Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Detectives follow clues to find suspect in woman's slaying in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Wherever Thomas Hampton Frederick went for the last week and a half, the detectives were not far behind. They watched him go to work. They watched him as he slept. They watched him when he went out at night.

They waited patiently for Frederick to give them something. Last week, he gave them a cigarette.

The smoldering butt he flicked from the passenger window of a car at the intersection of Belcher and Ulmerton roads gave forensic technicians a sample of his DNA. They sent it for testing.

On Wednesday, authorities said, test results confirmed what they suspected: Frederick was the man who raped and killed Adrianne Robert in her Clearwater apartment.

Frederick, 23, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on charges of first-degree murder and grand theft auto in connection with Robert's July 14 death. The two did not know each other before the crime, making the case particularly alarming.

"We got a real bad guy off the street," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference announcing the arrest. "This is the most dangerous kind of crime, because he was willing to take somebody he didn't know and rape and kill her."

Authorities had released few details regarding the investigation of the 29-year-old graphic designer's death before Wednesday, even declining to say whether the case appeared to be a homicide. The decision was a strategic one, Gualtieri said. They didn't want Frederick to know what they knew.

"We were very concerned," Gualtieri said. "This was the No. 1 priority for the Sheriff's Office since July 14."

It all began the night before.

Robert and her male roommate, Jay Leffue, had gone to Diamond Dolls, a strip club about a mile from their apartment at 2958 Pinecone Circle.

When they arrived at the club, they struck up a conversation with Frederick, who had been lingering in the bar area since late afternoon, the sheriff said.

Robert left about 1:30 a.m. and planned to walk home. Leffue stayed behind at the club.

A surveillance camera captured images of Robert leaving the club alone before a man ran up to give her a black shawl she left on a chair, Gualtieri said. The two then walked off together.

Leffue returned to the apartment about two hours later and noticed the bathroom door was closed. He called out for Robert and got no answer.

When he opened the door, he saw her on the floor, clad only in a bra, a single stab wound to her chest.

There were signs of a struggle, Gualtieri said. She had bruises on her body and the toilet seat was broken.

When deputies searched the apartment, they found that a section of a sheet on Robert's bed had been cut out, Gualtieri said. Detectives suspected the killer had tried to remove his DNA from the scene.

But they located DNA on Robert's body and on a mattress.

Robert's orange Jeep also was missing. It was later recovered near East Bay Drive and U.S. 19.

Detectives initially had no idea of the identity of the man with whom Robert left.

"This was a hard one," Gualtieri said. "This very easily could have been a whodunit."

The first break in the case came when detectives learned that the man seen with Robert had arrived at Diamond Dolls earlier in the day in a taxi. The cab company gave detectives the phone number from which the man had called.

The same number was found in a Sheriff's Office database as belonging to Frederick. The number had been entered into the database after a Clearwater police officer had questioned Frederick when he spotted him walking alone in the early morning of June 11, Gualtieri said. The officer got his cell phone number.

Once detectives identified Frederick, they placed him under constant surveillance. He was arrested Wednesday at Hit Promotion Products, a Largo company where he worked.

In interviews with detectives, Frederick "made admissions," Gualtieri said. He also told detectives where they could find the murder weapon and Robert's car keys. A search for those items was ongoing Wednesday evening, Gualtieri said.

Frederick has no prior criminal history in Florida. Sheriff's officials described him as a transient whose last known address was in New York.

News of the arrest was welcomed by Robert's parents, Mark and Lori Robert of Greene, Maine.

"Today is their 25th wedding anniversary," said Cindy Boisvert, Adrianne Robert's aunt. "I think my brother said this is the best gift they could have received."

Robert had moved from Maine to Florida in 2007 and had attended the University of South Florida, her family said. She had planned to move out of the apartment she shared with Leffue and move in with her boyfriend.

Her family is planning a celebration for Saturday to honor her life.

"They're doing as good as can be expected," Robert's uncle, Ron Boisvert, said of the family. "I don't think it will fully hit home until the service has been completed."

Reach Dan Sullivan at (727) 893-8321 or dsullivan@tampabay.com.

Detectives follow clues to find suspect in woman's slaying in Clearwater 07/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 11:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]