"You can't make this shit up," Palm Beach County Sheriff's Detective Sean Oliver must have muttered to himself at least once during the course of his two-year investigation into the murder of Stephen Febonio.
At least three dogs were involved in the Febonio murder saga.
Discovery documents made available to the Juice last week reveal that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Febonio, whose partially decomposed body was discovered buried in a four-by-four-foot freezer in the backyard of a Delray Beach marijuana grow house last year, was allegedly shot in the back of the head by his longtime friend, drug dealer José Alfaro.
The indictment against Alfaro contains the testimony of witnesses who say the freezer containing his body was moved a total of four times,
from the house Alfaro shared with his girlfriend, Courtney; again under the nose of DEA officials, who were keeping a Parkland marijuana grow house under surveillance; then to a house in Boca Raton, where the freezer was opened during a burglary; and finally to the Delray garden in which it was buried, where it was discovered with the help of a police dog named Piper.
Even stranger, a handful of people had allegedly seen the body or at least heard details of the murder: witnesses described Alfaro dropping hints, speculating about how to dispose of a corpse, confiding the details of the shooting at least once, and threatening anyone who seemed to be on the verge of "ratting him out."
As the investigative net tightened around him, Alfaro's behavior became increasingly bizarre. He moved house from Parkland to California to Delray Beach to Deerfield Beach, setting up a new grow house in each location and taking new names as he moved: Philip Durante, Roberto Alfaro, Julian Kane.
Four days before authorities dug up Febonio's body in Delray, Alfaro, who had been charged with grand theft auto and fraud by Coconut Creek police and who was about to be slapped with a charge for cultivating marijuana, hopped a plane bound for Costa Rica. Authorities there refused him entry, and he flew back into Fort Lauderdale. The FBI had a bead on him, Palm Beach County Sheriff's office knew he'd tried to run, yet Alfaro still had time to plan another escape to New York.
It took five law enforcement agencies -- the DEA, FBI, Broward Sheriff's office, Palm Beach County Sheriff's office, and a team of US marshals to finally apprehend him.
The several dozen witnesses interviewed by Palm Beach County Sheriff's office are a strange bunch. They include Alfaro's ex-girlfriend and her stepfather; Febonio's girlfriend and her daughter; Justin Jones, who lived with Febonio briefly at the parkland grow house and was later busted by the DEA; and several characters involved with the cultivation and sale of marijuana, some of whom claim to have lent Alfaro money expecting double digit returns on their investment with the sale of a new crop. Many describe Febonio as either a recreational drug user or a crackhead hooked on steroids and pain pills. Others describe Alfaro as a person capable of murder, in possession of weapons ranging from .45 to an AK-47. Some say they feared for their own lives.
The 70-page indictment reveals a shadowy web of connections, of smalltime users and dealers, informants, and even parents caught up in a tragic story they only vaguely understand.
At the center of it is Febonio, a troubled man, who drove away with his friend José in a red Acura one afternoon and was never seen again. In spite of its wealth of detail, the indictment fails to adequately explain why he was murdered. Witnesses mention a $10,000 debt, but there are suggestions as well that Febonio may have either witnessed a gruesome murder at a local crematorium, or been on the verge of revealing all he had seen during months of working at grow houses. Alfaro's repeated claim to the cops, "I'm no rat," may provide one of the most telling clues about what really happened.