Pinellas authorities link same suspect to Lealman murder and St. Petersburg shooting

Shortly after Pinellas deputies discovered Destynee Nekole Burkes dead inside a Lealman hotel room last week, detectives zeroed in on a suspect: Jamaal Jenkins, the Gulfport woman's on-again, off-again boyfriend.

Shortly after St. Petersburg police officers found Tieyannie Dewitte Hollis with a gunshot wound to his head Monday at a notorious apartment complex, they too developed a suspect: Jenkins, who was fighting with Hollis over Burkes.

Now Jenkins, a 25-year-old who often stays in hotels around St. Petersburg, is being sought by the county's two largest law enforcement agencies.

"He's a bad guy," Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Tuesday afternoon during a news conference with St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon. "He needs to get off the streets of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County before he kills someone else."

Both Harmon and Gualtieri have secured warrants for Jenkins' arrest — on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder. But they say they need the public's help to find him.

Gualtieri and Harmon said they have reason to be concerned. They are certain Jenkins, who has a long criminal record, knows police are looking for him. They also don't know who else could be a target.

"He's made statements that he's not going to prison," Gualtieri said.

It was unclear Tuesday how long Jenkins and Burkes dated. What is clear is that during one of Jenkins' stints behind bars last year, the young woman turned her romantic interest elsewhere — to Hollis.

"There were many issues between them because of this triangle relationship," Gualtieri said, adding that things seemed to escalate in the past several months.

It appeared Burkes, a home health aide who was pursuing a nursing degree, continued to see both men.

In early December, Gualtieri said, Burkes and Jenkins spent a night in a hotel together.

But a day after Christmas, Burkes was sitting at an intersection in Pinellas Park when another vehicle rammed the back of her car, causing her to spin out, according to a police report. Witnesses identified the man as Jenkins. Officers referred aggravated battery charges against Jenkins to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, Pinellas Park police Sgt. Brian Unmisig said Tuesday.

On Jan. 6, the sheriff said, Jenkins and Hollis had a "verbal altercation" at a park in St. Petersburg.

Early the next morning, Burkes checked into room No. 120 at the La Quinta motel, 4999 34th St. N, in Lealman.

Jenkins joined her, Gualtieri said, but left exactly 30 minutes later. He was shirtless, and he was driving a silver 2012 Chrysler 200 that Burkes had rented.

Hotel staff discovered the young woman's body inside the room nearly 12 hours later. Burkes, Gualtieri said, had been shot in the head with a small-caliber gun.

"This was targeted," he said. "It was an execution-style killing."

Guatieri said detectives quickly zeroed in on Jenkins. They reached out to St. Petersburg police because of his ties to the city.

They also interviewed Hollis several times.

Detectives could tell via cell phone records that Jenkins traveled to the Orlando area in Burkes' rental, Gualtieri said. But they believe that once there, he switched tags with a car that was the same make and model but was gray instead of silver.

But authorities never publicly released the name of their murder suspect. Gualtieri said that was a tactical decision.

"We were tracking him. We thought we were pretty close to him," the sheriff said. "We weren't close enough though."

Authorities now believe Jenkins slipped back into St. Petersburg, where he has family, and went after Hollis on Monday.

St. Petersburg police said the 31-year-old was visiting the Mariners Pointe Apartments when someone came up to him and shot him in the head at about 12:30 p.m. A security guard was shot and killed at the same complex in May 2011.

Hollis remained in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center on Tuesday; Harmon said he wasn't likely to survive.

Harmon said a small caliber gun was used in Monday's shooting as well. No gun has been recovered in either incident.

Officials also do not know if Jenkins still has Burke's rental. But they are still looking for it. They believe it has a Florida license plate number of K911WU.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

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To help

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call authorities at (727) 893-7780 or (727) 582-6200.

Pinellas authorities link same suspect to Lealman murder and St. Petersburg shooting 01/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 11:09pm]

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