Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Derrick Cullins' trial begins in deaths of two Hillsborough men

TAMPA — The prosecution's case looks simple: Derrick Cullins fatally stabbed his half brother and his brother's friend in 2009, dumped their bodies in the woods, then ripped out the carpeting and repainted the house to hide the evidence. Cullins had blood on his shoes and a bite mark on his chest. Blood was found all over the house.

But the trial of Cullins, 31 — charged with the second-degree murders of his brother, Carl Walters, 21, and Walters' friend Ryan Davis, 20 — is anything but simple. It's expected to take three weeks. Jurors in the trial presided over by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Battles were encouraged to take notes to help them keep track of mountains of circumstantial evidence.

In opening arguments Tuesday, the defense said the case is a rush to judgement. There are no eyewitnesses, no suggested motive. One body was found two days after the alleged murders. The second wasn't found until 10 months later. The defense says it will call witnesses who saw both victims alive after they were supposed to have been killed.

Assistant Public Defender Ann Shane said investigators were so certain Cullins was the killer that they overlooked contradictory evidence. "We may never know who actually killed them."

Assistant State Attorney Ada Carmona told the jury Tuesday that the two men were killed on Sunday, April 5, 2009, at the Tampa home the brothers shared.

The prosecutor said Walters' blood was found in the living room, foyer and kitchen. Davis' blood, she said, was found in the hallway, kitchen, a spare bedroom and on Cullins' shoes.

The living room carpet was missing. Investigators found the bedroom walls repainted. The house had been completely cleaned.

Walters' naked body was found in the woods in Plant City on April 7. He had been stabbed 18 times. Davis' skeleton wasn't found until the following February. It also had been left in the woods in Plant City.

Cullins told investigators he had last seen his brother and Davis when he went to bed at midnight on April 5. In the morning, he said, both men were gone, and so was the carpet.

Prosecutors said Cullins spent that morning buying cleaning products. When detectives searched his truck, they found a receipt from a nearby waste disposal site for the dumping of a carpet. A neighbor said Cullins had dumped paint cans and rags into her trash can.

But defense lawyer Shane said the house had been in a constant state of remodeling. The carpet that was dumped was never found. She said the blood evidence was conflicting.

She also said the jury would hear from a neighbor who saw and talked with Walters outside the house on the Monday after he was supposed to have been killed. She said another witness would testify that she talked with Davis, the second victim, at a graduation ceremony at the Florida State Fairgrounds in June, two months later.

Shane said the witness will testify that Davis, who was "somewhat effeminate," was wearing mascara, which helped her remember him.

"Chronology is going to matter in this case," she told the jury. "You will not rush to judgement. You will see Mr. Cullins did not kill."

John Barry can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.

Comments
Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

Power outage halts flights at Atlanta international airport

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday grounded scores of flights and stranded thousands of passengers during one of the busiest travel times of the year.Passengers were left in the dark when...
Updated: 21 minutes ago

Wesley Chapel woman, 28, dies after crashing motorcycle

LUTZ — A 28-year-old motorcyclist died Sunday after she crashed near Lutz Lake Fern Road and Apian Way, Hillsborough deputies reported.Erica Kristen Rodriguez of Wesley Chapel was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with a small group of motorcyclists eastb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) — The mayor of a small Florida town arrested for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits to park at city hall has resigned.The Bradenton Herald reports that Teresa Bradley resigned and was given six-months of probation as pa...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17