Murder-for-hire suspect gets plea delay

Dennis Zecca was expected to plead out Thursday, but the federal hearing was delayed.
Dennis Zecca was expected to plead out Thursday, but the federal hearing was delayed.

A Marathon man charged last December with murder for hire who was expected to plead out in Miami federal court Thursday instead had his hearing postponed until 10 a.m. Nov. 25.

Dennis Zecca, a former commander of U.S. Coast Guard Station Islamorada, is accused of hiring someone to kill Marathon Realtor Bruce Schmitt. On Jan. 10, Zecca was federally 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 plea and his attorney has not returned repeated messages for comment. The U.S. Attorney's Office has said it doesn't comment on open cases.

Zecca had been scheduled for trial come December.

His Thursday plea was scheduled before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez, but a Monday filing shows it's now planned for 10 a.m. Nov. 25 before Martinez in Courtroom 10-1 at the federal courthouse at 400 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The Monday filing doesn't say who asked for the delay from Thursday, or why.

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 know Zecca.

Federal authorities say the murder plot had "associates and co-conspirators in this offense" but have not said who they are. It's not known if any plea Zecca offers will be based on offering authorities information on who the "associates and co-conspirators" are.

The 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 following his arrest 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.