They found the 80-year-old man beaten to death in his apartment. How a 24-year-old man will pay.
By Julius Whigham II, Palm Beach Post,2023-06-07
WEST PALM BEACH — A 24-year-old Delray Beach man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the March 2022 death of an 80-year-old man near Greenacres.
Matas Baltus also pleaded guilty to grand theft of a motor vehicle during a hearing before Circuit Judge Caroline Shepherd on Thursday at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. Court records show that under the terms of the plea agreement, Baltus will serve concurrent prison terms of 35 and five years. He will be formally sentenced Sept. 12.
"Mat's a young man from a wonderful family. He accepted responsibility and he did not want to put the family through any trauma of a trial," said defense attorney Michelle Suskauer, who represented Baltus.
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Blunt-force trauma case of man's death
The charges came following Baltus' March 9, 2022, arrest after deputies found him in the vehicle of 80-year-old Willy Wengi, who was found dead that evening in an apartment along Via Poinciana just west of the city limits.
The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Wengi died from blunt-force trauma injuries to his neck, head, face and chest. A PBSO arrest report did not indicate a motive for the killing, nor did it say how the two men knew each other.
Two neighbors who went to the apartment to check on Wengi that evening told deputies they found Baltas inside sleeping on a reclining chair. One neighbor said Baltas woke up and told him Wengi had called and asked him to pick up some items from the residence. The other said he ran to Wengi's vehicle and sped away.
Investigators found Wengi's body in a bathroom, bound by tape and electrical and computer cords, the arrest report said. Sheriff's investigators said DNA from a cellphone charging cord used to tie Wengi's hands behind his back contained two profiles — Batlas' and Wengi's.
Trek from apartment complex ended in Broward
Witnesses told sheriff's deputies Baltas drove away that night in Wengi's 2015 Hyundai Genesis, hitting and injuring two older women and striking several vehicles as he exited the apartment complex off 10th Avenue North west of Jog Road.
Investigators said a vehicle matching the Hyundai's description was involved in several hit-and-run crashes along Jog west of Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
Deputies in Broward County later responded to a 911 call regarding a suspicious incident and found Baltus removing items from the Hyundai. He told investigators he happened upon the vehicle while walking in the area.
Julius Whigham II is a criminal justice and public safety reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @JuliusWhigham . Help support our work: Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: They found the 80-year-old man beaten to death in his apartment. How a 24-year-old man will pay.