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Father of man accused in killings sees son through detectives' eyes

SEFFNER — The syringes started going missing a few days before all this happened, Jim Foster says. He was going to talk to his son about it, but then the detectives came and turned the whole place upside down and took Tony Foster away and the next night they charged him with killing Stick and Stick's roommate and now Jim doesn't know when he'll get the chance.

But even if his son was using again, Jim Foster says that still doesn't explain why he would have killed his friend Joshua Deas, 24 (better known as "Stick" for his lanky frame) and Deas' roommate, Kenneth Simmons Jr., 34, last weekend like the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says he did.

Tony Foster was not violent, not even on cocaine, Jim says. And Stick was his best friend, the guy who biked almost 20 miles from Seffner to Gibsonton years ago to play basketball and sleep over.

Karen Deas, Joshua's mother, is equally perplexed. She never knew Tony to be violent. But Karen Deas and Jim Foster know the case the Sheriff's Office says it has against Charles Anthony Foster, details revealed Friday with the release of search warrants obtained for the Foster residence and the car of Simmons, Deas' roommate.

Jim Foster knows it doesn't look good for his son.

•••

Last Saturday, according to the warrants, the day before the bodies were found, Joshua Deas filed a fraud report with the Sheriff's Office. Someone had taken $480 from his bank account. The money, according to the bank, had been withdrawn from a Circle K in Seffner. Surveillance video showed a man at the ATM the store's manager and Karen Deas later identified as Tony Foster.

When the detectives arrived at the scene of the double murder Sunday evening, they were greeted by Karen Deas and Tony Foster, 23. A detective noticed dark stains on Foster's gray sweatshirt. Ravioli, he said. Then he changed his story. It was blood, from his arm, from when he shot up cocaine earlier.

The detectives asked him what else he had done Sunday.

Foster said he'd tried to find a job that morning, was unsuccessful, then went to the mobile home he shares with his girlfriend and father and got high. He admitted the drug use violated his probation for a conviction of providing a false name to a metal recycler.

After shooting up, Foster said, he stayed home until Deas came looking for her son.

Foster said he visited Joshua Deas and Simmons most afternoons to play video games and cards. He'd been there the night before, but left about 6:30 p.m. so Deas could rest for work the next day. Deas never showed up for his shift at Walmart in Valrico.

Detectives suspect Foster is lying. Here's how they think he spent his weekend, according to the warrants:

Sometime overnight Saturday, he killed Deas and Simmons, bludgeoning their upper bodies with a sharp object, like an ax or a hatchet.

At 8:15 a.m. Sunday, a man tried to use Deas' bank card to withdraw $100 from a Bank of America in Seffner. The man in surveillance video looks like Foster, detectives say, and he's driving a vehicle similar to Simmons' green Isuzu Rodeo missing from the crime scene.

About 10 a.m. Sunday, Foster tried unsuccessfully to cash a personal check, written to him, from Simmons at an Amscot in Seffner. Amscot kept copies of the check, Foster's state ID and thumbprint. Detectives later found the checkbook in Simmons' car, parked in a gas station a half-mile away from the crime scene, the warrant states.

At 12:07 p.m. Sunday, Foster pawned a 32-inch Vizio television for $60 at Value Pawn & Jewelry in Brandon. The television belonged to Deas, he was paying for it on Walmart layaway. Detectives matched the serial number.

When presented with this evidence, according to the warrant, Foster "admitted he was a thief but did not kill anyone."

He denied driving Simmons' car, but admitted taking the checkbook. When detectives told him they found the checkbook in Simmons' car, he did not respond.

•••

Jim Foster has heard all of this.

"He's going to need a good lawyer," he said Friday of his son.

Jim Foster, 55, is diabetic and has had a stroke. He speaks between deep breaths. Tony was his caretaker, filling out the medical forms, scheduling appointments, administering medicine. He and Tony have grown close since Elizabeth Pittman — Tony's mother, Jim's longtime girlfriend — died suddenly in 2009. Her death took them by surprise. Jim was always the one with the health problems.

"Why does God take a healthy person like her and leave me here to suffer, and then do this to Tony?" He drew a deep breath and thought on it.

"It's like everyone in my life is dying but me."

Jim Foster does not know how many years he has left, and he does not know where he will spend them, but he does know this: Every chance he gets to see his son Tony, he will. Jim Foster did one really bad thing in his life, he says — when he was 19 he helped a guy rob a convenience store. He served five years in prison. His parents never missed a visitation. Neither will he.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or whobson@tampabay.com.

Father of man accused in killings sees son through detectives' eyes 03/29/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 12:09am]
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