The year 2016 got off to a deadly start with three homicides on New Year’s Day, and a record-breaking eight homicides in January.
As the year came to an end Saturday with a total of 22 homicides in Manatee County, 86 percent of those cases are solved.
The three homicides that remain unsolved — all occurred on New Year’s Day.
The increased success with solving cases is proof that the Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit is working, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
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“That is just a testament to the homicide task force — bringing all those resources together, getting them to the scene quickly, getting the resources they need so they can build that case,” Sheriff-elect Rick Wells said Friday. “When you have all those resources together you are able to branch out and cover all your bases in a short period of time, which is so critical in a homicide investigation.”
What also made a difference in 2016: The community has been speaking up.
For years, many homicide cases went unsolved because those who knew what happened refused to talk to law enforcement, taking what homicide Detective Darryl Davis calls a “code of silence.”
That changed in 2016, when the homicide unit began receiving the information needed to solve cases whether through direct tips or anonymously through Crime Stoppers, Wells said.
“We continue to try and build relations with our community,” Well said. “People want their communities to be safe as well, and they want to assist law enforcement.”
The 22 homicides in 2016 in Manatee County:
▪ Jan 1: Demetrius Robinson, 37, and Florence Randall, 31, were found shot to death in the home the couple shared in the 5700 block of 11th Street East in Bradenton. Detectives believed that the couple was targeted, but they never received a single tip in the case, according to Davis.
▪ Jan. 1: Julio Tellez, 26, was shot to death between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m. New Year’s Day in the 500 block of 60th Avenue Terrace West in Bradenton in an apparent shootout that left one other person injured.
Mario Alejandro De La Rosa Alvarez was identified as a person of interest in the fatal shooting and is still wanted for questioning. De La Rosa Alvarez was first identified after a possible suspect vehicle in the shooting was found burned. There is a warrant for his arrest charging him with arson.
▪ Jan. 19: Karl Tuxford, 38, was shot at least five times inside of his Jeep in the 1100 block of Eighth Avenue East in Bradenton. Jordan Finlon, 23, was taken to the 8600 block of Bishop Harbor Road, near Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, and brutally stabbed 40 to 44 times, according to the testimony of homicide Detective Jeffrey Bliss.
Detectives say both homicides are connected and in apparent revenge for stealing money — intended to be used to buy drugs, homicide Detective James Curulla has testified — from the home of defendant Dwayne E. Cummings. Cummings, 39, was indicted on two counts first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. If convicted, Cummings would face the death penalty or life in prison.
A second suspect, Ahmad Dunbar, 39, has been charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the fatal shooting of Tuxford, but while he remains a suspect, he has not been charged in Finlon’s death. In November, Dunbar stormed out of a courtroom, after the case’s presiding judge refused to remove his court-appointed attorney.
Cummings and Dunbar are both scheduled to go to trial during the two-week trial period beginning Feb. 21.
▪ Jan. 23: Charles Lehnert, 31, was shot to death in the parking lot of lawn equipment provider Gravely of Bradenton, 5732 15th St. E., in what detectives say was a drug deal gone bad.
Following their arrests, Daniel Lee Mann admitted to shooting Lehnert while James Michael Hardy held him down, according to lead homicide Detective Dan Dickerman’s testimony. Both men were arrested in Tallahassee after warrants had been issued for their arrests.
Mann is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted weapon. Hardy is charged with being a principal to second-degree murder. Both face up to life in prison.
Mann and Hardy, both 23, are scheduled to go to trial during the two-week trial period that begins July 31.
▪ Jan. 26: Kevin House, 52, was found dead near a homeless camp off the 4700 block of 15th Street East in Bradenton after he had been pummeled with a concrete block and stabbed numerous times.
Detectives say Michael Morico, 50, had been hanging out with House at the campsite when they got into an argument. Morico punched House, knocking him to the ground before he picked up the concrete block. Later, according to the charges, Morico used a shopping cart to move his body, covered it with a tarp and considered dismembering it.
Morico is charged with second-degree murder with a weapon and faces up to life in prison. He is scheduled to stand trial during the two-week trial period that begins Jan. 9.
▪ Jan. 31: Collin Mahoney, 21, was found shot to death in a boarded-up house in the 500 block of 12th Street Drive West in Palmetto.
Detectives learned that Andrew Lee Perry, 42, had been using the home and were able to find his palm print inside the home near where Mahoney’s body was found, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
Perry is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and faces up to life in prison. He is set to stand trial during the two-week trial period that begins April 3.
▪ March 4: Linzell Feagin Jr., 32, was found with a single gunshot wound at about 1 a.m. at the RaceTrac in the 1700 block of U.S. 41 N. He was taken to Blake Medical Center, where he later died.
Feagin had been shot in the 2100 block of Third Avenue East during a drug deal, detectives learned. Xavier Seabrook reportedly admitted shooting Feagin to his girlfriend because his brother had been ripped off for several bags of heroin.
Seabrook, 20, is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and faces up to life in prison. He is set to stand trial during the two-week period that begins June 12.
▪ March 15: Alicia Mahoney, 26, was shot and killed by her estranged husband David Mahoney Jr., in a murder-suicide. The couple had got into an argument at a local restaurant that ended with him leaving her there and returning to his parents’ home, where he was living, in the 12600 block of Daisy Place in the GreyHawk Landing neighborhood in East Manatee.
Alicia Mahoney arrived shortly thereafter, getting a ride to the home, where he standing in the driveway waiting when she arrived. They both walked into the garage, got into another argument, and David Mahoney Jr. grabbed a gun from his vehicle, and shot Alicia, and then himself.
▪ March 21: Nicolette Johnson was found shot dead in a driveway when deputies responded to reports of shots fired in the 4300 block of Eighth Street Court East in Bradenton.
Kyle Dewayne Stackhouse, 27, was identified as the suspect in the shooting, thanks to a Crime Stoppers tip, according to Bliss. Detectives also learned that the shooting was said to be in retaliation for a previous shooting.
Stackhouse is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and faces up to live in prison. He is currently set to stand trial during the two-week period that begins Aug. 21.
▪ July 19: Joseph Terrell Allen was shot dead, and detectives say, it was because Jamal Christopher Calloway thought Allen had “messed up” his tattoo.
Allen had been dropped off at the home Calloway shared with a cousin in the 2600 block of 15th Avenue East in Palmetto the evening before. Allen and Calloway had gone to a bedroom alone, while Allen worked on Calloway’s tattoo.
Around 1:45 a.m, Calloway’s cousin told detectives he left the house to walk down the street to a friend’s house when he heard about seven or eight gunshots. He returned 30 minutes later, and both Calloway and Allen were gone, but the bloody scene was left behind.
Allen’s body was discovered alongside the 11350 block of Old Tampa Road in Parrish.
▪ Aug. 1: Zakyel Hernandez, 12, and his grandmother, Odalys Martinez-Castiles, 50, were killed by her boyfriend Golo Felix Caballero Rivero, 49, before he then killed himself.
Rivero, who had been previously court-ordered to stay away from Martinez-Castiles, came to her home and stabbed her and her grandson multiple times, according to reports. He also strangled the boy.
Detectives believe it was Rivero who then called 911 anonymously to report finding the bodies of a woman and child in front of a home, but when deputies arrived to the 2000 block of 38th Avenue West in Bradenton, all three bodies were found inside.
Rivero had hung himself before they arrived.
▪ Aug. 24: Ten-month-old Tariah White died from a single blow to the head that police say she suffered while she and her 3-year-old brother were home in the 1200 block of Third Street West in Bradenton in the care of her mother’s boyfriend, Eric Patrick Neri.
Tariah also suffered additional fractures to her skull, a brain bleed and bruises over her face, her left hand and right thigh, according to the results of her autopsy.
Neri, 21, admitted to hurting the girl, police have said. He is charged with second-degree murder and scheduled to stand trial during the two-week period beginning Dec. 4.
▪ Sept. 11: Earnestine Gardner was found shot dead in 5800 block of 11th Street East in Bradenton. Witnesses told detectives that Gardner and Alonzo Lee “Boo Boo” Churchwell, 29, had been arguing for 10 to 15 minutes over money after she bought powder cocaine, and then they heard four to five shots were fired.
Churchwell was charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He faces up to life in prison. Churchwell is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 25 for a case management hearing.
▪ Oct. 2: Alexander Anderson’s body was discovered lying in a pool of blood in the 2000 block of First Avenue East. Anderson, 18, had been shot several times in his upper body.
Anderson, Da’Quan Gaskin, an 18-year-old Palmetto High senior and a third teen had been walking down the street together when the third teen said he saw Gaskin take out a gun, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. Gaskin pointed the gun at the back of the victim’s head and heard one gunshot as he ran away in fear.
“I’m glad I got that over with,” Gaskin had reportedly said.
Gaskin is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm and faces up to life in prison. He is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday for a case management hearing.
▪ Nov. 3: Dequan Randolph wasn’t having an affair with Derrick Frazier’s wife, but that’s not what Frazier’s wife had told Frazier in effort to make him jealous after he refused to end his own affair, according to police.
Frazier saw his wife outside a home in the 1100 block of Fifth Street West along with the other eyewitness talking to Randolph when he pulled up in his pickup truck. He put a gun up to Randolph, shot him in the center of his chest, then walked away, got in the pickup truck and drove off, Curulla testified.
Frazier is charged with second-degree with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He now faces up to life in prison. Frazier is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and to stand trial during the two-week trial period that begins July 10.
▪ Nov 6: Moriah Hope Goode, 18, was shot when shots were fired at her and Frank Brice in the 3300 block of Fourth Street East in the West Samoset. Brice rushed her to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where she later died after being taken into emergency surgery.
Before the shooting, Brice had driven past a rival Devon Freeman and said, “You better not being moving in here. It is going to end bad for you,” according to detectives. Brice, who was uninjured the day Goode was killed, was acquitted of murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Teria’le Rawls outside a Bradenton movie theater.
Freeman, charged with second-degree murder with a firearm, is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 11 for a case management hearing.
▪ Nov. 15: Ethan Thompson, 22-months-old, became unresponsive the night of Nov. 14 while in the care of his stepfather, Montez Charles McNeal, in his mother’s home in the 3300 block of Fourth Street East in Bradenton. Ethan was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead early the following day.
Ethan and his siblings — five boys ages 6 months and 3, 4, 11 and 12 — had all been previously been removed from the home and reunited within the past year. McNeal was not supposed to be in the home because of protective order that was in place.
Ethan’s injuries at the time of his death included seven broken ribs at various stages of healing, a skull fracture at the crown of his head, bruises and a deep cut on his penis, a ruptured and swollen kidney and other torn tissues and bleeding, according to his autopsy.
▪ Dec. 16: Roger Clinton, 40, and Tarance “Dread” Gordon, 36, had been drinking when an argument erupted in the middle of the street in the 600 block of 33rd Avenue, Bradenton. Gordon then grabbed a shotgun and shot Clinton dead, according to detectives.
Tarance “Dread” Gordon, 36, was quickly identified as the suspected shooter and arrested within hours of the shooting.
▪ Jose Armando Alonzo-Lopez, 20, was found suffering from gunshots wounds when deputies responded at 2:34 a.m. to El Paisano bar, 5803 15th St. E., Oneco, to reports of a shooting with injuries.
Alonzo-Lopez was rushed to Blake Medical Center but died during emergency surgery.
An arrest warrant was obtained by detectives charging Carlos Valdovinos-Aguirre, 25, with murder in the fatal shooting. Valdovinos-Aguirre, originally from Mexico, remains at large, so the case has not yet been closed. He is said to be tall and thin.
Wells, who will be sworn in as sheriff on Tuesday morning, is optimistic that the homicide unit will continue to be successful in 2017.
“Community involvement is critical to law enforcement to solving cases,” Wells said. “When everyone is on the same page, you see the results.”
Anyone with information on any homicides cases can call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011, ext. 2519. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward, call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 or submit an e-tip online at manateecrimestoppers.com.