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Brooksville police say homeless man admits to killing businessman

BROOKSVILLE — Monty Gregg Albright, the homeless man arrested in the slaying of a prominent Hernando real estate agent, told police he knew Steven Van Slyke for three weeks before he strangled him and went on a drug-addled spending spree with the victim's bank card.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said Thursday that investigators are still exploring the extent of the relationship as they piece together a time line to help answer lingering questions about the grisly killing on an oak-shaded, brick-lined street in the heart of town.

"We are still trying to determine how these two ever met to begin with," the chief said as he stood outside Van Slyke's home on Cherry Street, a block south of Hernando High School.

Turner said the relationship could help explain how the 35-year-old alleged attacker — who was on court-ordered supervision at the time — managed to enter the home, overpower the 58-year-old Van Slyke, tie him to a chair and obtain his ATM card personal identification number.

In releasing new details, Turner pointed the finger solely at Albright, saying he admitted after extensive interrogation to acting alone in the killing.

Turner said two other men named earlier as "persons of interest" do not face charges in the killing but did play a role in Albright's spending spree and "have other issues."

He acknowledged that the bulk of the details came from Albright, who at first denied any involvement before admitting to the robbery and slaying.

Investigators believe they pinpointed the ordeal's origin to a two-hour period Monday.

At 10 a.m. that day, Eric C. Jessop, Van Slyke's property appraisal business partner, told authorities he spoke to Van Slyke on the phone and he sounded fine.

But at 12:20 p.m. Van Slyke's ATM card registered the first transaction of many in a shopping spree that drained thousands — possibly upward of $5,000 — from his account.

Turner said bank surveillance footage puts the card in Albright's hand.

Once he realized the PIN worked the first time, authorities said, Albright returned to the house and strangled Van Slyke by tightening a ligature that was tied from the victim's neck to a bedpost.

The medical examiner confirmed that Van Slyke died from asphyxiation by strangulation.

Before Albright left in Van Slyke's car, he untied the bonds and attempted to hide the body under a bed.

Investigators traced his next moves by following the transactions on the bank card. Albright visited a number of cash advance locations to withdraw money and then bought and sold items, such as jewelry, to get more cash.

Van Slyke's body wasn't found until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when Jessop came to the house, which also served as the office for their home appraisal firm Van Slyke & Jessop. Jessop could not be reached for comment but Turner said he is providing much help in the investigation.

Interviews and tips led police to a known drug house Wednesday evening where they found Albright. The ATM card was found inside the house; the car was discovered on a street in south Brooksville.

Albright told investigators he spent all the money by then on crack cocaine.

Court records show Albright has a history of drug abuse. His most recent run-in with the law occurred in May when deputies found him under the influence and staggering down Zoller Street with a bloody nose and lip.

As authorities approached, reports state, he became belligerent and spit blood on the deputy and two emergency workers.

He was arrested for three counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. At the time of the arrest he was on probation for a conviction of driving under the influence.

In October, prosecutors reduced two charges to simple battery after evidence didn't substantiate the initial charges.

Albright pleaded no contest and Circuit Judge Jack Springstead gave him two years' probation and credit for the 151 days he served in jail.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Brooksville police say homeless man admits to killing businessman 01/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 11:23am]
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