The family of an elderly South Florida woman who died after police say she was doused with a liquid chemical and badly beaten by an appliance delivery man is suing Best Buy and the delivery companies they contract with.
Family members of Evelyn Udell and their attorneys announced the lawsuit at a news conference Friday, where they spoke for the first time about the horrific killing.
"There is no why. It has been an unimaginable task to bring reason to something so senseless," daughter-in-law Sloane Udell said. "We've learned however that this type of violence perpetrated by a home deliveryman is not an isolated or even an uncommon act. Instead, across our country, the vulnerable have been targeted by those we trust and allow into our homes."
Evelyn Udell, known as Evy, was found unconscious in the laundry room of her Boca Raton home last month after she was attacked by the delivery man, identified as 21-year-old Jorge Luis Dupre Lachazo.
According to police, Lachazo and another delivery driver had been contracted through Best Buy to deliver a washer and dryer to the victim. At one point, the driver went outside to make phone calls to the office, while Lachazo was inside speaking with Udell about the new appliances.
That's when the driver heard screaming coming from the house and ran inside and found Udell covered in blood on the floor, police said. The driver called 911 while Lachazo got in the delivery truck and drove away.
A responding officer saw the truck leaving the neighborhood and stopped it, taking Lachazo into custody. Lachazo was "very sweaty and was shaking, as if he was nervous," an officer noted in an arrest report.
The officer wrote that the hairs on Lachazo's lower legs were burnt, and the surface of his legs looked like they had ashes on them, the report said.
"He took a mallet of some sort and hit the victim in the head and had some kind of accelerant from the garage and at some point a fire ensued," Boca Raton Police spokesman Mark Economou said.
Lachazo admitted to beating the woman and dousing her with the chemical, and told officers he had used cocaine and marijuana earlier in the day, police said. Lachazo, from Hialeah, now faces charges including first-degree murder.
Udell, a longtime employee at Florida Atlantic University libraries, died from her injuries.
"Evy was a young 75 years old when she was murdered. She still traveled extensively, had an active social circle and volunteered at the local library. She even talked about getting another job," Sloane Udell said. "She would have celebrated her birthday the following week. She had been looking forward to her 'golden years,' with many more milestones to celebrate with her children and grandchildren; birthdays, graduations, weddings. All of that was taken from her and from us."
In addition to Best Buy, the lawsuit names the two contractors they used for the delivery, J.B. Hunt and XM Delivery, as defendants. The suit claims the companies failed to conduct adequate background checks on its workers.
Best Buy previously said in a statement that they had suspended their relationship with one of the contractors, and was revisiting their delivery and installation programs.
"We watched today's press conference with great sadness and empathy. Our regret for what happened is as deep today as it was on August 19th. If the family will accept it, we would very much like the opportunity to donate to the charity they have established. As importantly, we join with the Udell family in calling for legislation regarding mandatory background checks across the retail industry and any other reasonable steps that can be taken to ensure this kind of tragedy does not occur again," Best Buy said in a statement Friday. "Specific to our own practices, background checks have long been required by Best Buy and we are working with those we contract out to ensure that these checks are up-to-date and are done on a re-occurring basis. Additionally, we continue to work with an independent security firm to review the practices of all third parties that we hire to do work on our behalf in customers' homes."
J.B. Hunt said they couldn't comment on pending litigation.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the woman whose life was senselessly lost following an August 19 delivery in Boca Raton," J.B. Hunt said in a statement. "The delivery service was provided by an independent, local company contracted through J.B. Hunt and did not involve any J.B. Hunt employees. We are working diligently to understand how this tragedy occurred and have suspended our relationship with this company at this time. J.B. Hunt stands committed to our intense focus on safety as a core value and priority. To that end, we are conducting an immediate review to verify the contractor's compliance with our standards and safety requirements. We are fully cooperating with law enforcement to support its investigation and will take necessary actions based on the facts as they become known."