ORANGE CITY — Eugenio Muriel was a few minutes early for Bible study Monday night.
He rang the doorbell at Carmen Negrón’s house, but no one answered. A second ring went unanswered. So he opened the screen door and found the front door open — not unusual for Negrón, who hosted Bible study classes every Monday night for about 11 Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As soon as Muriel walked into the two-bedroom house, he was horrified. He saw blood on the floor and found Negrón’s youngest son, Yamir Orlando Vergara-Negrón, 26, lying near the kitchen table. The man’s face was covered with blood, and there was blood all around him.
Not knowing what else to do, Muriel ran outside and called to Israel Gonzalez that something terrible had happened. The two men went deeper into the house and found another son, Gilberto Vergara-Negrón, 28, lying facedown in a bedroom, a television on the floor near the side of his head. A quick walk down a short hall revealed yet another body. This time it was the family’s matriarch, Carmen Negrón, 63. She was lying facedown in the bathroom.
“I said, ‘Let’s get out of here! Let’s get out of here!’ ” Muriel recalled Tuesday, with tears in his eyes.
Muriel said authorities later told him that all three had been shot.
On Tuesday, sheriff’s Capt. Dave Hudson said investigators were following some “promising leads.”
“We have a good indication as to what happened in that house, why it happened and how it happened,” Hudson said.
Deputies got a break Tuesday afternoon when Negrón’s 1995 Honda Civic was found parked in a lot under Interstate 4 between Church Street and Central Avenue, across the street from the Orlando Police Department, Hudson said.
Hudson said the family was last seen alive sometime Monday morning, though investigators had not confirmed the time. Their bodies were discovered at about 7:20 p.m. The car had been in the lot since at least 4 p.m. Monday when it was tagged by a parking attendant, Hudson said. The car’s license plate number was checked Tuesday, about 2 p.m., after a parking attendant noticed it was still in the lot.Hudson said the car would be returned to Volusia County to be searched for possible evidence.
Crime-scene technicians continued their meticulous search of the Negrón home Tuesday and expected to return today. Investigators have been at the house since shortly after Muriel and Gonzalez called 911.
Hudson would not comment Tuesday on how the family was killed, saying only that they put up “quite a struggle.”
In a recording of the call, Gonzalez’s voice sounded rushed, as if he was out of breath, and frantic as he tried to tell a dispatcher what he and Muriel had seen inside the house.
“I need a police and an ambulance,” he told the dispatcher with a palpable tension in his Spanish-accented voice.
When asked what the problem was, Gonzalez said: “Because we knock the door. We got a Bible . . . here in this house and we knock the door and we look inside because the door is open, and we see people on the floor, they down on the floor.”
On Tuesday, Muriel said Negrón and her sons were beloved members of their community and the Orange City Kingdom Hall.
“Nobody in the area says anything bad about the family,” Muriel said.
Negrón, who moved her family to the United States from Puerto Rico about 10 years ago, was a widow who stayed at home taking care of her family, friends and neighbors said. Gilberto Vergara-Negrón worked at a Seminole County car rental agency to support both his mother and Yamir Vergara-Negrón, who was studying to be a paramedic at a local community college, Muriel said.
Negrón’s brother Roberto Negrón said in Spanish on Tuesday that during his own Bible study group Monday night, he was told something had happened and he needed to go to his sister’s house. Once he arrived, he said, Muriel and other friends explained what happened.
“She was just so nice,” Roberto Negrón said in Spanish, crying.
Muriel said friends and relatives were stunned by the killings. He said Carmen Negrón would have given anyone anything. And her boys would have done anything to protect her.
“They would have protected her with their lives,” Muriel said.