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Easygoing’ janitor, 86, shot boss dead after 31 years working together as he was going to get fired


Felix Cabrera, 86, is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in the June 4, shooting death of William Combass, 67, at the Sugar Cane Cooperative in Belle Glade, Florida

An 86-year-old sugar mill worker with 31 years on the job fatally shot his boss after he was refused another year working at the mill.

Felix Cabrera is now in jail without bail on a first-degree murder charge following the shooting last month at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in Belle Glade, Florida near West Palm Beach.

Cabrera’s boss, 67-year-old Billy Combass, from nearby Martin County was shot several times. 

Authorities say Cabrera sought to work one additional year for financial reasons but was turned down. 

That’s when he allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot his boss. 

The pair had worked together for decades and efforts are now underway to try to understand what led to Cabrera, said to be an ‘easygoing, likable janitor’, to shoot Combass, who was ‘a respected manager and devoted family man.’ 

Cabrera quickly confessed to the killing while the cooperative put out a statement saying it was ‘horrified and deeply saddened by the senseless violence.’ 

Authorities initially said that it was simply case of a disgruntled employee intentionally killing his boss, but Cabrera’s lawyers from the Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office say things are not so clear cut and have suggested that a claim of self-defense may even be used. 

In an obituary William Vance ‘Billy’ Combass is said to have ‘had the utmost respect for life.’  

The married father of three worked at the cooperative for more than 47 years – almost his entire adult life, but he always said his ‘greatest accomplishment of all was his family.’

Cabrera's boss, William Combass, 67, to him clock out and never return to work. Hours later, he was shot dead

Cabrera’s boss, William Combass, 67, to him clock out and never return to work. Hours later, he was shot dead

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his youngest child, Ivette's, education

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his youngest child, Ivette’s, education

The fundraiser is also support his son, Will, who is a college senior majoring in criminology with plans to earn a master's degree

The fundraiser is also support his son, Will, who is a college senior majoring in criminology with plans to earn a master’s degree

Police say the shooting at the sugar mill appears to have been a planned event and charged Cabrera with premeditated first-degree murder

Police say the shooting at the sugar mill appears to have been a planned event and charged Cabrera with premeditated first-degree murder

‘He loved to fix all things; cars, tractors, household knick-knacks. He raised his family in the house he built and has left his fingerprint on everything he created,’ the tribute read.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for his youngest child, Ivette’s, education and also support his son, Will, who is a college senior majoring in criminology with plans to earn a master’s degree.

So far, more than $15,000 has been raised. ‘Words cannot express how humbled we are by the generous outpouring of love and support during this extremely difficult time in our lives,’ widow Ivette Combass wrote. 

Cabrera, who was originally from Cuba and exiled to the U.S. in 1980 no longer has any living relatives having outlived them all. His life essentially revolved around the sugar plant.  

The married father of three worked at the cooperative for more than 47 years

The married father of three worked at the cooperative for more than 47 years

An obituary for Combass describes the married father of three, as being dedicated to working at the cooperative for more than 47 years, but that his 'greatest accomplishment was his family.'

An obituary for Combass describes the married father of three, as being dedicated to working at the cooperative for more than 47 years, but that his ‘greatest accomplishment was his family.’

Combass was married to his wife Ivette, now widowed

Combass was married to his wife Ivette, now widowed

‘His neighbors, many of whom have known him for 15 years or more, uniformly described him as a kindhearted gentle, and generous man who was especially fond of animals,’ defense attorney Scott Pribble wrote in a plea last month.

The flashpoint for the shooting appears to have come three weeks earlier when Cabrera learned he was going to be fired, after 31 years of service – although the motive does not feature on the arrest report.  

On the day of the shooting, Cabrera left his home around 6:30am. 

Just after 10am, Combass told Cabrera that he was fired, to clock out and never return.

Cabrera pleaded with his boss to keep his job for another year saying that he needed the income.  

Combass is said to have ‘got out of his chair and started walking towards Cabrera telling him ‘no’ and to leave the office,’ the arrest report seen by the Sun Sentinel said.

His defense lawyer wrote how he felt ‘disrespected in how Combass was speaking to him in front of other employees.’

‘Mr. Cabrera’s life revolved around this job and the sugar plant, and the news devastated him,’ the defense lawyer wrote.

The pair both worked at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, a cooperative made up of 44 small to medium-sized member farms that grow sugar cane

The pair both worked at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, a cooperative made up of 44 small to medium-sized member farms that grow sugar cane

Surveillance video seen by the Sentinel depicts Cabrera walking toward Combass’ office and stopping to pull a handgun out of pocket as he got it ‘ready to fire.’ 

There were no witnesses to the shooting. 

Cabrera is next seen with the gun still in his hand before speaking with employees nearby.

Combass was found by police, bleeding from multiple wounds while Cabrera was found inside another building on the property. The gun was found in a black bag he was holding.

Those working at the mill are puzzled by the outburst in violence from Cabrera. 

‘Everyone loved Felix through the sugar mill,’ said Juan A. Gonzalez Jr. knew Cabrera. ‘Felix was never the type of person to get in your face.’ 

The cooperative is comprised of 44 different sugar cane farms that operate on about 70,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area near Lake Okeechobee. 

Florida is the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar, accounting for one in every five teaspoons consumed. 



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