CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – An employee of a Coral Gables insurance adjuster business accused in the murders of his boss, business owner Frances C. Venezia and his co-worker Robert James made his first appearance before a judge Sunday morning.
Jose Rojas, who is charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed kidnapping and one count of attempted robbery, was denied bond. Rojas, wearing a padded vest worn by those on suicide watch, did not make any comments during the proceeding.
Police have not officially confirmed the names of the victims. However, CBS4 News sources have independently confirmed their names and some of the details of what happened Friday at the company’s offices in a building at 801 Monterrey in Coral Gables.
Coral Gables officers were to the office building at 801 Monterrey at about noon Friday, after getting calls from people in the building who had heard screaming for help.
They found two scenes when they arrived; the bodies inside suite 205-B the offices of the adjusters firm, and at the end of a bloody trail from the building a man, dressed in bloody clothes, at a Sedano’s supermarket down the street.
Police took that man, now believed to be Rojas, into custody for questioning while the store was closed, the neighborhood sealed off, and people were told to stay indoors.
According to Rojas’ arrest affidavit, officers found the bodies of Venezia and James bound with duct tape around their hands and feet. Duct tape was also around their mouths with what appeared to be rags. The also found and air soft pellet gun and a broken wooden mop handle, according to the report.
Rojas reportedly told detectives he stopped at a store on the way to the office building to pick up the items he used to torture Venezia and James. According to the arrest affidavit, Rojas arrived at the building and waited for Venezia and James to arrive. While he was waiting, Rojas reportedly told investigators he placed a dark wool hood over his head and gloves on his hands.
Rojas admitted to police he bound them in duct tape and forced Venezia to call her financial institution and write him a check from her checking account, according to the report. He also reportedly admitted to striking Venezia over the head with the mop handle after she and James began to yell for help.
Rojas then told the detectives he didn’t remember what happened next, according to the report, but he did remember there were pools of blood around the office and on his clothes.
The report states that Venezia and James appeared to have multiple lacerations and blunt force trauma wounds on their bodies.
Police said they found a bloody bag of clothing on a sidewalk near the offices, believed to have been dropped by Rojas as he fled.
Venezia opened the business in 1998 and operated it with a partner. She has two children and an ex-husband, Pietro Venezia, who was charged with the murder of a tax collector in North Miami in 1993 and who fled to Italy. He was tried there after Italy refused to extradite him, and sentenced to 23 years in prison. It’s not known if he is still in custody there.
Family members say they don’t know why Venezia might have been killed, but police sources have said the dispute appears to have been over money.
Rojas is listed as an employee of an associated company run by Venezia at the same address, and his brief biography indicates he is a computer expert.