TAMPA — Two weeks into the nearly three-year hunt for the killer of a University of Tampa student, future defendant David Earl Williams Jr. came riding up to detectives on a stolen bicycle as they stood outside his grandmother's house.
He had a bad haircut, with low patches, as if clipped in haste.
He said things that caught the attention of Detective Sal Augeri, who eventually came to believe that Williams had shot and killed 21-year-old student Ryan McCall during a robbery on the Boulevard Bridge.
McCall died Aug. 19, 2009. He and a friend, Michael Harahan, were robbed at gunpoint while walking home after celebrating McCall's 21st birthday. When they tried to flee, Harahan escaped, but McCall was shot in the left arm, and the bullet lodged in his chest.
Court documents released Monday show the confounding factors of a murder charge 33 months in the making.
There were tips enough to give investigators whiplash.
Rumors flew that a man nicknamed "Rabbit" had killed "the college boy." Police knew Rabbit's real name. He kept agreeing to polygraph tests and then changing his mind. When asked why others would associate him with the offense, he responded, "The people in the projects know how I am."
But his name wasn't the only one police heard.
Other rumors suggested "Bo Pete," "Lil Reggie," someone named Smith. "Hershel" might be involved, or, no, maybe Hershel's brother "Atlas." Or "Bumpa," or "Sammy," or "Tanka," or "Rashad," or "Torrey," or "Eric," or "LJ," or "Rene," or "Pie" or "Jack."
Some tipsters heard news media recordings of the robber's voice, caught by cellphone on an answering machine, and thought they recognized it.
There were those with facts, those with rumors, those with made-up stories.
Jail inmates claimed knowledge, including some who faced serious charges and who might have benefitted by cooperating.
According to Augeri's police report, an inmate nicknamed "Boogey Man" was telling people, "You better ask somebody about me. You probably heard about the UT student. I don't play."
Detectives put real names to the nicknames and assembled photo packs to see whether victim Harahan recognized anyone.
While police were asking, someone implicated "Boom Boom David" in a separate Ybor City robbery.
"Boom Boom David" was Williams, now 22. The day he came riding his bicycle up to police, he rode into scrutiny over the unrelated robbery. He was put in jail and then sent to state prison in that case. He was locked up even as police were investigating McCall's death.
Williams, formally charged May 30, 2012, was apparently implicated by family members, the court records suggest.
A relative tried to help police by providing information in early 2010. But the relative was locked up himself at the time, trying to use a law firm as an intermediary, and the information didn't get relayed. He resorted to calling Crime Stoppers from jail.
Portions of the report — especially those relating to Williams — were redacted before it was made public. It's unclear what the relative or Williams told police.
But a list of property collected in the investigation was not redacted. It includes an entry called "Audio CD — David Williams, confession, 5-23-12." Also collected were letters written by Williams.
And according to an arrest affidavit, when interviewed by police about the incident on the bridge, he admitted that he had robbed McCall and Harahan. He admitted that he had hit Harahan in the head with a firearm. He admitted that he had taken his cellphone and wallet. But he said an accomplice fired the shot that killed McCall.
The records also include a voice analysis that compared Williams' voice with the one captured on the recording. It concluded that the voice belonged to Williams, but assigned a confidence level of 64 to 75 percent.
Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.