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After Boca woman's murder, proposed bill would require background checks on delivery personnel

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 11/8/2019 By Hannah Morse, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Boca Raton police say a delivery man killed Evelyn Smith Udell, 75, on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, in the garage of her Boca Raton home after he helped install a new washer and dryer. Udell is seen here with her husband, Joel Udell. Jorge Dupre Lachazo, 21, of Hialeah was arrested Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, and charged with first-degree murder in Udell's death. [Family photo] © Family photo/Observer-Dispatch/The Palm Beach Post, Fla./TNS Boca Raton police say a delivery man killed Evelyn Smith Udell, 75, on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, in the garage of her Boca Raton home after he helped install a new washer and dryer. Udell is seen here with her husband, Joel Udell. Jorge Dupre Lachazo, 21, of Hialeah was arrested Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, and charged with first-degree murder in Udell's death. [Family photo]

A bill to require background checks for delivery personnel will be filed in Tallahassee next week, nearly three months after police say a delivery man killed a 75-year-old woman while installing a washer and dryer in her Boca Raton home.

State Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Boca Raton, said the Evelyn Udell Delivery Bill will have two components.

First, big box stores would have to notify customers when the delivery service has been subcontracted to another business. In Udell's case, Best Buy had contracted with delivery company J.B. Hunt, which in turn hired another company, XM Delivery, to make the delivery to her home.

Second, the bill will make more extensive Level 2 background checks mandatory for subcontracted delivery people. It wouldn't apply to all deliveries, just those where employees would cross the threshold and enter a customer's home.

"This is not people just delivering to the front door like UPS or Federal Express or pizza delivery," Caruso said.

A Level 1 check simply looks at the background of a person by their name within the state, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A Level 2 background check is fingerprint-based and searches both state and national databases. Level 2 scrutiny, the FDLE says, is warranted for "those employees designated by law as holding positions of responsibility or trust."

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Udell's family claims that a background check would have prevented Evelyn's August 19 death. Jorge Luis Dupre Lachazo, the 21-year-old Hialeah man charged with first-degree murder and first-degree arson, had one previous misdemeanor charge, reduced from a felony, for stealing a cellphone.

Nick Panagakis, a Morgan & Morgan attorney representing the Udell family, said the family is "gratified" that the legislation will be filed in Florida. If passed, the family hopes members of Congress will take it up to the national level.

"The family wants to do all it can to ensure that everyone is protected through readily available and affordable Level 2 background checks to prevent any future tragedy like has befallen them upon anyone else," Panagakis told The Palm Beach Post in an email.

State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican who is also a Morgan & Morgan attorney, was initially set to file a similar bill. Caruso told The Post that the pair had a conversation last week and he was given the go-ahead to move forward with his bill. An aide in Fitzenhagen's office confirmed Caruso would be filing the bill.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, whose district includes Boca Raton, said he might expect backlash from chambers of commerce because of a perceived hardship on businesses.

"But I'm hoping that they recognize that this is a plus for businesses, making it better for them to be able to promote the safety, making people feel more comfortable having deliveries to their home," Weinroth said.

Caruso added that he doesn't anticipate any opposition.

"I'm running my bill because it's good legislation and the legislation stands on its own, and because I want to protect the citizens from Florida," he said.

hmorse@pbpost.com

@mannahhorse

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©2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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