Crime

Sarasota murder suspect charged with 'chopping off' victim's head

SARASOTA -- A homeless man is accused of decapitating a companion in a fit of rage over a knocked-over grill, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said.

Ricky L. Leer, 48, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder Tuesday in the death of another homeless man, Stephen Webber, 53.

Deputies said a 911 call came in at 1:32 a.m. Tuesday from a man who said he saw Leer kill someone by "chopping off his head." Deputies met with the caller, who led them to an area in the woods near the 3100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where a body was located.

Deputies said they canvassed the area and located Leer near the campsite drinking rum and leaning against a tree. He was taken into custody.

The 911 caller gave a sworn statement saying he and the other two men were cooking steaks and drinking rum when Leer and the victim began arguing and the victim accidentally knocked over a grill, deputies said. The witness said Leer knocked the victim down, grabbed a machete-like knife and began to chop at his head.

The witness identified Leer as the suspect with an accurate description of his clothing and physical attributes, deputies said.

Deputies said Leer exercised his right to have an attorney present for questioning.

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