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Deputies release name of suspect in Brandon triple homicide

TAMPA — Hillsborough County sheriff's investigators have identified a suspect who they say attacked at least one of the victims in Tuesday's triple homicide case in Brandon.

Deputies say 19-year-old Esteban Merchan of Kissimmee attacked and committed aggravated battery on the one surviving victim in the case, Ralph Arroyo. Merchan was identified based on witness statements, and investigators are continuing to examine his involvement in the murders of 22-year-old Vincent Thomas, 22-year-old Tony Black and 21-year-old Rafael Guadalupe. Two were gunned down, and one was stabbed.

Arroyo, 21, was beaten. He ran toward arriving deputies when he saw them.

Merchan may be driving a four-door silver 2009 Toyota Prius with Florida tag V80 8SD, investigators said, and he could be driving to New York state. He is considered armed and dangerous. He is listed as a member of the Bloods gang.

State records show that Merchan was sentenced to one year and six months of drug offender probation on May 27 after being convicted of obstructing a crime investigation, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, possession of marijuana over 20 grams and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Investigators described Merchan as 5 feet 7 and between 160 and 170 pounds, with brown eyes and short black hair. His last known address is 4115 Wellington Woods Circle in Kissimmee.

A warrant has been issued for Merchan charging him with one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Deputies are asking anyone with information about Merchan to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200 or Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Deputies release name of suspect in Brandon triple homicide 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 10:15pm]
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