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Murder charges dropped in slaying

MANATEE — A 20-year-old man, accused of shooting another man to death in his sleep, was released from jail Tuesday due to inconsistencies in a witness’s statement, according to the state attorney’s office.

Antwon Stuckey of Palmetto was arrested on charges of murder and armed burglary on Oct. 14 after a witness identified him as the shooter he saw leaving a residence in the 600 block of 20th Lane East in Palmetto’s Memphis area where the shooting death occurred.

“If other evidence is developed, the case will be reexamined,” according to a state attorney statement explaining the decision.

At 7:09 a.m. Sept. 17, a masked man came through the unlocked front door of the residence and asked for money. When a 15-year-old boy, the victim’s cousin, said there was no money, the gunman took him to a bedroom where 21-year-old Julius Lee Brown, Jr. was sleeping. Brown was shot once in the head by the gunman, according to reports. A .45-caliber casing was found in the room.

After the gunman fled, Brown’s brother told investigators he heard a single shot from inside and saw an unmasked man walk from the residence before running off, according to the arrest report.

Since initial interviews with investigators, a witness “has added significant information that was inexplicably missing from his initial statement,” the state attorney’s office said.

The witness’s description of the shooter’s hairstyle was also inconsistent with Stuckey’s, and DNA test results did not link Stuckey to the case, according to the state attorney’s office.

On Tuesday, deputies were told to patrol the Memphis area. There have been rumors of retaliation.

“We’ve been saturating that area because we had two other homicides not very far from there,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow. “Obviously there’s been a lot of violence in that area. It’s been one of our hot spots.”

Bristow wouldn’t go into the details of the case as to what physical evidence detectives have and whether the murder weapon has been recovered, but he did say the witness was an important part of the case. A Springfield Armory USA-XD .45-caliber ACP was found in the residence where Stuckey was apprehended. Authorities, however, have not confirmed it was the same gun used in the slaying.

Maggie Stokes, Brown’s grandmother, said her family took the news pretty hard when they learned the sheriff’s office no longer had a suspect in custody.

“I doubt it will be reexamined. That’s OK, things will come out,” she said. “We just have to deal with whatever the police say. It is what it is.”