Suspect arrested in murder of mother and child

Herald Staff WritersJuly 18, 2009 

MANATEE — A man recovering from a gunshot wound in the hospital was arrested late Friday and charged in the death of a woman and her child.

Everrick Houston, 28, is recuperating in Manatee Memorial Hospital, where he is expected to remain for another day before being taken to jail, said David Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“We felt all along he was going to be our man,” Bristow said. “We just had to wait for the test-results evidence we found at the crime scene.”

At about 1:20 a.m. Sunday, three men stormed the DeSoto Village apartment of Crystal Johnson’s mother and opened fire.

Sheriff’s reports say a bullet hit Johnson, 19, who was seven months pregnant.

Her fiancee, Lawrence Funsch, fired back at the intruders and said he hit one of them, Sheriff Brad Steube said in a statement late Friday.

Johnson later died at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Doctors delivered the couple’s baby, but Lariah Faith Funsch also died at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

A few blocks from the attack at the apartment, Houston was found shot shortly after the incident and taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital by friends.

He was considered a “person of interest” in the case until his arrest Friday, according to sheriff’s office reports.

Bristow said he did not want to go into detail about the evidence because more arrests are expected to be made in Johnson’s killing.

Bristow has said the shooting appears to be drug-related, and evidence was found that “dealing” may have been taking place in the apartment. Drugs were found in the apartment, but Bristow declined to say what detectives found.

When questioned about the shooting, Houston was not cooperative, Bristow said.

Earlier Friday, a friend of Funsch was arrested on charges of lying to detectives about a gun he allegedly stashed for Funsch.

Initially, Funsch told sheriff’s detectives he did not fire back at the gunmen in the attack.

“I was scared,” Funsch told the Bradenton Herald Friday.

Sheriff’s reports say Funsch, 21, initially lied to detectives, saying he had not shot a gun back at the home invaders. But he later changed his story when he learned he would not be arrested for carrying the gun as a convicted felon, Funsch said.

“They told me everything would be alright so I told them the truth,” Funsch said of detectives.

Detectives pressed Funsch to tell them where his gun was.

He said his friend Jeremy Emil Stotz, 31, had taken the gun and hidden it. Stotz later denied having the gun, as detectives told him “the importance of it to this homicide investigation,” sheriff’s reports said.

Stotz later admitted to having the gun when detectives confronted him again at his apartment, according to sheriff’s reports. Detectives found the gun in a bedroom in the apartment fully loaded. Stotz told detectives he had taken three spent shell casings from the gun and replaced them with new ammunition. But he did not say where the empty shell casings are, the sheriff’s report said. Detectives arrested Stotz on charges of providing a false report to law enforcement, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and tampering with physical evidence.

Sheriff Brad Steube said Funsch will not face charges for possessing a firearm as a felon because he does not believe prosecutors would pursue such a charge because he handled the gun to protect his family.

As the investigation continues, a funeral will be held for Johnson at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Happy Gospel Church, 1915 53rd Ave. E.

Susie Moore, Johnson’s mother, said she is still living in the apartment where her daughter and granddaughter died because she cannot afford to move.

The loss has been overwhelming, she said.

“I lost a lot. My only granddaughter and my baby girl. I am devastated. Crystal was my little Barbie doll, and we had a new one on the way,” Moore said.

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