Two employees of a Longboat Key resort were shot to death during an attempted robbery early Friday, according to the Longboat Key Police Department.
Security guard Kevin Carter, 51, of Bradenton, and night front desk manager Timothy Hurley, 59, of Sarasota, were killed at about 2:45 a.m. at the Zota Beach Resort, 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive, police say.
Rewards totaling up to $18,000 have been offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.
The two employees were approached during what appears to have been a robbery and shot to death. It does not appear the shots were heard by any of the resort’s guests, Police Chief Peter Cumming said, since it took nearly an hour before a 911 call was made at about 3:30 a.m. after the victims were found by a guest.
“At this point, we have developed potential suspects and we are pursuing those leads now,” Cumming said late Friday afternoon. “We’ll know more later this evening, tomorrow. Hopefully, we will resolve this quickly. That’s my hope.”
Detectives with the multi-agency Manatee County Homicide Investigative Unit met at the Longboat Key Police Department headquarters after leaving the crime scene Friday afternoon and discussed an operational plan, he said.
Investigators released clips from the resort’s video surveillance system, showing a masked suspect. The first clip shows the suspect pointing at his throat in an apparent signal to someone else. A second clip shows the same suspect leaving with what Cummings confirmed to be the two cash drawers from the resort’s front desk believed to have about $600.
“They don’t keep any significant amount money there,” Cumming said.
Based on the evidence collected, detectives believe there could have been two suspects.
“We have a time stamp of the crime, and we are looking at license-plate recognition cameras for any vehicles that passed at that time,” Cumming said.
There are license plate readers posted at various locations throughout the island.
Cumming said no arrests have been made, but the investigation is progressing.
“This has every indication of an isolated robbery gone bad,” Cumming said. “I don’t have any concern for the residents and visitors on the island based on this incident.”
Additional video surveillance footage is being gathered and analyzed, as other evidence is being collected.
“We do have a strong indication of what happened,” Cumming said.
Zota Beach Resort officials and employees came and went throughout the day, many of them offering each other a comforting hug. Victims’ advocates were called out to the resort to provide comfort as needed to staff and guests. Law enforcement helped escort guests with their luggage past the crime scene to their vehicles.
“The guests are using an alternate entrance and exit,” Cumming said.
The Longboat Key Police Department is the lead agency on the case, but it is being assisted by detectives with the homicide unit. The sheriff’s office Crime Scene Unit also assisted in processing evidence at the scene. Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff, a special prosecutor assigned to work with the homicide unit, also was at the scene.
The quiet beach city last had a homicide in about 2000, the chief recalled Friday morning.
“We were named the safest small city in America,” Cumming said. “Our violent crime rate is nearly zero. It is one of the lowest in the nation.”
The luxury beachfront resort opened less than two months ago at the site of a former Hilton hotel, built in 1973. The resort boasts 187 contemporary rooms and suites along with a restaurant, a pool bar and in-room dining.
The resort says its name pays homage to what some believe to be the indigenous name for Sarasota area, Zara Zota, according to its website.
Talk of the killings quickly spread on the island, and many expressed shock as they visited local restaurants.
Staff writer Ryan McKinnon contributed to this report.