Hunt for mother’s killer continues

nalund@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2009 

MANATEE — Detectives are questioning a Bradenton man found shot shortly after a Sunday morning home invasion in which a pregnant woman and her baby were shot and killed.

Everrick Houston, 28, was taken by two male friends to Manatee Memorial Hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound to the upper body after they told deputies they found him lying in the road on First Street at 1:24 a.m., according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report.

“We’ve talked to him but haven’t gotten a whole lot of information,” David Bristow, Manatee County sheriff’s spokesman, said Monday. “Obviously we are still investigating whether or not he was involved in this. If he’s not, where did he get shot? We’d like to know that.”

Houston has not been named a suspect, Bristow said.

At about 1:20 a.m. Sunday, 19-year-old Crystal Johnson — nearly seven months pregnant — was fatally shot after unidentified men broke into her home at DeSoto Village Apartments just a few streets away in the 3800 block of Fifth Street East.

Bristow acknowledged how coincidental it is that Houston’s two friends happened to find him bleeding in the street. But he would not say if they are suspects.

“They are all people we are taking a hard look at,” Bristow said.

Detectives say two or three men dressed in black kicked down the front door of the first-floor Bradenton apartment and fired multiple rounds. Johnson was shot in the upper body as she reportedly exited her bedroom to see what was happening. Johnson’s boyfriend, Lawrence Funsch, 21, was also in the home. During the hail of gunfire, one of the intruders was shot, detectives say.

Houston, who remained hospitalized in critical condition, is expected to live, Bristow said. He has a lengthy criminal history, including 2007 convictions of possession of cocaine and carrying a concealed firearm.

In April, he was arrested on an armed robbery charge after a man told Bradenton police that Houston held a gun on him and took oxycodone pills from him. Prosecutors declined charging him for the crime, court records show.

During their search of the apartment after Sunday’s shooting, deputies recovered the gun used to shoot the suspect and also found drugs.

“There was evidence in the house that leads us to believe that someone may have been dealing,” Bristow said.

He would not say what type of drugs were found or what type of gun was used.

Court records also show that in July 2007, Funsch pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance, hydrocodone, after a November 2006 arrest.

Then in April 2008, he was arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana. Prosecutors declined charging him with that crime.

Johnson was pronounced dead after she was transported to Manatee Memorial Hospital early Sunday morning.

Her baby, Lariah Faith Funsch, was delivered and transported to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she later died.

Johnson’s cousin, Amanda Taylor, said the family is planning a funeral for the victims, probably sometime next week.

In the meantime, family members are pleading with the public for anyone with information to contact police.

“If someone knows something, just come forward,” Taylor said.

“Any tip could help. Anything is better than nothing.”

Natalie Alund, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095.

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