By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(POLK COUNTY, Fla.) — Police said they arrested three people Wednesday in connection with a brutal murder of three friends who were fishing on a Florida lake.
Tony “TJ” Wiggins, 26, his girlfriend, Mary Whittemore, 27, and his brother, William “Robert” Wiggins, 21, were all apprehended after an extensive search following the deaths of Keven Springfield, Brandon Rollins and Damion Tillman on Friday.
Springfield, 30, Rollins, 27, and Tillman 23, were found shot to death near a local fishing spot on Lake Streety in Frostproof, Florida, where they were on a trip.
Before they were killed, Rollins was able to call his father and warn him that he and his friends were being attacked, according to police.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters Wednesday at a news conference that TJ Wiggins had a long rap sheet with 230 felony charges, 15 convictions and two stints in state prison. He was out on bond for an arrest where he allegedly broke another man’s arm with a crowbar, according to Judd.
“The local tips that came in that were filtered … the predominant information we got was ‘look at TJ Wiggins,’” Judd said.
Police said they were able to track the suspects through a Dollar Store bag and receipt that were found at the crime scene. Surveillance footage showed Tillman at the store, where he frequented, as well as the Wiggins brothers and Whittemore, according to Judd.
TJ. Wiggins was seen in the video speaking with Tillman but the conversation didn’t seem confrontational, according to Judd. A store clerk told investigators the suspects heard Tillman say he was going fishing and that Springfield would be with him, police said.
The three suspects were in a car on their way from the store and TJ Wiggins allegedly ordered his brother, who was driving, to follow the two trucks used by the victims, according to the police.
“They had no plans to go to the lake until TJ said let’s go to the lake,” Judd said.
At Lake Streety Road, Robert Wiggins and Whittemore stayed in the car while TJ Wiggins allegedly got out and confronted the three friends with a gun, according to police.
The elder Wiggins allegedly accused Springfield of stealing the engine of his truck and allegedly shouted and punched him, police said. Rollins and Tillman tried to help their friend, but TJ Wiggins allegedly screamed at them too before allegedly opening fire, according to police.
At some point during the confrontation, Rollins called his father and was only able to say, “Help,” before he and his two friends died, Judd said. Rollins’ father got to the crime scene and found him dying in his car, according to the sheriff.
“You can imagine the horror of a dead finding his son shot up … and dying in your arms,” Judd said.
When investigators executed a warrant of TJ Wiggins’ trailer, they found several guns, rifles and ammunition, Judd said. A forensic analysis of casings found in the trailer matched the handgun casings found at the scene of the crime, according to Judd.
Detectives determined that Whittemore purchased the ammunition on July 9 and they have the receipt of the purchase along with surveillance video of the sale, police said. Whittemore allegedly admitted to investigators that she purchased the ammunition, according to Judd.
Robert Wiggins allegedly told investigators he saw his brother shoot the three men and he helped TJ put Tillman into the back of one of the trucks used by the victims, Judd said.
“They immediately go to McDonald’s … and order 10 double cheeseburgers and two McChickens,” Judd said.
The sheriff said investigators are still trying to determine the motive behind the murders.
TJ Wiggins has been charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and weapons and ammunition possession charges. Robert Wiggins has been charged with tampering with evidence and accessory charges and Whittemore has been charged with an accessory charge, according to police. They are scheduled to make their first appearance in court on Thursday.
Attorney information for the suspects was not immediately available.
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