Contractor’s Suspected Murder Remains Cold Case

OCEAN CITY — Nearly 14 years after a Virginia man was apparently murdered in his family’s Ocean City condominium, the chances of closing the case are becoming more and more remote as the years roll by.

Fourteen years ago next week, Eduardo Masoller, then 52, of Springfield, Va. was reported missing by his family just three days after he and his crew arrived in Ocean City for a contracting job. He has never been found and the missing persons case has long since been classified as a homicide, but the investigation remains open.

Masoller was reported missing by his family on Feb. 3, 2005, after arriving in Ocean City three days earlier with his crew for a contracting job. Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) detectives, accompanied by family members, went to Masoller’s condominium on 68th Street and discovered a large knife on the floor as well as a significant amount of blood evidence throughout the unit, the most significant of which was a large pool in one of the unit’s bedrooms.

In June 2005, five months after the disappearance was first reported, a Worcester County Circuit Court judge ruled favorably on a petition to declare Masoller officially deceased, based on the overwhelming evidence found in his family condo. That ruling essentially turned the missing persons case into a homicide investigation.

Fourteen years later, the victim’s remains have never been found despite an exhaustive search throughout the resort area and across the Eastern Shore and beyond. The two suspects believed to have perpetrated the murder, Masoller’s co-workers on that trip to Ocean City, have likely long since left the country for their native El Salvador. OCPD public information officer Lindsay Richard said this week detectives have not abandoned the case and revisit it from time to time, but there is little in the way of new information.

“Unfortunately, there is no real update,” she said. “It is an ongoing investigation, but not active at this time due to a lack of leads.”

Richard said despite the lack of any significant new information, OCPD detectives have not buried the apparent murder in some dusty old cold case file.

“It’s still in the back of their minds,” she said. “They are in contact with the family every few months and whenever an unidentified body is located in the surrounding area, they look into it.”

There have been times over the years when unidentified remains have been discovered in some remote location, offering hope for detectives and closure for the family that they might be those of Masoller. However, in each case those hopes have been dashed.

From the beginning, the investigation centered around two main suspects, both of whom were part of Masoller’s contracting crew and were among the last known to see him alive. One of the suspects, Jose Damian Hernandez, was convicted in September 2005 on a theft charge related to the victim’s stolen vehicle, which was later recovered, along with Hernandez, in Columbus, Ohio. Hernandez was sentenced to five years in jail in September 2010, but he has long since been released and has been deported to his native El Salvador.

The other main suspect, known to resort detectives for a long time only as “Beto,” is also believed to have returned to his native El Salvador. In 2006, OCPD detectives later identified Beto as Jose Roberto Orellana Romero. Masoller, Hernandez and Romero arrived in Ocean City on Jan.31, 2005 with the victim’s work van and a rented U-Haul truck both filled with tools. Witnesses placed Masoller and Hernandez at the Bull on the Beach restaurant on 94th Street on the evening of Jan. 31, the last time investigators believe Masoller was seen alive.

After being notified by family that he was missing, police entered Masoller’s unit and noticed a kitchen knife on the floor near a sliding glass door. Further investigation revealed a “significant” amount of blood evidence throughout the unit, the most substantial of which was a large pool of blood on the floor in one of the bedrooms. All of the bedding and linens, as well as a large mattress from a Fouton bed were missing from the apartment.

The first real break in the case came when Masoller’s van, and Hernandez, turned up in Columbus, Ohio. Evidence shows Hernandez and Romero gassed up the van at the 7-Eleven in Ocean Pines early in the morning on Feb. 2, 2005 and a trail of credit card slips forged with Masoller’s signature showed Hernandez and the van making their way to Masoller’s Virginia home, where Hernandez returned the credit card to the victim’s family, stating Masoller had given him the card to use to get back to Virginia to get more workers. Hernandez later pawned Masoller’s tools at a Virginia pawnshop before being caught with the missing man’s van in Columbus, Ohio.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.