Almost two years after investigators say a Palmetto man killed another man over a "messed up" tattoo, the murder case has been dropped after the star witness — the suspect's cousin — claims his memory of everything is "fuzzy."
Bicyclists riding on Old Tampa Road in Parrish on July 20, 2016, found the body Joseph Terrell Allen, 22, in a ditch.
The Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit said it later determined that Allen had been killed in a home murder suspect Jamal Calloway shared with his cousin in the 2600 block of 15th Avenue East in Palmetto.
Investigators learned Allen had gone to the home to tattoo Calloway.
Calloway's cousin initially gave homicide detectives conflicting stories about what happened. Ultimately, he said Calloway told him he shot Allen to death because he had "messed up" his tattoo, and the witness admitted to clearning up the blood.
But as this month's trial date approached, Calloway's cousin went missing. When he was finally found and brought to the State Attorney's Office to prepare for trial, the witness claimed that his memory was "fuzzy" and he couldn't remember hearing Calloway admit to killing Allen or anything else from that night, according to a memo filed by the prosecutor handling the case.
"With the lack of corroborating evidence combined with (the witness) claiming he has no memory of the key pieces of evidence he was expected to testify to, the State no longer possesses sufficient evidence to prove this case at trial," Assistant State Attorney Garrett Franzen stated the memo.
Calloway, 22, was released from custody from the Manatee County jail on Friday, where he had been held without bond since July 22, 2016.
Firearms and DNA experts from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were able to confirm that a gun found inside Calloway's home was used to kill Allen but there was no DNA detected on the handgun. A second gun found in the home had DNA evidence linked to both Allen and Calloway but there was no ballistics evidence that connected the gun to the shooting.
Allen was last seen at about 7 p.m. on July 19, 2016, when his fiance dropped at Calloway's home to tattoo Calloway, who he knew as "Balo." He was still working on the tattoo at 10:30 p.m. when she texted him. But when he didn't come home and she couldn't reach him, she went back to the home but no one answered the door.
Calloway's cousin told detectives he had left their home at about 1:45 a.m., and Allen was still tattooing Calloway in a back bedroom of the home. As he was walking down the street, he claimed he heard seven to eight shots but didn't go back home for another 30 minutes.
Calloway and Allen were gone by the time he returned, but a bloody and bullet-ridden mess was left behind. Calloway's cousin cleaned up the blood with a mop, towel and bleach and put everything in a trash bag and left it by the door. He couldn't reach Calloway on his cell phone afterward, so he just went to sleep on the couch. When he woke up, he told detectives, that Calloway asked who had cleaned up.
When Calloway's cousin said he had cleaned up, Calloway admitted to killing Allen because of the problem with the tattoo and then dumping Allen’s body in Parrish.