HOLIDAY — Sheriff's deputies on Thursday charged a man they say murdered an 18-year-old man found in an abandoned car two weeks ago.
James Fitzgerald Barron, 21, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge after he told a witness that he shot Cedric Saunders on Dec. 9 and then covered up evidence of the killing, according to his arrest report.
Barron had set up a meeting with Saunders to buy cocaine, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report. The men met twice, and Barron told the witness he shot Saunders four times with a handgun and stole 2 ounces of powder cocaine. Saunders was found dead that morning in the driver's seat of a blue Kia Rio near the corner of Merrilon Drive and Wellington Drive in Holiday Lake Estates.
Barron also told the witness that he took Saunders' keys so he could get into his house, authorities said.
During a recorded phone call set up by sheriff's deputies, Barron told the witness that there were "definitely no shell casings" left at the scene. When asked about getting rid of the gun, he said, "everything was gone that night."
About a week after the killing, Barron was arrested on multiple cocaine-related charges. While in custody, deputies secured a search warrant for Barron's home and found blood-spattered keys that matched the Kia Rio in which Saunders' body was found.
When questioned by detectives, Barron denied meeting or speaking with Saunders the night of the murder, the report said. He said he last spoke with him about five or six days earlier.
Cell phone records show that Saunders received three calls from Barron's phone within 30 minutes of the slaying. Barron said he pays for the phone but sold it to another man several weeks ago.
Barron was arrested in February on four charges of attempted murder. According to an arrest report, he fired two rounds into a car with four people inside after an argument at a gas station. That report listed Barron as a member of the "Lake Boyz" gang.
Prosecutors later reduced the charges to aggravated assault, and he was acquitted in July on all four counts. According to court records he pleaded guilty to two lesser charges, resisting arrest and felonious possession of a gun. He was sentenced to time served.
Barron, of Holiday, was being held Thursday without bail at the Pasco County jail.
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.