Multiple Suspects Charged In Shooting “Massacre” Of Three Florida Fishermen
Sheriff calls the suspected gunman “pure evil in the flesh.”
Florida police have arrested multiple people in connection with the cold-blooded triple murder of three friends who were shot dead after they set out on a nighttime catfishing trip in Frostproof, a small rural town about 70 miles southwest of Orlando.
On July 17, victim Brandon Rollins, 27, made a call to his father around 10 p.m. and begged for help. When Rollins’ dad arrived at the scene, he discovered the bodies of his son and the son’s two friends, Damion Tillman, 23, and Keven Springfield, 30.
“You can't imagine the horror of a dad who finds his son shot up,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a July 22 news conference about what he called a “massacre.”
Officials announced they had arrested Mary Whittemore, 27, her boyfriend, Tony “TJ” Wiggins, 26, and his brother, William “Robert” Wiggins, 21, Tampa’s WTSP reported.
In the wake of the slayings, a Crime Stoppers tip line was inundated with calls from locals saying detectives should look into TJ Wiggins. “Not because they had any idea he did it, just because he’s mean,” Judd revealed.
According to the sheriff, on the evening of the murders, TJ and Robert Wiggins spotted Tillman at a Dollar General store. The brothers, along with Whittemore, got in their truck and tailed Tillman and the two other victims as they drove to a lake about 10 minutes away.
When the fishermen stopped, TJ Wiggins allegedly punched and accused Springfield of stealing the engine out of his truck. He then shot Springfield and Rollins nine to 10 times before turning the gun on Tillman, Judd said.
The sheriff claimed the motive for the “gut-wrenching” murders could be that “TJ is mad over some kind of truck deal that happened a long time ago.”
Following the bloody confrontation, the Wiggins siblings and Whittemore headed to McDonald’s, where they went through the drive-thru and bought two McChicken sandwiches and 10 double cheeseburgers, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The next day, detectives said Robert Wiggins went to a car wash to get rid of red clay from the exterior of his truck, which allegedly also had blood stains inside.
On July 20, law enforcement executing a search warrant discovered two rifles, two shotguns and ammunition at a family compound where TJ Wiggins and the other two suspects lived in camper trailers without running water or electricity. Judd said they also located a 9mm shell casing that came back as a positive match to bullets fired from the still-missing murder weapon, a Smith & Wesson handgun.
TJ Wiggins is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.
Before the shooting, he had been out on bail and awaiting trial for allegedly using a crowbar to break a person’s arm during a fight in March, Judd noted.
“He’s a thug. He’s a criminal. He’s pure evil in the flesh,” the sheriff said of the “wild” and “out of control” suspect who has an extensive criminal history, which includes 230 felony charges, 26 misdemeanors, 15 convictions and two stints in state prison.
TJ Wiggin’s girlfriend, Whittemore, is charged with three counts of accessory after the fact of a capital felony. The younger Wiggins faces the same three accessory counts as well as tampering with evidence.
The trio made their first court appearances on July 23.
Tampa’s WFLA-TV reported a judge ordered TJ Wiggins be held without bond and set Whittemore’s bond at $15,000 for each count against her. Robert Wiggins also received $15,000 bond for each accessory count and an additional $1,000 bond on the tampering charge.