A Bradenton man charged with shooting his crack cocaine dealer dead left behind his prescription eyeglasses and a gun that had been stolen from his father, leading detectives to identify him as the prime suspect, according to police reports.
Richard Griffith, 37, has been in custody at the Manatee County jail since Tuesday on a related charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A prosecutor made clear this week in court that Griffith was the main suspect in the death of 20-year-old Rosby Peterson and that a murder charge was imminent.
On Thursday night, detectives charged Griffith with second-degree murder.
Griffith refused to appear before a judge for a first appearance hearing on Friday afternoon, following the advice of his attorney, according to a public defender. Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas ordered that he remain at the Manatee County jail without bond and appointed the public defender’s office to represent him.
Bradenton police were called to the 800 block of 21st Street West at about 10:20 p.m. on Dec. 14 to reports of a car crashing into a tree. But before officers got to the scene, the 911 caller told them that the driver — later identified as Peterson — appeared to be dead from a gunshot wound to the head, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
An autopsy confirmed that Peterson was shot in the head three times at close range, leading detectives with the Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit to conclude the shooter had to have been in the car with Peterson.
Inside the car, they found Peterson’s semi-automatic handgun, two cell phones — including a flip phone used for drug deals — and $6,500. They also found a revolver handgun and prescription eye-glasses that didn’t belong to him.
Detectives traced the sale of the revolver on Tuesday to Griffith’s father, according to the affidavit. A cell phone number detectives knew had belonged to Griffith had also been used to call Peterson’s dealer cell phone about three hours before the shooting.
When detectives searched Griffith’s parents home, where the suspect also lives, the revolver was discovered to have been stolen.
Griffith’s father received a text message from the suspect, claiming that he traded the gun for $100 cash and $100 worth of crack cocaine.
“You may want to report the gun stolen so you (don’t) end up in some (expletive) because I’m an idiot,” Griffith wrote in a text message to his father, according to the affidavit.
By finding where the eyeglasses were sold locally, detectives discovered that Griffith got the same brand and model frame of eyeglasses with prescription lenses in November.
Detectives were still at his home when Griffith arrived and he agreed to speak with them.
According to detectives, Griffith admitted that Peterson was his drug dealer and that he stole his father’s gun and met with Peterson to trade it for crack and cash. But when asked why his face, arms, hands and legs were covered in cuts and scrapes, Griffith claimed that he took off on his motorcycle after he got the drugs and money after being spooked by nearby police lights and sirens and later crashed.
Detectives say his injuries and scratches on his motorcycle were not consistent with his story.