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Arrest made in homeless man’s killing

MANATEE — After almost four years, Manatee County sheriff’s detectives say they have arrested the man who beat a homeless man to death, tied his arms behind his back with shoelaces, and dumped him in a trash bin.

Sheriff’s reports say it was another homeless man who in December 2005 took the life of 48-year-old Thomas Summerlin.

Court records show Claude Oneal Kite has admitted to killing before in Manatee County.

Authorities served Kite, 39, with a murder warrant at the jail Monday. Kite was already in jail on a charge of aggravated battery.

Sheriff’s reports say Kite beat Summerlin and put him in a trash bin in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station in the 1400 block of 53rd Avenue West. Another homeless man later found Summerlin’s body in the bin, on Dec. 27, 2005, with his pants around his ankles and his hands tied behind his back with shoelaces.

After years with few leads, detectives arrested Kite after several witnesses told them that Kite had spoken of killing Summerlin. Kite told acquaintances he killed Summerlin because he was behind on his rent for sleeping in a homeless camp at the time, according to sheriff’s reports.

One witness said he saw Kite first choke Summerlin “until he passed out,” then could hear Kite “stomping” Summerlin. After the attack, the witness said Kite came over to an oak tree where they were staying for the night and went to sleep, according to the sheriff’s report.

Kite’s arrest is the second time he has faced charges in Manatee in someone’s death. In 1996, prosecutors dropped a manslaughter charge against Kite, who admitted to killing a man who found Kite having sex with his girlfriend in the woods off Manatee Avenue.

Bradenton Police Department reports said Kite claimed the man attacked him with a knife after finding him with the woman, and he was able to wrestle the knife away and stab the man to death. Kite told police he then moved the body into some bushes and left. The killing was ruled self-defense.

After Summerlin’s death, Kite spoke often of killing the man known on the street as “One Eyed Tommy,” according to sheriff’s reports. Another homeless man recently told detectives that in 2007, Kite put a knife to his throat and demanded his bicycle and cash, threatening “if he did not unlock the bike for him, he would cut his throat, gut him like a pig and throw him in a Dumpster just like he did One Eyed Tommy.”

Kite went to prison for that robbery for more than a year and went on to threaten with letters from prison two other witnesses who implicated him in Summerlin’s death, according to court records. Sheriff’s reports say in April, Kite got out of prison and made good on his threat, cutting one witness’s face to the bone and breaking his nose during a fight.

Sheriff’s deputies jailed Kite on an aggravated battery charge after the fight, just two days after he got out of prison. He has been in the Manatee County jail since.

Kite was being held without bond.