Murder-for-hire suspect Zecca to plead out in federal case

November 6, 2013 

A Marathon man charged last December with murder for hire for allegedly hiring someone to kill Marathon Realtor Bruce Schmitt plans to change his not-guilty plea, according to federal court documents.

Dennis Zecca, a former commander of U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada, has a hearing set for 11 a.m. Nov. 14 before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez in District Court's Courtroom 10-1, 400 N. Miami Ave., Miami, according to a Monday court filing.

On Jan. 10, Zecca was indicted on charges of murder for hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and transfer of a firearm to a convicted felon. Under those charges, Zecca was facing life.

Court filings don't say to what Zecca plans to plead. Zecca had been scheduled for trial come December.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Annette Castillo said "we cannot comment on matters that are not of public record." Zecca attorney William Aaron couldn't be reached.

After 26 years with the Coast Guard culminating with his Islamorada post, Zecca became part-owner of the Marathon Marina and Boatyard.

He was arrested last Dec. 21 for allegedly attempting to pay an employee -- a federal informant who is a convicted felon -- $20,000 or a kilo of cocaine to murder Schmitt.

No one has ever said what the incentive was, and Schmitt says he has no idea and that to this day, he still doesn't even know Zecca.

Federal authorities say the plot had "associates and co-conspirators in this offense" but have not said who they are. The plea-hearing document doesn't say anything other than there is a hearing.

The murder-for-hire plot appears separate from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation, out of which the alleged plot to kill Schmitt was hatched. Federal authorities say Schmitt, who was not harmed, was not involved in the drug case.

The hit was supposed to take place while Schmitt left a Christmas party.

Zecca was arrested after the informant, who was wearing a wire for the feds, showed Zecca a doctored photo of Schmitt lying in a pool of blood and as Zecca was going to get $5,000 of the $20,000 payment for the hit. The gun count stems from Zecca giving the informant a 9mm Beretta to carry out Schmitt's killing.

A search of Zecca's Indigo Reef condo in Marathon turned up a safe containing four handguns, four rifles, two shotguns, lots of ammunition and $42,600 in cash, the feds said.

Zecca's wife Mary worked as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Schmitt, which is owned by Schmitt's family. She was fired after her husband's arrest.

Zecca pleaded not guilty on Jan. 14. He's been in custody since his arrest.

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