Decades-Old Sarasota Murder Case Back in Court on Friday Ends With Shocking Twist

Daniel Rocha hearing

SARASOTA (WWSB) -The man convicted of arranging the murder of a Sarasota mother more than 20 years ago was back in court on Friday.

Daniel Rocha is serving life in prison for his involvement in a complicated murder-for-hire plot that involved a Texas millionaire and his ex-wife who had settled in Sarasota with her new husband.

Lawyers for Rocha say they have new evidence that warrants a new trial for their client - the testimony of one of the convicted killers, Jose Del Toro,.

However, the hearing definitely did not go according to plan. The court was expecting Jose Del Toro to take the stand and say that Daniel Rocha did not tell him to kill Sheila Bellush, but Rocha and his attorneys decided to withdraw their motion.

In November of 1997, Sheila Bellush's teenage daughter found her murdered in their Sarasota home. Bellush's 23-month old quadruplets by her second husband were there near Bellush's body, covered in her blood but unharmed.

Police say the murder was arranged by Bellush’s ex-husband, Texas millionaire Allen Blackthorne. The divorced couple fought over their two children, even accusing each other of abusing them. Court documents say Blackthorne asked for help from a golfing buddy, Daniel Rocha. That’s when Rocha hired two men, he says to beat her up because of Blackthorne’s claims that she was abusing their children. Instead, the men murdered Bellush and Rocha was sentenced to life in prison.

That was what they were supposed to prove today in court… but never did. "We were very confident that we were going to prevail if Mr. Del Toro testified and I think the defendant realized that and withdrew the motion,” Art Jackman, the State Attorney, explained.

However. The court says Friday’s hearing not only wasted time and taxpayer money, but brought one of the bloodiest murders in Sarasota history back to light.

"The family has to relive this over and over again. The band aid keeps getting torn off each time there is a motion posted by this defendant,” expressed State Attorney Karen Fraivillig.

Judge Carroll says he is planning on writing up a new court document that this motion has now been dismissed.

Copyright 2019 WWSB. All rights reserved.