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13-year-old boy shot in Tampa home Sunday is pronounced dead

TAMPA

They stayed out late that night, she at an Ybor City dance club and he at a friend's house. Not long before sunrise, the teen siblings got home safely.

Less than an hour later, gunshots went off and both lives were over.

Kiara Brito, 16, died from her wounds at the home near MacDill Air Force Base. Her 13-year-old brother, Jeremi, held on until Monday afternoon, when he was removed from life support at Tampa General Hospital.

"It's crazy how in a blink of an eye, your life can be taken like that," said Kiara's boyfriend, J.J. Hubbard, 18, a star football player at Robinson High School.

Late Monday night, Tampa police interviewed Charles Stephan Waits, 19, who they said may have information about the crime.

Waits, a former football player at Spoto High School, turned himself in at an undisclosed location after police announced they were looking for him.

Officers had issued an arrest warrant for him on a cocaine possession charge, and he was being held without bail late Monday on the drug charges in the Hillsborough County jail.

Last month, on May 11, Waits was also arrested on cocaine and marijuana possession charges and released after posting a bond at the Hillsborough County jail.

The teenagers lived with their mother, Judy Brito, who was not at the home, at 3021 W Van Buren Drive, at the time of the shooting. Police describe her as distraught and say she has been cooperative with investigators.

Authorities were releasing little information about the case Monday, including the mother's whereabouts at the time.

They have said that the shootings were not random and that the home was targeted.

Waits' connection to the family, if any, was unclear.

Hubbard, who met with a detective Monday, said Kiara knew Waits but he wasn't aware of how they had met.

Judy Brito and her children moved from Massachusetts to Tampa about five years ago. In Massachusetts, she was a dispatcher for the city of Lawrence.

In 2004, she became embroiled there in a videotaped scandal that the Lawrence mayor called a "black eye" for the city.

Brito was accused of snorting cocaine and drinking beer with a firefighter while both were on duty — activities that were captured on a videotape.

Neither Brito nor the firefighter faced criminal charges in the well- publicized case because of a lack of evidence, but Brito was fired by the city.

She and the children lived in a rental house on a dead-end street of modest, single-story homes just blocks from the entrance to the Air Force base.

Family friends said Brito is unemployed but is studying criminal justice at Hillsborough Community College.

She often enlisted Kiara, the math whiz, to help her with her homework.

At Robinson High School, where Kiara was a junior, principal Laura Zavatkay spoke about her during the morning announcements.

"Kiara was a wonderful young lady," Zavatkay said. "She was completing her junior year with us and was very involved in our school community."

Kiara played basketball for Robinson. Jeremi was in the sixth grade at Madison Middle School.

The children's grandmother, who lives in Massachusetts, cried Monday as she spoke about the children.

Rafaela Brito said her granddaughter Kiara was a hardworking student. She was close with her brother Jeremi, and their mother spoiled them.

"Everything they wanted, she gave it to them," she said in Spanish.

"Both of them are her pride and joy," said Hubbard, who had dated Kiara for nearly five years and lives just a few doors down.

Judy Brito and her family from Massachusetts stayed at the hospital most of Monday. By late afternoon, the teens' friends had put together a makeshift memorial on the family's front porch: heart-shaped balloons, burning candles and letters to their friends — Jeremi, the sharp-dressed ladies man who loved to mow the lawn and Kiara, the good student whose nails and hair had to be immaculate.

Angela Stonys, 13, said Jeremi and some other friends stayed at her house late Saturday night watching television and playing board games.

Just after 5 a.m., she said, his mother called and asked him if he was home yet.

Her mother told him to leave because his sister would be home soon and she didn't want her home alone, Stonys said.

Jeremi grumbled about having to leave, she said, but got on his bicycle and rode home through the pre-dawn darkness.

It was the last they saw of him.

At the same time, Kiara was out with friends at the Tabu nightclub in Ybor. She sent a text message that she was leaving to Hubbard, who had decided not to go out and instead fallen asleep at her empty home. He got up and walked back to his own house around 4:45 a.m.

When Hubbard woke up Sunday, it was not to one of his girlfriend's routine "good morning" phone calls. It was a friend, calling to see if he knew what was happening at the Britos home.

"I saw all of the cops and I started to peek around the door," he said, "but I didn't even want to look."

Times researcher John Martin and Biz Carson contributed to this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at imorales@sptimes.com or (813)226-3386. Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

13-year-old boy shot in Tampa home Sunday is pronounced dead 06/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 3:24pm]
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