Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Family mourns Tampa lifeguard found dead in apartment

TAMPA — For three days, Cynthia Felton's son did not return her calls.

They lived in neighboring apartments along Sligh Avenue. Her son, Dametrius Edwards, had given her a key.

Worried about Edwards, she unlocked the door to his first-floor apartment at 7017 San Ramon Place about 5 p.m. Monday. The kitchen was empty. So were the dining room and her grandson's room.

But Edwards' bedroom was shut. He never closed his door.

She opened it and found her son lying on his bed.

The room was dark. Then she saw the blood. Felton felt Edwards for a pulse, but found none.

"I knew when I saw him," she said Wednesday through tears, "that he was already gone."

Edwards, 43, was dead with a gunshot wound to his upper torso, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

As the family grieved Wednesday, they also wrestled with thoughts about the person they suspect is responsible for Edwards' death: his son and namesake Dametrius Edwards Jr. The family has worried about his mental health for years.

Detectives were still investigating Wednesday and trying to determine what, if any, connection Felton's grandson had to his father's death.

The son, 22, remained at the Hillsborough County jail Wednesday on unrelated charges without bail.

Dametrius Edwards' family remembered him as a loving father who enjoyed his 25-year career as a lifeguard, most recently working at Cyrus Greene Pool in Tampa.

"I just want to know what happened," said Edwards' sister Nikki Felton. "So many people are hurt right now because of this situation."

The young man the family believes killed Edwards was his only son. They had a good relationship, loved ones said, until they boy reached his teenage years.

"Once he got into high school," said Edwards' other sister, Cashandra Edwards, "he just drifted away."

The boy grew distant from family members, who said he has a history of mental illness. If his father called, he refused to pick up. He told relatives that phones were tapped and police were following him. He walked with his head down.

Then the arrests began.

He has been arrested in the past on vehicle theft, battery, burglary and trespassing charges, state records show.

Nikki Felton told her brother to distrust his son. She asked him to make the boy move out, to sleep with his door locked.

But Edwards didn't listen, she said. "He wanted to help him as much as he could."

Early Tuesday, after receiving a tip, deputies found his son hiding in the cab of his father's 2005 Nissan pickup in the parking lot of a Sonic restaurant on E Bearss Avenue. Cynthia Felton said the truck had not been in her son's parking space since Sunday.

Edwards' son was arrested on outstanding felony warrants for burglary, grand theft and violation of a domestic violence injunction.

On Wednesday, Felton and her daughters sifted through old photographs.

Some were modeling shots of Edwards, a broad-shouldered man who loved to work out. There was a large photograph of Edwards and his girlfriend of 17 years, Stacy Serrano.

Others were older. From happier days when he and his son, still a boy, embraced and smiled together.

Edwards' sister Cashandra wiped away her tears.

"My brother's love wasn't enough for him," she said.

Times staff writer Will Hobson and staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

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