MANATEE -- Eight January homicides in Manatee County got 2016 off to a deadly start by setting records for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Six of the eight killings were in the sheriff's offices jurisdiction, which shattered the previous record for the most homicides in January (three) and most homicides in any month (five).
Homicides are unpredictable, Sheriff Brad Steube said Thursday in repeating previous responses to spikes in killings.
Most recent homicides, Steube said, are believed to be drug-related. Often, he said, drug dealers take action when robbed by other dealers or users instead of calling law enforcement. They are quick to use a gun and take a life, he added.
"Drug dealers are different from 10 years ago," Steube said, calling them more ruthless. "The young people today don't value life, and that goes for the drug dealers and the gang bangers."
Cooperation from the community led to success in some cases while the opposite is true in others, he said.
The sheriff's office's Homicide Investigative Unit is a countywide team with detectives from each law agency in the county working with the detective taking the lead to solve the case.
Since at least 2008, Bradenton police have not had more than two homicides in one month, according to statistics provided by Lt. James Racky.
Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler, a 22-year veteran, says he doesn't recall any homicide cases with two or more victims in Palmetto other than the shooting outside Club Elite in 2011 and a double murder at Snappy's Mart in 2015.
Arrests were made in four of the January homicides.
Tyler said he is confident an arrest will be made in the most recent fatal shooting in Palmetto, but he urged people to report anything they have seen or heard.
Detectives still need help to crack three other unsolved cases in the sheriff's office jurisdiction on New Year's Day.
"None of these are random," sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
Detectives must balance work on unsolved cases with preparations for trials in cases where arrests have been made.
January homicide updates:
Demetrius Robinson, 37, and Florence Randall, 31, were found shot to death early New Year's Day in the home the they shared in the 5700 block of 11th Street East in Bradenton. Detectives say it appears they were targeted. No one has been arrested.
Julio Tellez, 26, was shot to death in the 500 block of 60th Avenue Terrace West between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m. New Year's Day. Another person was injured in an apparent shootout. No arrests have been made.
Karl Tuxford, 38, was found hanging out of his Jeep in the 1100 block of Eighth Avenue East of Bradenton after being shot five times Jan. 19. Less than an hour later, the body of Jordan Finlon, 23, which had been stabbed more than 30 times, was found on the side of Bishop Harbor Road in northwestern Manatee County. Dwayne Cummings was indicted Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection to the killings detectives say were revenge for the couple stealing money from his home. An informant told detectives Finlon admitted to stealing $800 with Tuxford, and she used the money to buy narcotics.
Charles Lehnert, who turned 31 a week prior, was found shot to death Jan. 23 in the parking lot of a business in the 5700 block of 15th Street East in Bradenton in what detectives say was a drug deal gone bad. Daniel Lee Mann and James Michael Hardy, both 22, were arrested. Mann reportedly admitted to pulling the trigger while Hardy held the victim down, according to the lead detective.
Kevin House, 52, was found dead about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 26 near a homeless camp off the 4700 block of 15th Street East in Bradenton. Michael Morico, 49, has been charged with second-degree murder after a witness told detectives he smashed House in the head with a concrete block and stabbed him repeatedly.
Collin Mahoney, 21, was found shot to death Sunday in a boarded-up house in the 500 block of 12th Street Drive West in Palmetto. No arrests have been made, but Tyler said Mahoney was killed Saturday afternoon not far from where he was found. Tyler said detectives have an idea of what happened and it was not random act. The Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency will match a Crimestoppers reward for information leading to an arrest.
"We are certain there are people who may have seen or heard gunshots," Tyler said. "It would be important to hear from people who even just heard the gunshots."
Anyone with information on any homicide case can call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-741-3011, ext. 2519, or remain anonymous and eligible for a reward by calling Crimestoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.