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Tampa police think missing man Ryan Jerard Darkins Davis could be murder victim

TAMPA — Though Ryan Jerard Darkins Davis' family hasn't given up hope of his safe return, his disappearance is being investigated as a possible murder, a detective said Tuesday.

Davis, 20, was last seen April 5 with Carl G. Walters, 21, who authorities say was killed during a violent knife attack that night or early April 6 by his own brother.

Davis' family hasn't heard from him since.

"Our leading presumption," said Tampa police Detective Chuck Massucci, is that Davis was also a victim.

On Tuesday, a judge ordered Derrick Eugene Cullins, 28, held without bail until his trial on the second-degree murder charge he faces for Walters' death.

Authorities say Cullins stabbed his brother 18 times during an attack at their home at 1810 Humphrey St. and dumped his body at 6416 Thonotosassa Road.

Cullins then "went to great lengths to get rid of evidence," Assistant State Attorney Michelle Doherty said.

Officials have yet to reveal theo­ries about motive. On Tuesday, Massucci testified about Cullins' actions after his brother's death. He said the carpet that had been removed from the brothers' house, new paint covered blood on the walls, and a love seat and couch were missing.

Cullins told police the carpet was gone when he woke up on April 5. But Massucci said investigators found a receipt in Cullins' black Dodge truck that showed he made a trip to a city incinerator and dropped off carpet and furniture to be burned.

Cullins denied being anywhere near Plant City between the time Walters was last seen alive and when his body was found.

But police also collected receipts and videotape that showed Cullins bought gas and a Red Bull drink from a gas station April 5 near where his brother's body was dumped and visited a carwash hours later.

A witness ordered a man in a black truck matching Cullins' description off property about 500 yards from where the body was found, Massucci said.

Cullins' credit card records confirm purchases of several gallons of ammonia, paint brushes, bleach, plastic gloves and a bucket, Massucci said.

A woman visiting a neighboring house on Humphrey Street on April 9 said she saw Cullins washing the bed of his truck with chemicals. Another neighbor, Elizabeth Burks, called police after finding someone else's paint brushes and clothes in her garbage can that day.

Cullins, whom she has known since he was a child, told her that he had swapped their cans.

"He seemed nervous," she said. "He seemed cold."

Cullins' attorney, assistant public defender Rocky Brancato, pointed out that no DNA tests had linked his client to the killing. He said Davis might be a suspect instead of a victim.

Walters and Davis were students at Hillsborough Community College.

Outside the courthouse, Davis' family and friends pleaded for people to report any information regarding his whereabouts.

"I just want my brother back," said Tierra Davis, 24.

Tampa police think missing man Ryan Jerard Darkins Davis could be murder victim 04/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11:25pm]
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