42ºF

Police search for missing Ohio family after man found dead in Miami motel room

Michael Evans wanted in Ohio; Kristy Evans, 7-year-old daughter, Jala Barnett, missing

Authorities are looking for Michael Evans, Kristy Evans, and Jala Barnett who they believe were staying in a Miami motel where a man was killed.
Authorities are looking for Michael Evans, Kristy Evans, and Jala Barnett who they believe were staying in a Miami motel where a man was killed.

MIAMI – Miami police are searching for a missing family from Ohio after a man was found dead inside a motel where the couple and their child are believed to have stayed.

The victim was identified by police Monday night as Joseph Moniz, 46. His body was discovered in a pool of blood about 11:15 a.m. Saturday inside a room at the Sunshine Inn Motel on West Flagler Street.

Miami police Lt. Carlos Castellanos didn't disclose how Moniz died, but his death was ruled a homicide.

During the death investigation, "(detectives) determined that there was, at one point, a couple and a young child that were guests at this motel," Castellanos said.

Castellanos identified them as Michael Evans, Kristy Evans, and her daughter, Jala Barnett, 7.  Police said the couple both have a serious drug problem.

According to police, an employee at the motel went to the room to collect the rent. There was no response when he knocked on the door. When he went inside, he saw the victim on the floor.

The employee told police that the Evans has been renting the room.

Michael Evans is a fugitive who fled from authorities while on house arrest, awaiting trial on assault charges. Kristy Evans and Barnett had been reported missing from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in early May. Police believe Michael Evans is the girl's stepfather. 

"The nature of how they may know each other is still being looked into," Castellanos said. "We're still seeking them in order to clarify... what the relationship was."

Moniz's ex-wife, Elaine Moniz, told Local 10 News that she hasn't spoke to her ex in nearly a decade, but still has the memories that remind her of the good times.

"I don't want him to be remembered as a drug addict," said Elaine Moniz. "Joey had a huge heart and anyone who knew him knows that. That's how I want him to be remembered."

Elaine Moniz said she believes her ex-husband died in a drug deal gone bad, although police have not confirmed a motive.

photo
2001 blue Ford Escort, Ohio tag FUT4068. (Similar vehicle shown)
2001 blue Ford Escort, Ohio tag FUT4068. (Similar vehicle shown)

Police believe the family is driving a stolen blue 2005 Audi A4 with temporary tags BDK6156 (similar to image). They could also be in a dark blue Ford Escort with Ohio tag FUT4068 (similar to image.)

"Our priority here is to try to find this young girl," Castellanos said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued a missing child alert Tuesday afternoon.

Anyone who may have had contact with the family is asked to call Miami police or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. A reward of up to $3,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the case.

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter@WPLGLocal10