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Sheriff: Briles' killer may have left fingerprints, blood

MANATEE — Blunt force trauma killed Kathleen Briles, wife of Palmetto Dr. James Briles, and her husband found his wife bound in the couple’s home after the killing, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube said this morning.

Steube declined at a news conference to disclose what was used to kill Briles, but said detectives did recover the murder weapon.

Just before 8 p.m., Monday, Dr. Briles found his wife bound and killed in the living room of their home in the 200 block of Bayshore Drive in Terra Ceia. Steube said Briles was killed sometime between 2 p.m. and when Dr. Briles found her.

Steube said the doctor has been cleared as a suspect in the case by confirmed alibis. Briles said he had been working before he returned home, according to sheriff’s officials.

Detectives are holding out the most hope that forensic evidence recovered from the Briles home will crack the case, Steube said.

“If there is a hit on the fingerprints, then we will have someone identified. If there is a hit on the blood, we will have someone identified,” Steube said.

The sheriff said detectives found no sign of forced entry, and numerous items were missing from the house. But he declined to classify the motive of Briles’ killing as a burglary, robbery or home invasion.

“We are not going to get into what was taken, but there is a substantial list of things we are looking for,” Steube said. “I don’t want to say it is this or that, because we just don’t know right now. There is still a lot of work to be done.”

Steube said it is unknown if Briles’ killing is connected to a series of home invasion robberies in Manatee and Sarasota in recent months that investigators believe the same man may have committed. Though it is unlikely they are related because there are significant differences between the evidence left at the Briles killing and in the prior home invasions attacks, Steube said.

In the home invasion attacks, detectives found no physical evidence, while in the Briles killing there is “substantial” fingerprint and blood evidence, Steube said. Also, in the home invasions, victims have been bound with electrical or lamp cords. Something different was used in the Briles’ killing, but Stuebe declined to say what.

“But we aren’t ruling anything out,” Steube said of a possible link to the prior home invasions.

The sheriff said detectives have questioned numerous people in connection with the case, and during a meeting with the Briles family Wednesday, Steube said he received information that could be key the investigation. Detectives have also obtained surveillance video in the area of the Briles home to search for clues, but Steube declined to disclose specifics.

Anyone with information on the case or anyone who saw anything out of the ordinary Monday can call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.

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