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Post-Irma murder shocked Florida Keys. The case remains unsolved.

Yellow tape surrounds a house at 720 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Key Largo where the body of 70-year-old Mary Bonneville was found Oct. 21, 2017, by Key Largo volunteer firefighters. Detectives believe she died before the fire based on wounds they found on her body.
Yellow tape surrounds a house at 720 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Key Largo where the body of 70-year-old Mary Bonneville was found Oct. 21, 2017, by Key Largo volunteer firefighters. Detectives believe she died before the fire based on wounds they found on her body. dgoodhue@flkeysnews.com

On the night of Oct. 21, 2017, while the Keys were still in the beginning stages of recovering from Category 4 Hurricane Irma, a “liveaboard” — one of the many people whose homes are boats moored off the island chain — threatened to stab his girlfriend to death and burn her house down, according to Monroe County court documents.

He then tried to force his way into her van at knife point, she told police.

The confrontation happened in the parking lot of the Key Largo Veterans of Foreign Wars club, which at the time had degenerated into a watering hole that drew a lot of local drunks and drug dealers, according to local veterans who took over management of the bar since then. The new managers decided the only way to save it and get it back to its original mission of serving veterans was to tear it down and start over fresh.

Minutes after Eddy Lopez Jemot, 51, made the threats against his then-girlfriend, Magdalena Soutelo-Rodriguez, according to police, Key Largo firefighters were called to a house on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, about 100 yards behind the VFW. They knocked down the flames and went into the smoldering building. There they found the body of 70-year-old Mary Bonneville. Her throat had been cut.

Jemot, who could not be reached for comment for this article, was arrested two days later in connection with the confrontation with his girlfriend and charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and burglary.

Jemot mug.jpg
Eddy Lopez-Jemot MCSO

He pleaded no contest to the aggravated assault charge earlier this month, and Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia sentenced him to a year in county jail with credit for time served and three years probation.

Detectives never publicly stated if Jemot was a suspect in Bonneville’s death, but they did raid the boat on which he lived at the time a few weeks after the murder. The vessel was moored in Florida Bay just offshore behind the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center at mile marker 102.

Soutelo-Rodriguez told detectives that Lopez-Jemot had boasted of burning people’s homes down after he killed them. But detectives have not connected Jemot with any other case except the confrontation with Soutelo-Rodriguez .

Meanwhile, Bonneville’s murder is still an active investigation, said Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

“We have some leads we’re looking at and the case is still ongoing,” he said. “It’s not a cold case.”

Linhardt would not comment on Jemot’s case.

Liveaboard transport.jpg
A rowboat sits in the mangroves behind the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Arts Center at mile marker 102 in Key Largo. The boat is used for transportation by people living on larger vessels offshore. Police in November 2017 raided a liveaboard vessel while investigating the Oct. 21 , 2017, murder of a Key Largo woman. David Goodhue dgoodhue@flkeysnews.com

The brutality and seeming randomness of Bonneville’s murder was felt hard in the Upper Keys, which was still reeling from Irma’s damage.

Bonneville was a creature of habit, bar staff and patrons said immediately after she was killed. Just about every day, she would walk from her house to the VFW, where she would drink beer and play video poker. Around 8 or 8:30 p.m., she would leave and go back to her house.

She repeated the pattern on Oct. 21, 2017, but was attacked some time after she returned home. Around 9:40 p.m., a neighbor walking to a nearby gas station noticed her house was on fire and called 911.

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