Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Court documents tell story of months of violence under Dontae Morris

TAMPA — There was a bang.

Quinisha McMillan jumped up from the couch and ran outside the Kenneth Court apartments in East Tampa to investigate.

She ran into her friend, Dontae Morris.

Go inside, he told her.

"Where Derek at?" she asked.

"Mind your business," he said.

She heard a scream — from the sister of the young man police would say Morris had just killed.

In 42 days, the body count of Morris' alleged victims would jump to five, including two Tampa police officers.

Only then would the city learn of a man who went by "Qwalo" in his neighborhood, a man out of prison for only three months when he was led to jail again, cameras trained on him, the police chief declaring, finally:

"We got him."

Documents released Tuesday in preparation for trial give more detail than ever on what witnesses said happened in those months. They tell the story of Morris' violent return to society, when death threats felt real, arguments over drugs ended in bloodshed and pillow talk became police statements.

McMillan heard a knock at the door. It had been hours since police had hauled off the body of Derek Anderson, the night of May 18, 2010.

There stood Morris.

He pulled out a big gun with a spinning chamber, like a cowboy would carry.

He put it on the table, dumped out spent shells and reloaded it with bullets.

He put it back in his pocket.

"I'm ready now," he said.

Rodney "Scarface" Jones, 42, died May 31, 2010, outside the Club Cotton in West Tampa.

He was always flashing money around the club, tipping karaoke singers. He wound up there after a day of partying with friends. People heard him arguing on the cellphone for an hour that night and saw a group of young men watching him closely. Two followed him out at about 2:30 a.m. Earlier in the night, he had divided his cash between his pockets.

"Give it up," someone heard outside before a bullet caught him in the neck. He died on the pavement alongside his 1995 Mercedes, one pocket inside out, the other stuffed with $2,565.25.

One month later, a former lover of Morris' told police Morris had discussed facts of the shooting with her.

Ashley Price said Morris had told her about other crimes, too:

Harold Wright, 25, died June 7, 2010, on a road east of Tampa.

He had driven to a 7-Eleven to make a $4,000 cocaine deal. He was found on the ground with his pockets turned out and a bullet hole in his head.

Price said Morris told her he and another man killed Wright to send a message to the man who arranged the drug deal.

Derek Anderson, too, had died over drugs, Price told police.

He had been selling marijuana on Morris' turf.

Morris is now awaiting trial for those three murders, plus the killings of Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. He could face the death penalty.

Price said she was sure about his stories, she told detectives.

Morris, she said, doesn't lie.

• • •

It was the night after Derek Anderson was killed. Morris was drinking heavily at McMillan's place, swigging Hennessy cognac like water.

He seemed bothered.

McMillan asked him what was wrong.

They started talking about Anderson, about Morris arguing with him.

"That's when s--- went down," McMillan recalled Morris saying, as relayed to investigators.

The next part of her interview is blacked out.

Before releasing pretrial documents to the media, the State Attorney's Office redacts certain information, including anything that could be construed as a confession.

The detectives asked McMillan what she heard Morris say.

More is blanked out.

"And I was like d---," she said.

More blanked out.

"And I'm looking at him like, and that excites you?"

More blanked.

Then, she said Morris told her:

"I'm ready to pop the next pop.

"It might be you."

Times staff writers Patty Ryan, Caitlin Johnston and Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or [email protected] Alexandra Zayas can be reached at (813) 226-3354 or [email protected]

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