Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Holiday man spends 6 days in jail for crime he didn't commit

Christian Lebron-Vega, left, sits beside his mother, Yarmila Vega, in their Holiday home.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Christian Lebron-Vega, left, sits beside his mother, Yarmila Vega, in their Holiday home.

HOLIDAY — Christian Lebron-Vega lives with his mother and doesn't drive. He walks to his job at a dollar store from their apartment and likes to play video games with his friends, but otherwise he keeps to himself.

He says he has never been to Hudson, half an hour north on U.S. 19.

But on the night of July 24, Lebron-Vega, 20, was at work when deputies arrested him for an attempted murder at a Hudson nightclub.

On June 16, there was a shooting outside of Venom Saloon. A man named Thomas Fazzi got into an altercation in the parking lot and was shot three times. A fourth bullet grazed his hand. In the hospital, he told detectives he thought it was a man named Christian Lebron.

Fazzi, 18, described him as 5 feet 3 and about 100 pounds with a light brown complexion and multiple tattoos, some on his hands.

Detectives followed the trail to Lebron-Vega's Facebook page. Fazzi and his mother both identified Lebron-Vega as the shooter from an ID picture in a photo lineup.

That was enough evidence to make the arrest.

But Lebron-Vega — who is eight inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than the description — wasn't the right guy.

He would spend the next six days in jail while it got sorted out.

"I was just in shock," Lebron-Vega, who has no criminal record, said in an interview at his home. "I said, 'Why me?' I didn't do anything. I was never in that club."

Deputies took him to jail and strip-searched him. No one questioned him that night. He said he wasn't even allowed to make a phone call.

The helplessness, he said, was overwhelming.

Lebron-Vega's mother, Yarmila Vega, found out her son had been arrested when a deputy called her. She couldn't sleep that first night, she said. Lebron-Vega said the only thing that got him through his incarceration was hearing his mother's voice on the phone every night. Without that, he said, he wouldn't have made it.

Pasco County sheriff's Capt. Mel Eakley confirmed that there are two men named Christian Lebron; however, it is not known if the other man's name is hyphenated or not.

Fazzi's mother, Amy, told the Times that she realized deputies had arrested the wrong person when she saw his mug shot on the Sheriff's Office website. She and Fazzi went to detectives and recanted their story. That was July 26, a Friday.

The State Attorney's Office wanted to be sure the witnesses hadn't been coerced into taking back their statement, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said. So he waited until he could get them in a room and put them under oath. That didn't happen until Tuesday, July 30.

"We bring in the victims. They are quite candid that it's the wrong guy. They describe him differently. We find out he has no tattoos on his hands," Halkitis said. "Immediately, without a minute going by, we say, 'Let's (release) this guy.' "

During that harrowing week, Lebron-Vega's mother fought hard to find out what was going on. She said she's considering legal action.

"I just want my son's name to be clean," she said. "For them to come and mess up his record like that — it's not right."

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Melanie Snow said the agency followed correct protocol.

"The arrest was made after probable cause was established because the victim and the witness positively identified the suspect," she said.

Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229, Jsilman@tampabay.com or @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

Holiday man spends 6 days in jail for crime he didn't commit 08/06/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays relishing surprise status

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays on Friday played their first post-All-Star Game contest at Tropicana Field while holding a playoff spot since Sept. 23, 2013.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 21, 2017.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.