that right there alone is crazy. Anyone that's been to Florida will tell you the second he broke into his aunt's home to steal some worthless jewelry and stripped his shoes off in the process before trudging through the woods to Chickasaw Circle.
Then he murdered two complete strangers. After that, he tried to steal an old lady's shirt. None of this makes any sense to a rational human being. He also took Jacob Booth hostage and made him pray for his arms and legs. Jacob barely knew Zachary as they'd only been working together for a few weeks. Jacob would later report that Zachary always called him the night guy and say that he was special and knew things. Jacob didn't know why this was, especially since he didn't work nights.
And the reason Zachary drove to Titusville, well, his lawyer called it a divine mission. You know, in terms of what was in Zachary's head, he sees this almost biblical reference to a shepherd's way and that this was a sign for him. It was literally a road sign, but it was a figurative sign as well, that this is where Zachary needed to go to be able to continue this getaway. In addition, Zachary's personal history supported the insanity defense.
Since his early teens, he had been treated for mental illness, even being diagnosed as bipolar and having a personality disorder. When his mother decided he needed more structure in his life than she could provide, she dropped him off at faith from a Christian ministry whose purpose is to restore and transform lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. At least that's what it says in the brochure. In an interview with Zachary's mother. She would. Tell police that he stopped taking his medication about a year prior because he thought he was doing better or dropping him off at Faith Farm and him bouncing around from relative to relative for as long as they could stand him would indicate he was not doing better.
She would defend Zachary, saying he never had violent tendencies, just temper tantrums like a child. He did, however, have a fantasy of violence, such as living in revolutionary times or Duling as a way of solving a conflict. This kind of fit into the case pretty nicely. The worthless ring he stole from Edna was in the shape of a serpent or dragon like creature. When his mother asked him about mugging the old lady, he responded. He just needed her shirt and God told him to do it.
He went on to tell his mother that when police had him cornered in the woods, he knew he would survive because God told him so and he was doing the right thing. Textbook schizophrenia. In an attempt to reassure his mother, he told her everything would be OK because he was, quote, playing a video game, end quote. Other reports would say he dreamed of a world of kings and queens where he would be a knight, maybe the only reason he took the ring was because of these fantasies and idolization.
Maybe the only reason he went to the Sanchez Dixon home was that the ornate water fountain in the front yard reminded him of some mythological fantasy world he obsessed over. Or at least that's what the defense team wanted jurors to ask themselves. They even had the medical opinion of an expert.
The defense had their own psychologists and psychiatrists interview Penkov throughout the years leading to trial, and their experts found him to be psychotic. And, you know, they concluded that he was insane. But the prosecution had a different theory.
You know, one of the things that the court record says is that when he was walking home from the auto repair shop right before he broke into his aunt's house, that he had called his mother and was very upset about plans that he had for the evening were in disarray. So he was really upset that he was not going to have his car. So that's where they believe that the anger was building in him, this state's expert had said that, you know, he was had some personality disorders, anger over the fact that his car wasn't ready.
And it's all this these things come together with where he then just goes on this on this rampage.
The prosecution argued that Zachary was a boiling pot about to overflow. They didn't argue that he wasn't suffering from mental illness, but that his mental issues, combined with his lack of coping skills and one setback after another that day, set him off. He was unsatisfied with his current living situation. His car wasn't ready. His plans for the evening were ruined. He made the mistake to walk to the gym, which he immediately regretted. And then when he finally got home, he was locked out.
It's literally like one thing after another on that day. That's enough to piss anybody off. But a guy with coping issues, well, he goes on a rampage. But the most important part of their argument was that he was completely aware of what he was doing and that it was wrong. And they had statements from Zachary himself to back up that argument while in the hospital, after he asked for a lawyer, there was still an officer required to monitor him to make sure he didn't try to escape.
He's had this emergency surgery. They're sitting in a hospital with a chest tube, ventilator, colostomy bag, catheter. It's got I.V. lines. He's heavily medicated. You know, he's in this state. And yet, you know, some of the he he starts having friendly talks with one of the officers at the hospital. He later actually says that, hey, you're a good guy. He sells to one of the officers. He just strikes up a kind of a friendship with this particular cop.
And that's where these statements kind of comes a little clear that Zachary was aware of what he had done. Hey, it wasn't like, you know, he stabs Wayne Dixon and Freddy Sanchez and then sits in their kitchen and has breakfast and waits for the police to arrive. Now, he you know, they're they're saying that he was he knew exactly what he was doing this entire time. And later in the hospital, when he's in his hospital bed, Zachary is actually speaks to killing the couple and he uses a a slur to describe this gay couple.
Among the comments Zachary made to the uniformed officer guarding him was this in the hospital when Zachary is in bad shape, one of the utterances that he says is a quote it With great power comes great responsibility that Zachary says. And it's that it's been found in various mentions in popular culture, but it's actually most known for being in the Spider-Man movie franchise. You know, it's just among all the statements that speak to Zachary's mindset.
Additionally, things he spontaneously muttered from his hospital bed were due to fucked. I just feel like I fucked up my life, dude, I'm just fucked. They know what I did. I'm going to prison. My whole fucking life. What do you think I got for killing those two fags I could get out now? You know? They could say, I'm crazy, but I know what the fuck's going on. There's a key quote that was played for the jury where Zachery says spontaneously, you know, they could say that I'm crazy, but I know what the fuck is going on.
He knew that he had done these horrific crimes and was going to be that his his life as a free man was over. He said, I'm done. You know, this is clearly I. So these amounted to confessions.
In effect, the prosecution had a confession, but just in case they needed more proof, they also had a cellmate of Zachary's come forward with additional damning information. Zachary recounted the events of that infamous evening to his cellmate, Scott Parker, with the pretense that he was preparing for an insanity defense. He told Parker that he knew that Freddie and Wayne were homosexuals and that they deserved to die and that after stabbing them, he drank their blood to wash the demons out and to let God lead him from there, describing the taste of their blood as silvery.
He also said that he was possessed and followed the Shepard's Way Street sign to Titusville because God directed his way.
It would seem that the crimes were so horrific that he did, in fact know what he was doing while he was committing them. And the prosecution, I think, made a great point of throwing that whole insanity defense out by explaining how detailed Zachary was through each step of the way and in terms of what his behavior was during the whole episode, how he kept his composure, how he went from step to step along this way of this crime spree and really had his mind clear to do that.
So when you're hearing all this objectively, it just seems to lead to the conclusion that he was sane. As horrific as these details were, you would think that how can anybody in their right mind do it? But he didn't know what he was doing. And he even later on, I think if there was any doubts, once you hear Zachary's statements in the hospital, it becomes clear that he he did have awareness. Of course, the defense will always say, hey, you know, the reason why he was clear in the hospitals because he was on the psychotropic medication at the time he was speaking.
So, of course, he was clear.
But it just seems that once you get to the heart of this, that Wayne Dixon, Freddy Sanchez were just caught up in this horrendous day, totally innocent victims. It was just their misfortune that they had to encounter this.
The prosecution and defense made their closing arguments. But in the end, it came down to a simple question.
Zachary has one hundred percent. Responsibility for all these crimes, it just only boil down to one question for this entire trial, and that's whether or not he was insane at the time of the killings. So it was fairly straightforward. And and as it was presented to the jury, that was really all it came down to evil or insane.
The jury was given their final instructions and left the court to decide the rest of Zachary's life.
But it did not take the jury long, really just about two hours to conclude that these were deliberate, intentional acts and that he was guilty of two counts of first degree murder. And they really flatly rejected the insanity defense.
Zachary was convicted on all four counts and later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of Freddy Sanchez and Wayne Dixon, 30 years in prison for robbing Mrs. Marigny and 15 years in prison for falsely imprisoning Jacob Booth. After sentencing, Zachary's mother wrote a letter to the judge expressing her dismay at how the trial progressed rather than share excerpts of this letter. We reached out to Zachary's mom, Denise Pena.
What I present to the jury. Versus what information was available. Was just ridiculous. The question was the insanity plea and throughout the trial, the prosecutor presented his entire case. They didn't need to prove that there was intention. They didn't need to prove that there was motive. They didn't want the responsibility for insanity is held strictly on the part of the defense. So, as I said, the prosecutor won first. They brought up from A to Z.
They brought up all of their witnesses. And then, as it turns out, we had to wait till Monday for the defense to even bring forward their case. It ended on the weekend, I mean, on a Friday afternoon where the prosecutor brought all of his people up. And then on Monday, we got our first chance to present to the jury, which was, you know, they had all weekend to think of everything the prosecutor said. I just really thought there should have been more emphasis on.
Clearing. The way for the reason, rather than showing pictures of the crime scene and showing pictures of the injuries and, oh, it was never really an issue of insanity. That was that was that was just so such a small piece of what was offered to the jury, that it was never explained what insanity could possibly mean or be in a particular case. So there was there was a lot of what I call the matrix in presenting his case, which was not.
Appropriate to the case, other than that, they were pointing a finger at how intentional it was, I suppose was their responsibility, but anything that they pointed as intentional, they really there was nothing to substantiate any intention, but there was money laying all over their house.
All over the house, I mean, in drawers, I mean overflowing, and they didn't allow the jury to see those pictures, so it was never, you know, an effort at robbery. And quite honestly, Zachary was trying to get the woman's shirt. I know that sounds ridiculous size wise or anything else, but that was his justification, was that he had to get a shirt.
There was no doubt that Zachary did what he did. But rather than discuss his mental state during the crimes, the prosecution bombarded the jury with the gory reality of what occurred, leaving little room for the defense to build their case around his detachment from reality. After all, people vote with feelings, not facts.
I had said that something about playing a video game. What I've understood from that statement since is that he was being controlled as if he was in a video game. And that's really what he was saying, was that he he was he was a character being controlled in the video game. So that's why he had to go home and get the ring, as it turned out, and then he had to go get the keys for the car so that those kinds of things.
We weren't really brought. And don't forget the kidnapping of Jacob Buth after he ran from the SUV, Zachary waited in line and paid for the drink before pursuing him. It just doesn't make sense. It's not the craziest thing I've ever heard, but it's not the most sane thing either. All these little things that Zachary did that didn't quite make sense, weren't really expressed properly to the jury. It's as if he was guilty until proven innocent. And then there was the damning testimony of the officer assigned to watch Zachary while under heavy medication after already having been Mirandized.
And the other thing was that he was he approached his own police department with the information and was told, we don't want it. And then he then got on the telephone and called down to Palm Beach County. And ask them if they would like any information and the prosecutor down here took that information. But he wasn't telling the truth. And I know that because of the terminology, no one, as I had said to you earlier, we don't we don't use that word.
The word she's referring to, as ugly as it is, is fag. That's how Officer Nettle's and Zachery referred to Freddie and Wayne. This is something that she immediately doubted came from her son's mouth. And in today's growing politically correct climate, seems like the perfect way to taint the jury.
And I'm saying that's just volunteered all of this information. And he never asked him one question. His way of saying I never asked him one question, that he never interrogated him.
There had been a pre-trial hearing just to decide if the information that was provided would be admitted to the trial, considering that Zachary had already asked for a lawyer. Ultimately, they allowed it in spite of the defense attorneys pleas.
She was she was just dumbfounded at his ability to lie. I just expect more from a police officer than was given by Nettle's. I really can't. No, his reason. But I do know he has the job of the guy of the police dog that got stabbed, though I do know that. And remember the cellmate informant that had the additional statements allegedly made by Zachery the cellmate didn't testify.
He actually didn't get up to testify, they actually changed their mind on him. They just didn't feel they needed him, which was interesting because that cellmate who had called me like three weeks afterwards, but he had just been dissed. This other person had been discharged from the prison and called because that gave him my phone number. For whatever reason, and he called and told my son that the cheese had slid off the cracker is the way he explained it to, you know.
You explained it to my son, that Zach was just crazy, I guess testimony from a guy that believes Zach was indeed crazy wouldn't really have helped the prosecution's case, correct?
I don't think I think all of the evidence was there to be viewed. I think the legal system had the opportunity to review all of the information and that it's one of those things where it really could have been decided without a jury. I mean, it was clear just to certainly to me and to Zack was that if he was sentenced to insanity, it wasn't that he was getting out anyway. I mean, if you read all of the cases that are, you know, that have an insanity, I mean, you're still looking at forty five years.
It was just that I. Really just wanted their act to have some sense of. I hope a baby was one word, but more of a sense of somebody understanding. What had happened? You know, somebody understanding that. You know, he still has such a shame about the whole thing. And he's really the best kid in the whole wide world. He really is a nice kid. It's a shame. And he's never been violent. That's not who he is.
And with Zachary's appeal eminent, his mother still has hope. I would like for Zach. To. Have it understood? I mean, I understand the difference would be prison, I mean, you know, this prison versus a psych facility. But with Zach on his medications. I don't know that a psych facility is the best place for him. Because he. Is an environment right now where he's not. You know, he's not he's not a confrontational kid.
You know, and I've worked in the psych facilities, you know, so I'm not necessarily sure that that's the best place for them either. I don't really have an answer. Other than that, Zach feels it's important. That and I you know. As far as what happens after the decision or after the appeal, I don't really know. He just really wants people to know that he would never do anything like this. Mental illness has such a stigma.
Indeed it does. Denise. The question that remains is, do we want a punitive justice system or rehabilitative one, Zachary Pena had issues dealing with the everyday stresses in life and he knew it just like he knew that breaking and entering, stealing home invasion, stabbing people, murder, robbery, kidnapping, assault and auto theft was wrong. But in his altered reality, a reality where he was a video game avatar, he didn't have any control over his actions.
If we as a society are going to make exceptions for criminality based on mental illness, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better example than this one. The fact of the matter is that the legal definition of insanity has little to do with its actual scientific definition. You can be pretty batshit crazy in real life and still be considered legally sane. Sure, he did it. He is guilty of those crimes. But how can you hold someone responsible when they aren't even sure what reality they're in?
Zachary didn't have a plan. He didn't know where he was going. He was only fulfilling his basic needs by any means necessary. He needed a car. He needed a shirt. He needed gas. But his end game didn't exist. This wasn't a thought out plan. It was reactions to external stimuli from the guy who couldn't cope with the everyday obstacles of life. With all the random, nonsensical events of that day, the only thing that does make sense is that Zachary is mentally ill and should be helped in some way rather than simply locked up for the rest of his life.
Punitive or rehabilitative. This case. May make you question your own beliefs regarding that very question. That does it for another episode, we hope you've enjoyed it. Very special. Thanks to our guests Mark Freeman and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for giving us a hand with the story, as well as Denise Pena, of course, for her exclusive interview. Remember that for the price of just a cup of coffee, you can get instant access to all 87 exclusive episodes of Plus, along with early commercial free releases of the regular show, tons of bonus content, all in a three hundred and twenty kilobyte pristine audio format, store discounts, periodic perks.
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