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Three men were murdered on their way to a fishing trip in Florida. Damion Tillman, 23; Keven Springfield, 30; and Brandon Rollins, 27, were fatally shot about 10 p.m. Friday. The three people charged were Tony “TJ” Wiggins, 26, his girlfriend, Mary Whittemore, 27; William “Robert” Wiggins, Tony’s 21-year-old brother.
The motive as described by Polk Country Sheriff Grady Judd was that Tony Wiggins believed one of the victims had stolen the engine of his truck, but this has not been confirmed. Judd added, “And for that, this guy massacres three young men — 23, 27 and 30, on their way fishing Friday night near Frostproof?” “It’s gut-wrenching.”
The proceedings of that night are as follows: Tony Wiggins approached the three friends as they were talking in their two trucks. Wiggins pulled a gun and then asked Springfield about the engine. He proceeded to punch him and open fire. Both Springfield and Rollins were fatally shot in their truck. Then Wiggins allegedly turned and fatally shot Tillman, who was in a different truck.
Investigators encountered a bag in Tillmans truck from a store. Where they then viewed the security footage and watched Tillman checking out. Tony and Robert Wiggins were both at the store at the same time. Investigators believe the Wiggins brothers heard Tillman mention to the clerk that he and Springfield were going on a fishing trip. It is believed that the murder occurred 10 minutes after they left the store because that is when Rollins called his father for help. His father rushed to his son and found him fatally shot.
After the Fact
After the murder authorities say all three criminals went to Mcdolands were they purchased 10 double cheeseburgers and 2 chicken sandwiches. They proceeded to go home to eat. The next day, Wiggins washed his truck of any evidence. Wiggins was arrested on Monday after police searched a group of family trailers that were powered by generators and had no running water.
Police found two shotguns and two SKS rifles. Wiggins, a convicted felon, is not permitted to own firearms. He was first arrested for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. After being analyzed a bullet casing from his home matched the casings from the crime scene and was determined to have come from the same gun. Authorities believe he purchased the ammunition in Lake Whales on July ninth as a receipt had been found. Security footage showed Whittemore purchasing ammunition with Wiggins. He was recently arrested in March for assault with a deadly weapon and was released on bond.
Wiggins’ accomplices were arrested Tuesday, after repeatedly lying to investigators to cover for Wiggins. All three were charged. Wiggins on three counts of first-degree murder and likely a few lesser charges such as aggravated battery with a firearm. The sheriff’s office said, “Robert told detectives he watched as TJ shot all three victims. TJ then asked Robert to help him put (one of the victims) into the back of one of the trucks.” William Wiggins and Mary Whittemore were both charged with accessory after the fact and tampering with evidence. The suspects are scheduled to appear in court at 1 pm Thursday.
The community mourns the death of these three men and have since made a small memorial for them. A cross was built adorned with beads and articles of their clothing. Kris Meyer, a friend of the three, spoke to reporters about the murder, “They need to catch whoever did this,” he said after laying fresh flowers at the memorial. “I don’t mean to sound hateful or anything like that, but they need to feel the pain that they did to them – where they beat them to a pulp like that.” Meyers also said that he spent many hours fishing with the three, and wanted to see their killers convicted. Meyers, before any information regarding the suspects, was revealed, was certain there was more than one killer. Meyers spoke about Rollins saying, “He wouldn’t come looking for a fight, but he wouldn’t back down if someone came at him,” “and the others would have been right there with him.”
The murder of these three men was devastating to this community. As small communities murders are uncommon, especially when the people are valued members. The murderers are on their way to trial and will most almost certainly face prison time. It is hopeful that this can offer some peace of mind to Meyers and his community, as they deal with these crushing losses.
Written by Joseph Nelson
NBC News: Three charged in triple murder of friends on their way to go fishing in Florida
CNN: Three arrested in killings of three men who were going fishing in Florida
USA Today: Florida community mourns three friends killed in ‘massacre’ on fishing trip
Image Courtesy of robotpolisher’s Flickr Page