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Pot Grow Houses in Florida Are Deadly Business

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But the pattern held: Authorities didn't have the muscle to hold him. A friend paid Alfaro's bond, and he was a free man again.

It wasn't until five months later, on March 6, 2009, that Oliver finally got a break. The FBI had called with a lead. A man named Zayd Awadallah claimed he knew that Alfaro had killed Febonio. Awadallah had told the FBI that Febonio wanted to get out of his partnership at the grow house. Febonio was insisting that Alfaro pay him $10,000 for the construction work he had done.

Awadallah told Oliver that he was talking in hopes the cops would go easy on him for a Broward County cocaine trafficking charge. Alfaro, he said, had confessed that he'd shot Stevie in the back of the head and stuffed his body into a General Electric freezer he'd bought at a BrandsMart in Deerfield Beach. The freezer, Awadallah said, had been kept at a house in Boca Raton. Awadallah said several people had seen the body in the freezer. The house had been burglarized, and when thieves opened the freezer, they found Febonio's corpse and fled, leaving the door open. When the homeowners and friends returned, they too had gotten an eyeful.

Alfaro was in Maine when he heard about the burglary, Awadallah said. Alfaro flew home in a hurry to move the freezer, with its 200-pound contents, yet again.

Five days later, the FBI learned that Alfaro had boarded a plane in Fort Lauderdale bound for Costa Rica. They called to tell Oliver that customs agents in Costa Rica had refused him entry and sent him back to the States. But sensing that his luck was running out in Florida, Alfaro was preparing to flee the state.

Court documents claim Alfaro had either confessed to or hinted at the murder to at least a half-dozen friends and girlfriends. One of those ex-girlfriends, Alisa Catoggio, was to become one of Oliver's best sources. She told Oliver that after she posted Alfaro's bond in Coconut Creek, as they were driving to Marco Island, Alfaro not only admitted killing Stevie but told her the gruesome details. Alfaro had driven Stevie to a construction site where he'd laid down a piece of black tarp in preparation for the murder. He'd told his friend he needed help getting supplies. While Stevie had his back turned in a corner of the garage, Alfaro shot him once in the back of the head. He left Febonio's body there, covering him with drywall until the next day. Then he came back with the freezer. He wrapped Stevie's body in the plastic tarp, shoved it into the freezer, and belted it closed. And he'd hidden the gun in the white Infiniti that Coconut Creek police arrested him in a year later. Laughing, Alfaro bragged to Catoggio about how the stupid cops had never found the weapon.

Alfaro planned to chop the body up and disperse the parts around the city, according to Catoggio. But for some reason, he never got around to it. Maybe he didn't have the stomach for it. He kept the freezer in the house he shared with Courtney for a while, but Courtney complained it smelled. From there, he'd moved it to the grow house he'd set up for Jones. At some point, presumably right before the DEA raid, he'd moved it again to the Boca Raton home where Jennifer and Roger Edge lived with their three young kids. When thieves inadvertently discovered the body, he'd finally moved the freezer to the house in Delray Beach and buried it in the garden. Catoggio told Oliver she was "tired of Alfaro's antics." She said he'd used too many people, involving his friends in a murder. She thought he should go to jail.

Catoggio suggested Alfaro may have had another motive for the murder besides money. He'd told her that Stevie had witnessed something terrible and that Alfaro had killed him as a last resort.

On March 16, 2009, an odd assortment of people gathered at 1200 NW 20th Ave. in Delray Beach. The house was another of the faceless, identical suburban homes Alfaro had used to grow pot: It was the same house he had packed up and left from in such a hurry just days before a scheduled drug raid. Oliver, two crime scene investigators, a dog named Piper, a K9 deputy, a couple of guys from Sisters Towing Co., the owner of the property, and employees of Delray Public Utilities were there. The investigators used ground-penetrating radar and a metal detector as they paced the fenced backyard, concentrating on an area of garden where yucca plants were flourishing.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd

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