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Family Sues Best Buy After Delivery Man Beat 75-Year-Old Florida Customer And Set Her On Fire

NBC / YouTube

The family of 75-year-old Evelyn “Evy” Udell is filing charges against Best Buy retailers after an associated delivery man assaulted and killed Udell.

It was reported on August 19 that the delivery man, Jorge Lachazo, transported and installed Udell’s new washer and dryer, and then assaulted her. He hit her over the head, rendering her unconscious, and then covered her body in acetone and lit her on fire.

Lachazo’s delivery companion, David Gonzalez, reportedly waited outside during the delivery and was not involved in Udell’s assault. Lachazo then made a getaway in the delivery van.

When Gonzalez realized what had happened inside the Udell house, he called 911.

Lachazo was found and arrested soon after he fled the Udell property and was taken into custody. Udell was taken to the hospital but died the following day. Lachazo was charged with the first-degree murder of Evelyn Udell on August 29 and is awaiting his arraignment.

The family has since begun the process of filing a lawsuit against Best Buy. The lawsuit filed Thursday deemed Best Buy legally responsible for Udell’s death, because they did not properly investigate the third-party delivery service they hired.

You can see the Udell family’s statement in the following video:

Udell believed that, in ordering her washer and dryer from Best Buy, she would be working with contractors who had to observe Best Buy’s policies, but this wasn’t the case.

Instead, Best Buy hired the transport company, J.B. Hunt, to organize the delivery. J.B. Hunt then contracted X.M. Delivery Service to complete the delivery.

Gonzalez and Lachazo were then assigned the delivery by X.M. Delivery Service, for whom they worked.

Nick Panagakis, the Udell family’s attorney, said of the incident:

“It’s scary that the place where we should be safest—our own home—is unfortunately a place of danger.”

Panagakis accused Best Buy on multiple counts and said they had a “reckless disregard” when it came to their hiring and contracting arrangements.

Panagakis also stated that companies needed to take responsibility for properly vetting their employees, and also ensuring that their contractor’s records of third-party employees remain up-to-date, as well.

He called many companies, including Best Buy’s neglect of this vetting process a “national epidemic.”

Panagakis concluded with: 

“This has been going on for years. You either have to be operating with blinders on or you just know it and don’t care.”

Panagakis has also accused Best Buy of its involvement in severe emotional harm, as Evelyn Udell’s husband, Joel, has experienced “mental anguish and emotional distress” since her death. The family is seeking compensation in excess of $15,000, which has been included in their lawsuit, filed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

Panagakis and the Udell family are also calling for improved legislation that requires in-depth and ongoing background checks and investigations of employees hired for in-home visits. The legislation is to include the required recurring check-up on all employees’ potential criminal activity for as long as they are employed.

Best Buy is being sued on multiple counts, including loss of consortium and negligence. J.B. Hunt, X.M. Delivery Delivery Service, and the two Best Buy employees who were involved in the contracting of Gonzalez and Lachazo, are also included in the lawsuit.

Jorge Lachazo admitted during the police investigation that he was using cocaine and marijuana. He was arrested for theft in 2018 and had a series of traffic—and driving—related charges already on his record. He admitted to using drugs earlier in the day, prior to the delivery and assault.

According to the police report, Udell suffered from multiple skull and facial fractures, severe brain trauma and bleeding, and second- and third-degree burns all over her body.

Any other motivations Lachazo may have had for harming Udell, beyond drug-use, remain unclear.

Best Buy said in a follow-up statement that it is in their company’s policy to thoroughly background-check their employees. They said they were not involved directly in the contracting of X.M. Delivery Service, and they would be in touch with J.B. Hunt to ensure their background check protocols were still aligned.

Best Buy said: 

“Specific to our own practices, background checks have long been required by Best Buy and we are working with those we contract out to ensure that these checks are up-to-date and are done on a re-occurring basis. Additionally, we continue to work with an independent security firm to review the practices of all third parties that we hire to do work on our behalf in customers’ homes.”

J.B. Hunt confirmed that Lachazo and Gonzalez were hired by X.M. Delivery Service for the delivery and that they were no longer working with X.M. Delivery Service.

In a press conference following the filing of the lawsuit, the Udell family described Evelyn Udell as a “beautiful, kind, and giving” grandmother, mother, mother-in-law, wife, and sister. She volunteered regularly at her local library and loved to travel.

The family said: 

“She had been looking forward to her ‘golden years,’ with many more milestones to celebrate with her children and grandchildren; birthdays, graduations, weddings. All of that was taken from her and from us. Instead, she faced unspeakable terror and pain in her final moments, having fallen victim to a barbaric, yet preventable attack that can be described as nothing short of torture. Our family stands before you today vowing to protect Evy’s legacy and ensure that she did not die in vain.”

Many have responded on Twitter to the tragedy in support of the family and their proposed legislation.

What an unspeakable tragedy.

Lachazo’s arraignment is still being processed, as is the Udell family’s newly proposed legislation and lawsuit.

Support for the family continues to pour in as new developments arise.

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McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.