Authorities name person of interest in case of missing Lyft driver from Philadelphia

Matthew Flores, 35, was arrested last Thursday after a police chase through three counties in North Carolina.

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Thursday, February 9, 2023
Missing Lyft driver with ties to Philadelphia has died, daughter says
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Police in Florida and North Carolina had been searching for Gary Levin for more than a week

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A murder suspect who was found inside a missing Lyft driver's vehicle in North Carolina has now been named a person of interest in the case, according to Tom Bakkedahl, the State Attorney for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit in Florida.

Matthew Flores, 35, was arrested last Thursday after a police chase through three counties in North Carolina.

Authorities found him inside the vehicle of 74-year-old Gary Levin, a missing South Florida Lyft driver originally from Philadelphia who was later found dead.

Bakkedahl confirmed to Action News that Flores is a person of interest in the case, adding that it's an "active and ongoing investigation."

Levin's daughter, Lindsay DiBetta, posted on Facebook that the family would be announcing information on services for her father in the next few days.

Levin went missing Jan. 30 after dropping off a customer in Okeechobee, a small city north of Florida's Lake Okeechobee. His family reported him missing when he didn't return home and his cellphone had been turned off.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office previously announced the discovery of human remains near Levin's last known location before he vanished. FDLE reported Tuesday that it had confirmed the identity of the person found in Okeechobee and notified the person's family but declined to identify the victim publicly, citing a Florida state constitutional amendment that allows crime victims or their relatives to withhold their names from public reports.

Levin's red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami, Okeechobee and Gainesville in north Florida last week. It was stopped Thursday night in North Carolina, where a U.S. Marshals regional task force asked authorities to be on the lookout.

The driver, Flores, was arrested, Rutherford County, North Carolina Sheriff Aaron Ellenburg said. Flores fled but was captured a short time later in Ellenboro, North Carolina.

He's being held on a $2 million bond and scheduled for a Feb. 22 hearing.

He will eventually be returned to Florida to face second-degree murder charges in the death of Jose Carlos Martinez in Wauchula on Jan. 24.

No charges have been filed at this time in connection with Levin's death.

Matthew Flores after his arrest in North Carolina on Feb. 2, 2023

Authorities are investigating how Flores obtained the missing Lyft driver's car. Levin's family said they do not know whether Flores was the passenger Levin picked up in Delray Beach on Monday.

Levin lived in the Philadelphia area and was a huge Eagles fan. He worked in auto body sales until retiring to Florida about two years ago. He loved driving for Lyft, where he often told jokes to his customers, his daughter said.

He had a son and a daughter and four grandchildren.

Gary Levin's son Jonathan said his father would not just take off on a whim.

He said the last time they spoke was about the Philadelphia Eagles winning the NFC Championship.

"I spoke to my dad last on Sunday night. He's a great football fan, and we were jubilant on FaceTime that our Eagles were going to the Super Bowl. And dad was in a really good place on Monday," Jonathan Levin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.