‘Evil in the flesh’: Convicted felon arrested in ‘massacre’ of 3 Florida friends on fishing trip

BARTOW, Fla. — A chance meeting at a dollar store last Friday night led to the shooting deaths minutes later of three friends who’d met to go fishing and the arrest of a Florida man for the killings, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday.

Tony “T.J.” Lee Wiggins Jr., 26, is charged with fatally shooting Brandon Rollins, 27, and his friends, Keven Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 30.

Wiggins’ brother, William “Robert” Wiggins, 21, and Mary Whittemore, 27, were also arrested. The two were charged with three counts of accessory to murder and one count of tampering with evidence.

Investigators linked a shell casing found at the scene to a handgun discovered at Wiggins’ camper Monday. Detectives have been told it was dismantled and thrown away, Judd said.

Detectives also found trace evidence of blood in the truck Wiggins was riding in, and it’s being processed.

Florida community mourns:Three friends killed in ‘massacre’ on fishing trip

Preliminary investigation reveals Wiggins, in the moments before he allegedly opened fire, had accused Springfield, a mechanic, of selling the engine from his truck.

“For that, this guy massacres three young men, 23, 27 and 30, on their way to fishing on a Friday night in Frostproof (Florida)?” Judd said while displaying Wiggins’ photo during Wednesday’s press conference. “It’s gut-wrenching. This is evil in the flesh.”

Judd said the Wiggins brothers and Whittemore went to the area where Rollins, Springfield and Tillman were found after Robert Wiggins overheard Tillman tell a clerk at a Dollar General he was meeting Springfield to do some fishing. 

After Wiggins got to the scene, he drew a handgun and accused Springfield of selling the engine out of his truck, according to Judd.  Springfield and Rollins had arrived in the same truck. Wiggins hit Springfield before he started firing at both Springfield and Rollins, Judd said, describing Wiggins as “out of control.” 

Sheriff:3 friends on fishing trip killed in ‘massacre’

Preliminary investigation indicates Wiggins fired nine to 10 shots at Springfield and Rollins, Judd said.

Tillman tried to intervene, telling Wiggins to “put the gun away,” Judd said. Wiggins allegedly shot Tillman, too, and instructed his brother to help him put Tillman’s body in the back of one of the trucks. 

After leaving the scene, the Wiggins brothers and Whittemore drove to a McDonald’s restaurant.

“While they’re standing in line, or in line at the drive-thru, it’s very quiet,” Judd said. “T.J. simply says, ‘We weren’t there,’ and that’s all the conversation they will admit to. We believe there’s more than that.”

Detectives were told that Robert Wiggins took the borrowed truck they used that night and cleaned it out.

Florida’s COVID-19 response:What went wrong? Timing, testing, tourism and mixed signals

Wiggins, a convicted felon, was arrested Monday after detectives executed a search warrant on his travel trailer and discovered a cache of firearms.

The night of the shooting, Rollins called his father, Cyril Rollins, to say he needed help. Judd said Wednesday it’s believed he called before the shooting began. By the time Cyril Rollins got there, his son was critically wounded, and after talking with him for moments, the elder Rollins left to call for help because he had left his cellphone at home.

Judd said some have questioned why Rollins didn’t use his son’s cellphone.

“His son’s phone had fallen down inside the truck,” he said, “and in his panic and fear, he didn’t see any cellphones. He just knew the three boys, and his son, were shot to pieces and he ran for help, which was all he needed to do.”

Follow Suzie Schottelkotte on Twitter @southpolkscene.

Continue reading at USA Today