Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Public safety

Family of slain Tarpon Springs man still seeks justice in case

TARPON SPRINGS — Dena Tingling arrived at the fourth-floor courtroom Dec. 16 for what she thought would be a hearing related to the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of fatally stabbing her elderly father, Eddie Dixon, more than a year ago.

Instead, she watched Richard Brockington, 46, plead guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

For Tingling, 46, and her family, Brockington's sentence raises questions about the Tarpon Springs Police Department's investigation into Dixon's death.

"We want answers," Tingling said.

Documents recently obtained by the Tampa Bay Times reveal that the case against Brockington was based solely on circumstantial evidence, which prompted the state to reduce the charge.

"This case was very complex from the very beginning," said Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert Kochen. "I feel really bad for the family. I understand what they're going through. I'm sure they wanted either the death penalty or life in prison. But when you look at the case, the state has to make a judgment call and we supported that decision."

• • •

At 73 years old, Eddie Dixon walked gingerly with a walker, but he was well-known at North Ring Village, a public housing complex on Ring Avenue east of Alt. U.S. 19.

A Vietnam veteran and retired Tarpon Springs public works employee, Dixon often gave neighbors money and asked them to buy beer for him. He usually let them keep the change, according to Tarpon Springs police documents.

"My dad," Tingling said, "he was such a giving man."

Every morning, a nurse arrived and gave him his medicine. On the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, she knocked repeatedly on his door, but Dixon didn't answer. She opened the apartment and found Dixon's bloodied body on the tile floor, just 3 feet from the door, police records show.

Officers arrived and secured the scene. Footprints littered the floor. Dixon had been stabbed about 15 times. An autopsy concluded that the stab wounds punctured his heart and lungs.

Dixon's pants had been pulled down and the pockets turned out. His right sock was also pulled down, indicating "someone had gone through them searching for money or other items to steal," wrote Tarpon homicide detective Barry Wireman, who was transferred to the agency's patrol division Jan. 30.

Dixon's wallet was missing. So was a large kitchen knife with a worn wooden handle.

Tingling told detectives her father kept large amounts of money tucked away in his wallet and socks. Neighbors were "well aware" that he always carried cash, she said.

Brockington's name emerged when detectives interviewed Dixon's neighbor, Veronica Joe. She told them Brockington had arrived at her apartment the night of Dec. 6 with blood stains on his long-sleeved shirt. He was carrying $20 and $50 bills.

During his first interaction with police, Brockington said he sometimes went over to Dixon's to drink beers, but hadn't been over in a while. Police swabbed his cheek for DNA. Brockington gave them his shoes.

"He appeared to be very nervous while we were speaking with him," a detective wrote in a report.

Brockington was staying with his then-girlfriend, Diane Hampton, in her apartment in the complex. During an interview with detectives, she told them Brockington "seemed on edge and very nervous" the night Dixon was killed. He had also described to her how Dixon's body was lying on the floor, police records state.

When police inspected the surveillance video at the complex, they saw footage of a man, later identified as Brockington, ambling in the courtyard outside Dixon's apartment.

At 10:08 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2012, video surveillance captures Brockington walking toward Dixon's apartment. Two minutes later, he is back in the courtyard, rifling through what looks like a wallet. He hides some items in the bushes.

Moments later, Brockington knocks on Joe's door and she lets him in. Police later learned Joe was giving him crack cocaine, according to records.

The next morning, before Dixon's nurse opens his apartment door, Brockington returns to the bushes to retrieve something. Police looked at the video again later and realized Brockington may have also been holding a knife.

On April 3, Brockington called Tarpon Springs police dispatch and said he was depressed and suicidal. Detectives arrived at the complex and found him standing near a suitcase and backpack, appearing like he was preparing to move out, according to records. Then a detective asked about the night of Dec. 6.

Brockington started to cry and said he would only speak about Dixon's slaying with a lawyer present.

He was arrested.

• • •

But the first-degree murder charge didn't stand up in court.

"We were hoping some evidence would come forth forensically to give us a better shot to prove the higher degree of murder," said Pinellas-Pasco assistant state attorney Mark McGarry.

Police did not find Brockington's DNA in Dixon's home. Partial fingerprints collected at the scene "did not appear to be of any value," records show. DNA wasn't detected on Brockington's shoes. The murder weapon and Dixon's wallet were never recovered.

And the video, which police considered their strongest piece of evidence, was not enough to support a first-degree murder charge. Detectives initially assumed that Brockington was holding a knife, but the video is dark and grainy.

"What you think is a knife, looks like a knife, but are you sure? The quality was a big problem," Kochen said. "We were working with what we had."

Another problem with the video: Dixon's apartment door was not part of the footage.

"We had (Brockington) in the area, we had him doing suspicious activity. We didn't have anything at the crime scene necessarily," McGarry said. "We had a circumstantial case at best."

Tingling, Dixon's daughter, said Brockington's short sentence doesn't bring her family closure.

"I still want justice for my father," she said. "Something else could have been done on this."

She visited her father often, always shopping for him and cooking his favorite dinner, smothered pork chops, on Sundays.

"I miss my dad's phone calls. He called me every day," she said. "He had people that loved him."

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmore[email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

 
Comments

Hernando sheriff: Shooter injures three; in standoff with SWAT

BROOKSVILLE — A shooter was on the loose Tuesday night after injuring three victims, according to Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.The sheriff would not say if there were any fatalities.The Sheriff’s Office received a report about the at about 9 p.m. Dep...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

HOLIDAY — A neighborhood dispute ended in gunfire when one neighbor executed another on Tuesday, deputies said, as the victim kneeled in his own front yard begging for his life.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the execution, which took place ju...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 7 hours ago
Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and NHL All-Star Weekend overlap Saturday in downtown Tampa. Here are highlights of what to know before you go.GETTING THEREThe parade route runs generally along Bayshore Boulevard north to Ashley Street (In blue on t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

CLEARWATER — Officials have reopened U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. except for the inside lane.  The entire highway was closed for a brief period Tuesday while workers cleaned up a chemical spill after a Terminix truck flipped over. According t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California man has been sentenced to five months in federal prison for smuggling three highly venomous king cobras hidden in potato chip canisters through the mail.In a plea agreement, Rodrigo Franco admitted smuggling anothe...
Published: 01/23/18
He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

A Miami resident lost control of his truck and tumbled into Tampa Bay Tuesday morning — and walked away unscathed.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Osvaldo Jares, 25, fell asleep at the wheel of his 2002 Ford F150 before losing control and dri...
Published: 01/23/18
Parents of 12-year-old Florida girl say she was bullied into suicide

Parents of 12-year-old Florida girl say she was bullied into suicide

Gabriella "Gabbie" Green went to her mother, Tanya Green, for advice on some "girl drama" and harsh text and social media messages she was receiving from classmates at Surfside Middle School in Panama City Beach.Less than an hour after that conversat...
Published: 01/23/18

Truck carrying frozen chickens catches fire on I-75 in Brandon

Southbound lanes on Interstate 75 were closed in Brandon early Tuesday morning after a semi-trailer carrying frozen chickens caught fire.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 52-year-old Brian Keith Jester, of Venice, was driving southbound near S...
Published: 01/23/18

Alaska hit by 7.9 earthquake; tsunami warning canceled

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Alaska’s Kodiak Island early Tuesday, prompting a tsunami warning for a large swath of the state’s coast.Officials at the National Tsunami Center canceled the warning after a few tense hours a...
Published: 01/23/18