Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Video shows brutality of St. Petersburg convenience store slayings, start to finish

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that surveillance cameras are watching virtually every store and parking lot, it's increasingly common to see footage of robberies, fights and even shootings.

But the disturbing video of a double murder in downtown St. Petersburg is something different.

In graphic detail, with eight different cameras and relatively good sound, the video shows the entire August 2008 robbery of Central Food Mart, and the shootings of three men.

Even in an era when video has become ubiquitous, prosecutors say this stands out as perhaps the clearest and most complete recording ever of a local murder — and one of the most powerful pieces of evidence they could hope to work with.

"No. 1, in the majority of cases there is no video," said Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco counties. "No. 2, in the ones you do have video, it's usually fairly spotty, and you don't have the quality. The difference is this encompasses the entire incident, from a variety of angles."

Bartlett said the video footage, which was released to the St. Petersburg Times this week, "depicts the commission of the offense in its entirety, from start to finish, and shows the coldness and the brutality."

He asks: "What can a defendant say about that if he takes the stand? Nothing."

That, of course, remains to be seen as the case works its way through the court system. Khadafy Mullens, 26, and Spencer Peeples, 29, have pleaded not guilty.

But the video does show how increasingly sophisticated technology provides formidable evidence for criminal cases. The eight cameras combined captured more than an hour's worth of images from different angles of the roughly 10-minute robbery.

The robbery occurred at 2157 Central Ave., half a dozen blocks west of Tropicana Field, about 6:30 p.m., when it was still light outside.

Video tells the story: Two men walk in and encounter the store owner, Mohammad Uddin, 44. They wave a handgun and force Uddin to the floor. They demand his car keys. They steal lottery tickets, taking several minutes to stuff them into plastic bags. Meanwhile, a customer, Ronald Hayworth, 50, is in the store.

One of the robbers — authorities say it is Peeples — leaves the store.

Then the shooting starts. The other robber — prosecutors say it's Mullens — sees Uddin dialing a telephone. He fires at Uddin, killing him. Next he grabs the customer, Hayworth, swings him around, and shoots him on the floor.

Another man, Albert Barton, 69, is outside the store and appears to be entering. The robber yanks Barton inside and fires at him. Barton falls, but fights back, and at one point appears to grab at the handgun.

Throughout most of the incident, the robbers show little emotion, even as the shooter fights with Barton over his gun.

After the shootings, the shooter picks up his bag of lottery tickets and walks out the store, with sirens already blaring in the background.

Incredibly, Barton survives the attack. He walks out of the store, and flags down the emergency workers who will begin to treat him for his wounds. The Times could not locate Barton for this story.

The two suspects were arrested within hours of the crime.

The killings were part of a string of convenience store violence in South Pinellas last year that set the community on edge and raised questions about crime fighting efforts.

The robbers were obviously aware of surveillance videos, because they tried to disable the system. But they chose a non-working system, not the one that was actually recording them.

Even compelling videos don't always lead to criminal convictions. Bjorn Brunvand, a veteran criminal attorney, said cases of mistaken identity do occur. If so, an attorney could argue that the video "looks like my client, but they got the wrong guy."

In other cases, especially when video is fuzzy or the crime occurs off camera, an attorney may argue that the video is incomplete and provides a misleading impression.

"Different people interpret it in different ways," Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger said.

But a complete and clear video can make a very powerful impression on a jury, said Harvey Moore, a well-known Tampa trial consultant and sociologist.

"Eight views in a store, then you've pretty much put to rest a variety of opportunities a defendant might have to offer an alternative interpretation," said Moore, who has not seen the videos in this case.

Juries may see more evidence like this in the future. At Privacy Electronics in Pinellas Park, vice president Carrissa Peros said it's now common for convenience stores to have eight cameras. She said a pair of four-camera systems starts at about $1,200.

Mullens' public defender, Dudley Clapp, would not comment about his defense strategy, and said most of the work in the case so far has been taking depositions of police. Peeples' attorney could not be reached.

The trial has not yet been scheduled. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Eight cameras with sound recorded the August 2008 robbery of a St. Petersburg convenience store and the shootings of three men.

Pinellas/Pasco Attorney’s Office

Eight cameras with sound recorded the August 2008 robbery of a St. Petersburg convenience store and the shootings of three men.

Video shows brutality of St. Petersburg convenience store slayings, start to finish 12/05/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 6, 2009 12:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deputies: Wimauma teacher's aide sexually molested teen, 13

    Crime

    A Wimauma teacher's aide faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl.

    Sonny Juarez, 29, a teacher's aide in Wimauma, faces charges lewd or lascivious molestation after Hillborough County deputies say he inappropriatly touched a 13-year-old girl on several occasions while working at the RCMA Wimauma Academy, 18236 U.S. 301 S, between November 2016 and March 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]

  2. Tampa Bay deputies head to UF to assist with Richard Spencer's speech

    Public Safety

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Thursday.

    Law enforcement is stepped up in Gainesville on Oct. 18, 2017, ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  3. Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor

    Olympics

    Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

    U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. [Associated Press]
  4. Top 5 at Noon: Facts on Richard Spencer's Florida visit; Column: Jameis, don't be a hero; Locale Market changes again

    News

    Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida. [Getty]
  5. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Uncertainty surrounds Jameis Winston's health

    Bucs

    Greg Auman talks about the Bucs' quarterback situation, with uncertainty around Jameis Winston's health, in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Jameis Winston takes the field for warmups before the Bucs' game against the Cardinals Sunday in Glandale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]