TAMPA — Just hours before 13-year-old Stephen Tomlinson died, Raquel Rosa arrived home from work to find him and her teenage son hanging out together on her front porch.
It was about 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2005. She went inside to take a nap before heading to church for a Thursday night gathering.
Rosa expected to see her 19-year-old son Joshua at Zion Pentecostal, where he was a leader in the youth ministry. He didn't show. Only "something drastic" would keep him away, she testified Thursday.
Twelve Hillsborough jurors will be asked to decide, possibly as soon as today, what prevented Joshua Rosa from joining his mother at church. Authorities say he killed Stephen, his neighbor, sometime before 8 p.m.; Rosa is standing trial this week on a first-degree murder charge. But Rosa says he had gone to look for his lost keys in the woods of Carrollwood's Logan Gate Park when he stumbled upon the teen's body.
Even his own attorney has admitted that Rosa's efforts to help the teen ended up complicating things.
Much of the testimony Thursday focused on a pair of white cotton gloves. Rosa had worn them during church services as part of his uniform for the Royal Rangers, described in court as a religious version of the Boy Scouts. He also donned the gloves to participate in his church's pantomime ministry, according to his mother and assistant pastor.
When deputies arrived at the crime scene 2 1/2 years ago, Rosa had the gloves in his jogging pants pocket. They were covered in Stephen's blood. Rosa said that he had used the white gloves to wipe blood from the teen's mouth and nose, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
A former Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst said most of the blood had seeped from the outside the gloves and soaked through. Two spots of blood on the left glove soaked from the inside out, said Norman Henderson.
He could not say exactly how the blood got on the gloves, or who was wearing them.
The stain patterns indicated some type of motion, Henderson said. Based on photos of Stephen's face, however, the analyst did not see evidence of any wiped blood.
Stephen, who had played video games and gone to church with Rosa, died of manual strangulation after a struggle, experts have testified. His jean shorts were pulled down around his ankles. Tests found no semen on his shorts or body.
Rosa, now 22, has not indicated whether he will testify. Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday. At least one more defense witness is expected to testify today.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.