Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Fugitive Jamaal Jenkins, accused in two Pinellas killings, captured in Louisiana

CLEARWATER — Jamaal Jenkins, who evaded authorities for a month while on the run from two murder charges, was captured Friday in Louisiana.

Members of a U.S. Marshals fugitive task force arrested Jenkins at an apartment Friday afternoon in Metairie, La., near New Orleans, authorities said.

The 25-year-old is accused in the January slayings of his ex-girlfriend and a man she was dating. Jenkins had been the subject of a high-profile manhunt, with both the St. Petersburg Police Department and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office looking for him.

"What's really important is that this guy — this killer — is off the street," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at an evening news conference. "We said we would get him, and we did."

Even though authorities had offered a $50,000 reward for Jenkins' capture, his arrest was the result of detective work, the sheriff said.

The trail of investigative leads that culminated with the fugitive's arrest began earlier this week, when investigators identified a cellphone number that they believed belonged to Jenkins. They requested records of every number that had been dialed from that cell phone and linked each number with an address, Gualtieri said.

Fugitive task force members then went to each address, showed Jenkins's picture and asked if anyone had seen him.

In Metairie, multiple people said Jenkins was there, Gualtieri said. They saw him regularly, sitting on the front porch of an apartment, Gualtieri said. The marshals then went to the apartment complex and arrested Jenkins without incident.

Police notified relatives of Destynee Nekole Burkes and Tieyannie Dewitte Hollis, whom Jenkins is accused of killing, after he was taken into custody, said St. Petersburg police Maj. Mike Kovacsev. It was welcome news for both families, he said.

Burkes, a 24-year-old nursing student from Gulfport, was found dead Jan. 7 in a room at La Quinta Inn on 34th Street in Lealman. She had been shot in the back of the head.

Detectives immediately suspected Jenkins, who was described as Burkes' on-again, off-again boyfriend. When Jenkins, who has a lengthy criminal record, served a brief stint in jail last year, Burkes began to date Hollis, 31, authorities said. After Jenkins was released, she apparently continued to see both men.

Things between the three became heated in recent months. The day after Christmas, Jenkins was alleged to have rammed a car into the back of Burkes' car while she was sitting at an intersection in Pinellas Park, police said. That netted him an aggravated battery charge.

On Jan. 6, he and Hollis had a "verbal altercation" in a St. Petersburg park, authorities said. Burkes was killed the next day. Afterward, Jenkins drove to Orlando in a silver Chrysler 200, which Burkes had rented shortly before her death, authorities said. Once there, he replaced the car's tag with one taken from another car.

A week later, he returned to St. Petersburg and shot Hollis outside an apartment complex, police said. Detectives believe Jenkins was concerned that Hollis was cooperating with authorities in the aggravated battery case, Gualtieri said, which was part of the motive for the killing.

After Hollis was killed, Jenkins stayed at hotels along U.S. 19 and frequented strip clubs, Gualtieri said. Investigators believe he left the area after the murders were publicized in a Jan. 15 news conference.

He seemed surprised when he was arrested, the sheriff said. It was unclear how long Jenkins had been in Louisiana or if anyone helped him remain at large.

On Friday night, detectives were traveling to Louisiana to interview him. He will be held there pending extradition to Pinellas County.

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