Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Hernando deputies say tipster led to murder arrest

RIDGE MANOR — Hernando County sheriff's deputies have arrested a Brooksville man accused of shooting and killing an acquaintance after an argument in a car.

On Wednesday evening, Daniel Brian Brunette, 33, was riding in the front seat of a 2014 Dodge Avenger driven by Darius Hampton, 22, on the way to meet several friends, according to an arrest report.

"Preliminary information is they were either both planning to do a drug ripoff, or it was a drug ripoff that went bad," said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis.

Brunette did not want to go through with it and asked to go home, the report said. But when Hampton turned the car into the parking lot of the Withlacoochee State Trail on Croom-Rital Road in Ridge Manor, Hampton pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and pointed it at Brunette, demanding his belongings.

The pair struggled until Brunette gained control of the gun and shot Hampton five times, the report said.

Brunette then drove the car toward a friend's house and on the way stopped to drag Hampton's body into the trunk.

After leaving the friend's house, Brunette drove to Pasco County and sold a .22-caliber handgun he had found under the driver's seat of Hampton's car for $80 and an unknown amount of methamphetamine.

Early Thursday, Brunette drove to the home of his friend Larry Wilson and asked Wilson to help him get rid of the body, according to the report. Wilson showed Brunette an area in the Richloam Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest near the Sumter County line where he could dispose of the body.

Brunette drove there, dug a shallow grave and put Hampton's body into it. He poured brake fluid over the body to hide the smell, the report said. Brunette then returned to Wilson's house, where he burned Hampton's belongings and cleaned blood off the car.

After Wilson called the Sheriff's Office to report the incident, deputies found Brunette at Wilson's house. Brunette told deputies he had killed Hampton and then led them to the body, authorities said.

Deputies charged Brunette with one count of second-degree murder with a firearm. He was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center at about 11 p.m. Thursday and was being held without bond.

Brunette had no previous criminal record in Florida, according to the state Department of Law Enforcement.

Nienhuis said the body was found under a couple of feet of dirt a few minutes' walk off a little-traveled dirt road. Without the tip, he said, the body probably wouldn't have been found.

"It would have been very, very, very unlikely that anyone would have happened upon this because the body was definitely buried," he said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes. Kathryn Varn can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114. On Twitter: @kathrynvarn.

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