Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Public safety

Hillsborough deputies say mistaken identity led to I-4 slaying

TAMPA — Fred Turner Jr. never met the man who is accused of shooting and killing him Saturday on Interstate 4. He couldn't tell police when he called for help from his Mustang why the man following him wanted to kill him.

"I just can't get over how scared he must've been, not knowing why somebody was trying to shoot him," his older sister, Janet Turner, said between sobs in a telephone interview. "He's on the phone with 911 trying to drive and someone's trying to kill him. I just can't imagine being more scared in your life."

What Turner, 47, never knew, authorities said, is that Jerome Edward Hayes, 48, of St. Cloud thought he was someone else.

Hayes turned himself in Monday morning at the Hillsborough County jail, where he was arrested and booked on a charge of first-degree murder. He was being held without bail.

At a news conference Monday, Hillsborough County officials said Hayes shot Turner three times in the chest in a tragic and unnecessary case of mistaken identity Saturday afternoon.

Hayes, deputies said, got into a fight inside the Gold Club, a strip club at 6222 Adamo Drive. After that altercation, he and another man were kicked out.

At the same time, Turner walked out of Tres Equis, an adult store and video arcade that shares the property.

Hayes erroneously thought Turner was the man he had fought inside the Gold Club and took off after him, deputies said.

But the two had never met, the deputies said.

Hayes and another man in a gray Ford Taurus followed Turner. Surveillance video shows one of the men retrieving something from the trunk before leaving the parking lot, sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski said.

Turner, of the Orlando area, told a 911 dispatcher he was being followed by a man brandishing a gun. He said he did not provoke the man, who followed him onto I-4 from around N 50th Street and E Columbus Drive, authorities said.

Turner was still on his cellphone as he approached the Interstate 75 interchange and the dispatcher heard shots ring out.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said Turner pulled his green Ford Mustang over near the overpass and died about 3 p.m. Saturday. The shooting led the Florida Highway Patrol to close the eastbound highway for hours as authorities sought evidence.

Because the killing involved a firearm and was premeditated, as Hayes waited outside the location for several minutes, he faces a charge of first-degree murder, investigators said.

"I can't understand why he would kill someone," said Janet Turner, who lives in Illinois. "Even if he got into an argument with somebody, why would you shoot them? Why? It makes no sense to me. It makes no sense at all."

Investigators said they have questioned the man with Hayes, but have not identified him or announced charges.

Hayes' attorney, Nicholas Matassini, said Hayes voluntarily turned over his gun and allowed investigators to search his car. Authorities later obtained a warrant to arrest Hayes.

Matassini said he met with Hayes early Monday before escorting him to the jail. Matassini declined to comment further.

Hayes, who jail records show is manager of a metal recycling company, has a minor criminal history in Florida, according to state records. He was arrested in 2007 after undercover Polk County sheriff's deputies said he purchased items from them that were made to look like stolen property. Charges in that case were later dropped.

A Facebook page that appeared to belong to Hayes stated that he graduated from Tampa Bay Technical High School. The page was removed shortly after his arrest.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, detectives from Hillsborough County seized Hayes' Taurus sedan from St. Cloud, which is south of Orlando, and had it moved to St. Cloud police headquarters until a search warrant could be obtained for the car and his home.

Fred Turner joined the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, served a tour as a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, N.C., and received a degree in business management at Northern Illinois University near Chicago before moving to Florida in 1998, Janet Turner said.

He lived in Clearwater with his wife until they divorced about five years ago.

He worked several jobs in the hospitality industry at Hyatt and other hotels in the Tampa area.

"He was a wonderful man," Janet Turner said. "I was blessed and I was honored to be his sister. I was very proud of him. He was my best friend."

He worked most recently at the Caribe Royale All-Suite Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando.

"Fred certainly was an excellent worker and he's going to be missed," Donna Smithberger, head of human resources for the 1,200-room hotel with more than 500 employees, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Times news researchers Caryn Baird, John Martin and Natalie A. Watson, and staff writer Brittany Alana Davis contributed to this report.

   
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