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Trial begins in Tampa murder case

TAMPA — A Tampa man accused of a fatal shooting last year attracted attention through a series of bizarre missteps in the crime's immediate aftermath, including reporting to police that the murder weapon had been stolen, prosecutors said during opening statements in his trial Tuesday.

David Rodriguez, 42, is charged with first-degree murder, robbery and making a false report to law enforcement authorities. Police and prosecutors say he shot and killed Colen Thomas, 49, during a robbery at Thomas' house at 702 E. Broad St. in January 2012.

Rodriguez went to the house with two other men, one of whom was known to Thomas, to commit a robbery, prosecutors said. When Thomas resisted, Rodriguez shot him with a 9mm handgun.

But in the aftermath of the incident, Assistant State Attorney Kristen Over told a jury Tuesday, Rodriguez's nerves started to fray.

"On the news, he sees that the man he shot is dead, so he starts to freak out," Over said. "He needs to find a way that he's not going to be connected to that gun any longer. So what does he do? He calls the Tampa police and says he had a burglary at his house."

Rodriguez called police to report his gun stolen the day after the murder, according to court records. The day after that, he told investigators he had been at the scene of the robbery with his gun but had not been the shooter, according to police.

That, too, was an effort at misdirection, Over said.

"I'm confident that at the end of this trial that you will believe that he is not only a principal to this crime; he is the trigger man," she said.

Over said the final piece of the puzzle fell into place when Rodriguez's gun was discovered buried in his back yard.

Rodriguez's defense lawyer, Thena Edwards, said there was a lack of physical evidence — such as fingerprints or DNA — connecting Rodriguez to the scene of the killing. The shooting itself, she said, was the result of a drug deal gone awry.

"There's more that's going on," Edwards said. "This is a drug deal gone bad, and not a robbery."

The trial continues Wednesday.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Trial begins in Tampa murder case 06/04/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 4:48pm]
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