The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office revealed for the first time Wednesday that there may be a link between two Sunday night crimes: the execution-style killing of a martial arts instructor in Tarpon Springs and the shooting of a man who was watching TV in his Palm Harbor home.
"We believe there may be a tie between this homicide and our shooting" in Palm Harbor, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.
Jim Freeman, 40, was shot in the face about 6:40 p.m. Sunday night while watching Goodfellas in his home in the Glen Eagles subdivision. He remains hospitalized at Bayfront Medical Center.
And less than four hours later, police say, a young man gunned down 33-year-old Joseph Brignoli in front of Brignoli's home on Flying Fish Lane in Tarpon Springs.
Early Tuesday morning, Tarpon Springs police arrested 20-year-old Christopher Joseph Kubiak on charges of first-degree murder and resisting an officer with violence in connection with Brignoli's death. The rifle used in the shooting belonged to Brignoli and was found at the crime scene, said Tarpon Springs police spokesman Capt. Jeff Young.
Barreda wouldn't elaborate about why deputies think there may be a connection between the two cases.
"We're working very closely with Tarpon Springs as they continue their investigation," Barreda said.
She revealed the possible link while explaining why the Sheriff's Office could not release to the St. Petersburg Times three reports filed by the agency on the day of the killing and another the day after. All are linked to Brignoli.
One of the reports on Sunday was for an incident classified as "juvenile trouble," according to the Sheriff's Office. Another that day is described as information for the Crimes Against Children unit. Two others are categorized as information regarding a homicide and "assist other agency."
The Tarpon Springs Police Department had said it was called to Brignoli's home to assist the Sheriff's Office about 3 a.m. Sunday, several hours before Brignoli's death. But neither agency has provided details about that visit.
Barreda said the reports could not be released for two reasons. First, because they were part of Tarpon Springs' active investigation. And second, because they were linked to the Sheriff's Office's own open Palm Harbor case.
Barreda had said previously that it appeared someone in Palm Harbor was shooting at a vehicle and one of those shots penetrated a wall and hit Freeman.
Freeman, who had surgery after the incident, has 17 stitches in his left cheek.
The bullet is still lodged in his right check, his wife Denise said.
Times staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.