Major Scott Champagne of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was determined to find out the identity of the severed head that was found in the Everglades.
It was in 2007 when authorities made the gruesome discovery in a canal along Alligator Alley. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that investigators learned what had really happened to the victim.
The case is explored in the Oxygen “Florida Man Murders” docuseries, which focus on strange and gruesome crimes in the Sunshine State. It features interviews with investigators, as well as relatives.
Champagne told Fox News that while the Everglades is a popular tourist attraction, it has become a notable dumping ground.
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“Everyone in Florida knows the Everglades is a very difficult environment,” said Champagne. “I’ve said many times before that the Everglades holds many secrets. It’s not uncommon for us to investigate homicides that ultimately end up in the Everglades.”
Florida has had its share of notorious murderers. Ted Bundy’s crime wave ended in 1989 when he met the state’s electric chair, nicknamed “old sparky,” at age 42. Aileen Wuornos, who killed six men along Central Florida’s freeways while working as a prostitute, became the 10th woman to be executed in the United States in 2002 at the age of 46.
Still, Champagne did not believe the beheading was the work of a serial killer.
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“We always have that in mind, but this particular case didn’t necessarily stand out when it comes to serial killers,” he explained. “The goal was more to be able to identify the victim at the time.… It just wasn’t our first thought. Our goal was to try to identify the victim and move forward from there. the.”
Investigators had some clues. Alligators are frequently found in the area, but the head had no bite marks, the Sun-Sentinel reported. According to the outlet, the bloodied plastic bag that once held the head was still at the scene. He was from Waldbaum’s, a supermarket chain located only in New York City. Police then continued their search north.
The outlet noted that more than three months passed between the discovery and identification of the remains.
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“It was huge,” said Champagne. “Any homicide investigator will tell you that one of the first things is to know your victim, to understand the victim. In the majority of homicide investigations, the victim knew her attacker. It is not unusual. months later, the victim allowed us to launch the investigation. We went ahead at full speed at that time. “
In April 2007, Lorraine Hatzakorzian of Mastic, New York, went missing. The 41-year-old mother told authorities she saw her daughter leave New York with two men. The missing woman retrieved a warrant on April 16 from a Long Island Waldbaum’s, police said.
Investigators said they focused on Paul Bryan Trucchio and Robert Mackey, who lived together in Port Orange, Fla., After a roommate claimed to have bragged about the murder of a woman and the abandonment of parties of his body, The New York Daily News reported. A Suffolk County police report said Hatzakorzian was last seen leaving home with Trucchio and Mackey.
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According to the outlet, Douglas Stein told police that Trucchio, 33, and Mackey, 39, removed a New York license plate from a blue van registered in Hatzakorzian. Stein also told authorities he recalled seeing the couple cleaning the truck with bleach and muriatic acid.
A background check revealed that Trucchio and Mackey were pulled over in Hatazkorzian’s 1998 Dodge Dakota pickup truck on May 1 for traffic tickets.
The outlet also noted that Trucchio and Mackey were in Volusia County Jail on unrelated charges at the time. An unidentified detainee told authorities the men provided him with details of the crime, including details that had not been released to the press and which also matched the evidence.
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In the documentary, Hatzakorzian’s grieving family credited Champagne and the investigative team for working tirelessly over the years.
“Investigators will often say that we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Champagne said. “We are becoming the voice of the victim. I spent a lot of time with Lori’s family during this investigation, which has lasted for several years. Some of these conversations have gathered information for investigators. parts of those conversations reassured the family that we would get the job done. “
But the matter got even stranger. The documentary revealed that witnesses said Trucchio and Mackey allegedly prayed to an “alligator god” or a small statue outside a Port Orange motel where they were staying at the time. Witnesses claimed the men hoped the evidence would be consumed by nearby alligators as they rubbed the head of the sculpture, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
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Champagne described Trucchio and Mackey as “cold killers”.
“The last hours of Lori’s life have been violent,” he said. “It was a violent and heinous act committed against her. In circumstances like this, you mean the victim did not suffer. But I’m not sure that is the case with this particular investigation based on what we know. The suspects, in this case, have had more than enough chances [to stop] and they didn’t. Instead, they took it a step further and dismembered her. “
In 2007, Trucchio and Mackey were charged with robbery and first degree murder. In 2013, Mackey was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the Sun-Sentinel reported. According to the outlet, a Broward jury determined that Mackey may not have been involved in Hatzakorzian’s murder, but he helped Trucchio cover up the crime for months. Mackey was convicted of aiding and abetting after the fact.
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A year earlier, Trucchio was also sentenced to 30 years after pleading without question to second degree murder.
Both men maintained their innocence.
Hatzakorzian is believed to have had a disagreement with the men. It appears that she was tied up, beaten until she passed out and dismembered. The suspects reportedly got rid of his body parts on their way to Florida.
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“They knew each other,” said Champagne. “They were associates, whether it was hanging out together or there was an indication that Lori may have helped them with some work related to [Mackey’s] tree pruning business. There were also implications that there might have been some involvement between her and Paul Trucchio, but of course that was never confirmed. “
“This whole incident was started because Robert Mackey wanted to go to Florida to visit his sick mother at the time,” he continued. “So they had every intention of going down to Florida before the murder. It was Lori’s reluctance or reservation to travel to Florida with them using her truck that brought about the violent act and ultimately her murder. She was eventually murdered and dismembered in an effort to cover the initial assault. “
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The documentary revealed that at one point, Champagne attempted to speak with Trucchio to find out where the rest of Hatzakorzian’s remains could be found. However, the interaction only lasted about 10 minutes.
“Trucchio has played a lot of games,” said Champagne.
The case still raises questions decades later. However, Champagne hopes the documentary shows viewers just how determined homicide investigators are to ensure justice is served no matter how long it takes.
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“This case has been going on for 14 years now,” said Champagne. “I remain determined to return Lori’s remains to her family to give them some level of closure. Even though we have given them a bit of closure, I remain determined to bring the rest of Lori back to Long Island. Like to be optimistic that it might happen someday, but it really comes down to those responsible for his murder. And it’s Paul Trucchio and Robert Mackey.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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