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Bellush murder


Suspect to talk about role in slaying


©St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 1997

In exchange for a Texas prison sentence of 30 years or less, Samuel "Sammy" Gonzales has agreed to tell everything he knows about why and how a mother of quadruplets was slain last month in Sarasota.

In a deal with prosecutors in San Antonio, Gonzales pleaded guilty to one count of solicitation of capital murder. His deal in Sarasota calls for him to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

In other words, he hired a hit man to kill Sheila Bellush. Details of his plea agreement were released Friday.

If he cooperates fully with authorities, Gonzales, 27, will be sentenced to 19 years in prison in Florida.

The two sentences will run concurrently and Sarasota prosecutors agreed to let Gonzales serve his time in Texas, if that's his preference.

Under Texas law, Gonzales could have earned a 99-year prison sentence, if convicted. Critical to his plea agreement is his offer of "truthful cooperation upon the investigation and resolution of cases against other individuals," Bexar County, Texas, prosecutor Robert McClure wrote.

Bellush, 35, was found dead in her Sarasota home Nov. 7, two months after moving there with her husband and their 2-year-old quadruplets. The body was discovered by her 13-year-old daughter; the toddlers were wandering through the house wearing life vests to keep them safe from the family's swimming pool.

Jose Luis Del Toro, Jr., a drifter charged with killing Bellush, was captured last month in Monterrey, Mexico, after an international manhunt. Mexican authorities agreed to extradite him to Florida after prosecutors agreed this week not to seek the death penalty. After paperwork is completed in English and Spanish, he could arrive in Sarasota as early as next month, authorities said.

Sarasota prosecutors also have charged Texas resident Alex Rocha, 29, with conspiracy to commit murder. Gonzales and Rocha are expected to be sent from San Antonio to Sarasota sometime soon.

A Texas indictment accused Gonzales of hiring his cousin, Del Toro, on Nov. 4 to kill Bellush. Del Toro, 21, drove to Sarasota, slashed Bellush's throat and shot her, prosecutors say. His fingerprints were found in the house.

Authorities have not described a motive for the slaying. News reports have noted that Gonzales used to work at a San Antonio golf course where Rocha sometimes played golf with Bellush's former husband, businessman Allen Blackthorne. Blackthorne and Bellush were involved in a bitter custody dispute before she moved to Florida this fall.

Blackthorne has denied any involvement in his ex-wife's death and has not been charged with a crime.

©Copyright 1998 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.