GOP Strategist Among 3 Found Dead

WESH 2 News
Friday, August 24, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Republican political strategist was identified as one of three people found dead inside a home in east Orange County on Thursday.

The bodies were found at 2420 Hickory Oak Blvd. in the Hickory Cove subdivision, Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Solomons said.

The mother of Ralph Gonzalez traveled from Miami to identify the body of her son, who was a popular GOP strategist and former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party.

"I have no idea. I couldn't believe it. I was shocked. I said, 'This can't be my son. Why my son? Why?' Eva Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was among the three people found inside the home, and their bodies may have been inside since Tuesday, authorities said.

"The third person was the shooter. He shot my son first and then shot David and then killed himself," Eva Gonzalez said.

The last time Gonzalez spoke to her son was Tuesday, she said, and his best friend called her on Thursday to give her the bad news.

From his home, Ralph Gonzalez operated the Strategum Group, a political consulting firm. His list of clients included U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.

"Ralph was a friend of mine, and we're hearing about this tragedy through the news. It's a terrible tragedy, and Ralph is a dear friend," Feeney said.

Feeney said he had known Ralph Gonzalez since he was a young man working as a legislative intern. He was a man Feeney would eventually hire.

"He was a very sharp fellow. He grew into a mature, capable, very bright political consultant. He's done a lot of work for me over the years," Feeney said.

Ralph Gonzalez was a native of Miami. The other victims were identified as David Abrami and Robert Drake. Gonzalez lived in the home with Abrami, and Drake was a former roommate who was visiting from out of town.

"(It was) horrible. I can't believe he lied in there, and the more I see all that blood, it was sickening. Why would anybody want to shoot my boy?" Eva Gonzalez said.

Officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Office haven't released a motive yet for the deaths. Authorities said they received a call from a woman from North Carolina asking them to check on the well-being of a friend in the home. They found the bodies when they arrived, as well as an open garage door.

There was no sign of forced entry, and one body was found near the entrance of home.

Detectives at the scene said they believe a dispute might have occurred, and they said weapons were found inside the home.

"There is some early evidence that suggests this may be a murder-suicide," Orange County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Allen Lee said.

Investigators are talking with neighbors to try to figure out exactly what happened. Neighbors said they knew little about the two men who lived there, and they only heard dogs barking in the yard.

"I think I would have went next door and asked them about the dogs barking because, like I said, they were barking all night long, and I've never heard that before. So now I look back, and I wish that I would have went to his door," neighbor Cindy Bargar said.

"It's real sad, you know. It should have never happened. Period. You know, they were nice gentlemen," neighbor Ray Perez said.

Investigators elected not to have a media briefing on Friday as planned. They said they do not anticipate releasing any additional details regarding the case Friday or over the weekend.

Not counting these deaths, there have been 44 homicides in Orange County in 2007.

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