Hillsborough murder suspect's father saw trouble coming for daughter

PINELLAS PARK — On Thanksgiving, just a few hours before she was charged with murder, Erika T. Sanez ate turkey and stuffing with her father, sister and 1-year-old son.

In recent weeks, she had told her family that a man named Travis Weller had been asking her for a date. Sanez, 20, said she met him at a nightclub in Tampa. He flashed lots of money. He drove a BMW.

Late Thursday, the family says, all of them — including Sanez — went to bed in their small Pinellas Park apartment. But Sanez didn't stay.

She headed for Hillsborough County to meet Weller, according to investigators. She took him to a vacant home near W Linebaugh Avenue and the Veterans Expressway. At the house on Plum Grove Court, deputies say, three men waited to rob Weller.

But their plan went awry. Weller, 22, of North Tampa, pulled a gun and shot one of them, Marlin Walker, in the chest. Sanez took Walker, a 20-year-old Tampa resident, to nearby Town & Country Hospital around 4:40 a.m. Friday, where he died.

Sanez admitted her role in setting up the robbery, according to Hillsborough sheriff's investigators. She has since been charged with second-degree murder. On Saturday, detectives were still working to identify the other suspects.

Sanez's family was distraught Saturday morning. In some ways, though, they didn't seem surprised. About a month ago, she began hanging out with some men her father, Del, didn't approve of.

"I told her she didn't need to be going to Tampa," Del Sanez, 47, said Saturday. "There's nothing but trouble in Tampa."

"I know," she responded. "I know."

Erika Sanez, the family said, didn't have issues with drugs but often drank. She was a good mother, they said, and eventually wanted to work as a certified nursing assistant.

When asked why she might have taken part in a robbery, her father said: "Just probably money."

Once an accomplished cheerleader, she fell into trouble during her teenage years.

Del Sanez said he moved his family to Pinellas Park to keep her away from bad influences across the bridge. When she was 14 or 15, he sent her to live with his parents in a remote part of North Carolina. For several months, he said, she also lived in a local girl's home.

In 2010, as a juvenile, she pleaded guilty to burglary.

She's now being held on $250,000 bail and could face up to life in prison if convicted.

"She's not a killer," Del Sanez said. "She made a choice and now she has to live with it."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at jcox@tampabay.com.

Hillsborough murder suspect's father saw trouble coming for daughter 11/30/13 [Last modified: Saturday, November 30, 2013 8:59pm]

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