Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Defendant implicates friend Tavari Grant in murder of Brito teens

TAMPA — Charles Waits, on trial for first-degree murder, told jurors Monday he had lied.

On June 6, 2011, the day after two South Tampa teenagers were fatally shot in the head, Waits told the lead homicide detective that he had been forced to help rob the teens at gunpoint by a man named "Rocco."

Testifying in his own trial Monday afternoon, Waits, 21, said that Rocco — a man police were never able to find — was not at the murder scene. Instead, it was Waits' friend Tavari Grant.

The revelation refuted what jurors had heard Waits say on a recording just hours earlier.

Monday morning, they listened to an audio recording of Waits' initial interview with Tampa police Detective Charles Massucci. On it, Waits describes being forced at gunpoint by "Rocco" to knock on the door of a home where 16-year-old Kiara Brito was home that night with her 13-year-old brother, Jeremi.

Waits says on the recording that he and Rocco were going to buy marijuana and, at the last minute, Rocco pulled a gun on him and it turned into a robbery.

He said Rocco forced him to knock on the door. Kiara opened it, then Rocco robbed the children. Waits said he was running away when he heard gunshots.

The children were dead.

Waits says he did not know that at the time.

When Waits described that bloody morning on the witness stand Monday afternoon, the facts were similar. But instead of pointing to "Rocco" he blamed Grant, his friend who was arrested and also charged with first-degree murder on June 9, 2011 — three days after Waits' initial interview.

Waits said he lied because Grant had threatened him.

According to Waits' testimony, Grant said, "If you try to turn me in, I'm gonna come kill you, your mom and your brothers."

Authorities have not asserted that Waits pulled the trigger. But if they prove he was committing a robbery at the Brito house at the time, jurors can find him guilty of being a principal to murder.

Grant, 21, is being held in jail without bail and has not yet faced trial.

During Waits' nearly three hours of testimony and cross-examination Monday, he repeated several times that he had never planned to rob the Brito children. He had taken Grant to the Interbay-area house only to buy marijuana — an expensive hydroponic type that he knew Kiara sold.

Waits left the house before shots were fired, he testified, because Grant told him to "go get the car." When he heard pops, he figured they were warning shots.

"I knew Tavari," Waits testified. "I didn't think he would kill two defenseless kids in the house like that."

Waits said he tried to drive away by himself but accidentally came upon Grant down Van Buren Drive after Grant exchanged gunshots with a watchful neighbor, unbeknownst to Waits at the time.

Waits testified that he slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting Grant. Then Grant hopped in the car and yelled "Go! Go! Go! They're shooting," Waits recalled.

The next day, Waits said, his head was spinning. He went to several friends' houses and planned to ask one of them what he should do about it.

He never called police.

Waits went in to talk to detectives only the next day, after officers had impounded his mother's car — a Chevrolet Impala that Waits had been driving.

The trial will continue today with closing statements.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Comments
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rowdies fall to Penn FC

Rowdies fall to Penn FC

By Darek SharpTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For the second time this season, Penn FC got two goals from a former Rowdie that led the way to a win over Tampa Bay.Lucky Mkosana doubled his season total Friday in a comeback 2-1 win before an...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Ronald Darby’s friend: Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details emerged Friday night about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vand...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — Police want to know who shot 14-year-old De’Nico Thomas after a night of playing video games.Thomas was at a friend’s home Wednesday night and walking home when Tampa police said he was shot, resulting in life-threatening injuries.As he faces...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

At first I thought it was a snake.Because wouldn’t it be typically Florida to come home and find a snake poking its nose out from under your stove? Which wouldn’t be a problem or anything. I would just have to move out is all.But no, the creature tha...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

RIVERVIEWJaime Rodriguez, 78, popped the question Friday morning but skipped the "getting down on one knee" part."If I get on my knee, you’d have to help me," he told the emcee a moment before asking Luz Rivera to marry him.Rivera, 69, smiled and sai...
Updated: 8 hours ago