Can Florida Fishing Murders

Maria Johnson
• Thursday, 17 December, 2020
• 7 min read

The fatal shootings last week of three fishing buddies on a Florida roadside arose from an overheard comment in a dollar store, the sheriff said in announcing the arrest of the suspected killer. (Polk County Sheriff’s Office) The killings of the young men Friday night near the town of Frost proof made national news.

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Rollins’ father drove to the lake where the men had planned to fish and found his son shot, along with friends Damion Tillman, 23, and Keven Springfield, 30. A key clue in the arrest was found in Tillman’s pickup truck: a Dollar General bag and a receipt from the store dated Friday night.

When sheriff’s deputies reviewed the surveillance video from the store, they saw Tillman talking with a clerk as he made his purchases. In line behind him was someone the deputies knew well: TJ Wiggins, a man with a long rap sheet and a violent reputation in the town.

Wiggins was initially arrested on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the sheriff’s office said. Eventually, Robert Wiggins told investigators of the chance sighting at the Dollar General and the subsequent events.

Judd said Wednesday he didn’t know the details of TJ Wiggins’ claim about the alleged stolen truck “The only information we have is TJ is allegedly mad over some kind of truck deal that happened some period of time ago,” the sheriff said.

After the killings, the suspects drove to a McDonald’s, where they ordered 10 double cheeseburgers and two chicken sandwiches, and went home to eat, the sheriff’s office said. Store surveillance video showed her making the purchase accompanied by TJ Wiggins, according to the sheriff’s office.

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According to the sheriff’s office, TJ Wiggins’ criminal history includes prior felony convictions. Subscribe to Lakeland Patch for our morning newsletters and news alerts.

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more! Brandon Rollins, 27; Keven Springfield, 30; and Damion Tillman, 23; were all shot to death Friday night.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has referred to the slayings as a “massacre;” the friends were killed just moments after they had met to go night fishing at a remote lake in Frost proof, according to a press conference held earlier this week. The suspected gunman, Tony “TJ” Wiggins, was arrested earlier this week and now faces three counts of murder in the brutal slaying that was allegedly sparked by an accusation of theft.

His girlfriend Mary Whitmore, who is facing three counts of accessory to murder charges, is being held on a $45,000 bond. TJ's brother William “Robert” Wiggins, who Judd alleged drove TJ to the lake and helped throw Tillman’s body in the back of his pickup truck, is also facing three accessory to murder charges and a charge of tampering with evidence.

Rollins’ family watched the virtual hearing from outside the local jail. “The death penalty is definitely our number one priority,” Rollins’ mother, Lottie Payton, told Wits.

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I hear you stole the engine out of my truck?” Judd said an irate TJ began to scream. Cyril Rollins told TFS he continues to play those final moments over and over in his head.

In his urgency to get to the scene, he forgot his cell phone and drove to a nearby convenience store to call 911. Keri Black, who is the mother of five of Springfield’s eight children and was a friend of Rollins, told The Tampa Bay Times that the killings have rocked the small, usually quiet, community.

Rollins’ girlfriend, Jessica Stevenson, told Wits that she often went along on the fishing trips. On Thursday, Judd announced in a post on social media that due to an outpouring of support for the families from those in the community and across the world, the Polk Sheriff’s Charities had raised enough money to pay for the funeral expenses of all three victims.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of three Florida men who'd set out to go fishing -- killings authorities say came shortly after the suspects encountered one of the victims at a store. © Polk County Sheriff Tony “TJ” Wiggins, 26, has been arrested on suspicion of shooting and killing the three men near a lake in the central Florida community of Frost proof on Friday night, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

The three victims were planning to fish Friday night, but a truck carrying the suspects followed them, and TJ Wiggins eventually got out and shot them in a rural area of Frost proof, about a 75-mile drive east of Tampa, Judd said. On Monday, detectives searched a plot of land where TJ Wiggins, a convicted felon, and Whitmore lived in a travel trailer in Lake Wales, Florida, authorities said.

Because investigators found two Asks 7.62 mm rifles, two shotguns and ammunition in a safe belonging to TJ Wiggins, he was arrested Monday initially on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the sheriff's office said. Eventually, Robert Wiggins told investigators that he had seen Tillman at the Dollar General store Friday night while standing in line with his brother, the sheriff's office said.

“The only information we have is TJ is allegedly mad over some kind of truck deal that happened some period of time ago. After the killings, the suspects drove to a McDonald's fast-food restaurant, where they ordered 10 double cheeseburgers and two chicken sandwiches, and went home to eat, the sheriff's office said.

The next morning, Robert Wiggins took his truck to a car wash and cleaned it, according to the sheriff's office. The store's surveillance video showed Whitmore making the purchase accompanied by TJ Wiggins, according to the sheriff's office.

According to the sheriff's office, TJ Wiggins' criminal history includes prior felony convictions. Three best friends were found slain in a “horrific scene” at a Florida lake after one of them called his father for help, authorities said.

Damion Tillman, 23, Keven Springfield, 30, and Brandon Rollins, 27, had planned to go night fishing Friday at Lake Street in Frost proof, about 70 miles south of Orlando, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Damion Tillman (left) and Brandon Rollins Facebook“This is a horrific scene,” Judd said Saturday at a news conference.

Judd declined to speculate about whether the attackers knew the victims but doesn’t believe the slayings were random. Rollins’ girlfriend, Jessica Stevenson, said the sheriff shook her hand at the murder scene and vowed to find who was behind the slayings.

“ that he will not stop until justice is served for them three boys, my boyfriend, and his two best friends,” she told FLA. Friends Brandon Rollins, 27, Keven Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 23, were shot and killed Friday night near a lake in Frost proof.

Following reports of the triple homicide, Judd said the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was swamped with calls from across the country. Some in the Central Florida area suspected that TJ Wiggins, who deputies say has 230 felony charges and 15 convictions to his name, being involved.

A Dollar General receipt found at the scene allowed detectives to make a timeline of events. By reviewing the store’s security footage, they discovered Tillman went there and told the cashier he was going to the lake with Springfield.

Investigators also noticed three other people inside the store: the Wiggins brothers and Whitmore, TJ’s girlfriend. The suspects made a U-turn and followed them to the lake, leading to a confrontation that ended with TJ shooting the three men to death, according to authorities.

A search warranted executed Monday at TJ Wiggins’ and Whitmore’s trailer yielded two rifles, two shotguns and ammunition, deputies say. TJ Wiggins was arrested on possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon charges, deputies said.

TJ Wiggins’ previous convictions include grand theft and burglary, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Three friends were slain just moments after gathering together for some night fishing at a lake in central Florida, authorities said Saturday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who has worked at the department since 1972, described the killings at a Frost proof lake a “massacre.” “This is a horrific scene,” Judd said at a news conference Saturday near Lake Street where the bodies were found.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd described the killings at a Frost proof lake a “massacre. Wasp Judd said this is what investigators believe happened: Tillman arrived at the lake first to meet his friends for “night fishing for catfish.

His father rushed to the fishing spot about 10 minutes away, but forgot his cellphone in the hurry to help his son. He drove to a nearby convenience store, and the clerk helped him reach authorities, but by the time they arrived, Rollins had died.

He also did not say whether authorities have identified any suspects, but noted that his department is offering a $5,000 for any information leading to the capture of the killers.

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