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Suspect Arrested in August 2021 Vero Beach Murder

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Photo courtesy Indian River County Sheriff's Office
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Dukarai Lee Thomas has been arrested and charged with 1st Degree Murder in the slaying of Justin Bechtold last year.

Vero Beach - Thursday April 21, 2022: 24 year old Dukarai Lee Thomas has been arrested and charged with 1st Degree Murder in the slaying of Justin Bechtold last year.

The 25 year old Bechtold was found shot in the head outside his home in the 4300 block 5th St. SW of Vero Beach on August 8, 2021. He was later pronounced dead at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

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Photo courtesy Indian River County Sheriff's Office
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Justin Bechtold

At a news conference Thursday afternoon Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said that IRC Sheriff detectives learned that Thomas and Bechtold "had previous dealings over marijuana." He said Thomas "fled to the Tallahassee area" where he was arrested on September 15th last year on a charge of "misuse of a two-way communication device" which Sheriff Flowers said was "associated with this marijuana transaction." However Thomas declined to speak with detectives about the murder, said Flowers.

"Our detectives did not give up," said the Sheriff. In the months since Thomas' initial arrest detectives conducted surveillance, spoke with community members, and gathered other evidence that the Sheriff said he could not disclose. As a result, the Sheriff said that "on April 20th, in Tallahassee, with our federal partners, Dukarai Thomas was taken into custody and charged with the murder of Justin Bechtold."

View the news conference on the IRC Sheriff's Facebook page > https://fb.watch/cyibq-yJ6K/

Justin's father, Tim Bechtold, was on hand for the news conference. "Everybody just loved Justin," said his father. "He was funny, a hard worker." Bechtold said he runs a well drilling business. Before his son was murdered Tim Bechtold said he was preparing Justin to take over the business so he could retire.

"This is another senseless tragic murder over marijuana," said Sheriff Flowers. "We still don't have specifics on this as to why Dukarai decided to murder this man in his own driveway over a marijuana transaction."

Dukarai Lee Thomas .jpg
Photo courtesy Indian River County Sheriff's Office
Dukarai Lee Thomas