Saturday, April 17, 2004

Two charged in steakhouse slayings

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Police on Saturday charged a man with killing two Outback Steakhouse managers whose bodies were found stuffed in a walk-in refrigerator. A second suspect was detained later in the day.

Luis F. Ayala Serrano was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and weapons violations after five Outback employees identified him in a lineup, Police Superintendent Augustin Cartagena told The Associated Press.

Police said they captured the second suspect at a San Juan housing project. Authorities have not yet filed charges against him.

About 30 detectives were searching for a third man who they believe served as a getaway driver after the killings early Friday, Cartagena said in a telephone interview.

Ayala was a former employee of a cleaning company that provided services to the Outback Steakhouse at the Embassy Suites Hotel located in the touristic Isla Verde section of San Juan, he said.

He was fired about a week ago but he and another gunman entered the restaurant posing as cleaning workers after midnight while several employees were closing for the night, Cartagena said.

The two gunmen ordered the employees into a refrigerator, police said.

After taking $3,000 in cash, the gunmen returned to the refrigerator, took Jose Quiles Arroyo, 30, and Raul Carreira Orta, 31, out and shot them, then put their bodies in another refrigerator, police said.

Employees told police the gunmen called the managers by name when removing them from the first refrigerator.

There were no customers in the restaurant when the shooting occurred.

Detectives said they reviewed hotel video surveillance cameras and detained Ayala hours after the shooting.

Carreira and his wife were expecting their second child next week.

Outback Steakhouse, which has two franchises in Puerto Rico, is based in Tampa, Florida.

In September, two men shot and killed three workers during a robbery at an Outback Steakhouse in Texarkana, Texas. Two suspects were later arrested and charged in the case.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.