Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Lakeland man arrested in killing of entertainer 'Wanda'

TAMPA — Friends and family of Anthony Jerome Lee, who gained a following performing as drag queen Wanda in Tampa, South Beach and elsewhere, said they were breathing easier this weekend after a man was arrested in his killing.

According to Tampa police, Deandre Tolliver, 23, of Lakeland was one of three suspects who arrived at the East Tampa home where Lee was staying on May 28. While two stayed in the car, one went to the home at 3911 E Genessee St.

Lee answered the door, but was forced inside by the suspect. During a struggle, Lee, 49, was shot, police said.

Tampa police did not return calls Sunday to explain more fully the circumstances of the shooting and the role Tolliver is accused of playing in it.

As mourners gathered Saturday for Lee's funeral at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, word spread that police had a suspect in custody.

"Today we laid him to rest and GOD answered my prayers and TPD did their job," Lee's sister, Barbara Lee-Thomas, wrote in a Facebook post. "My GOD will answer prayers."

Tolliver, who has a violent criminal past and recently went on felony probation, faces first-degree murder and robbery charges. Investigators said they are looking for other suspects.

Throughout the investigation, friends and employees at Hamburger Mary's, an Ybor City restaurant where "Wanda" performed, have anxiously awaited word on the case and shared with police what they could.

Lee was a regular at the restaurant, often appearing on the small stage decked out in a blond wig and glittery gowns to lip-sync to Whitney Houston.

"I was just shocked," said Hamburger Mary's owner Kurt King, who had known Lee for 22 years. "I heard about it 20 minutes after it happened. I didn't believe it until a friend called me and said it was true."

Investigators told him Lee was an unintended victim, he said. Lee had gone to the Genessee Street house to cook dinner for a female friend who said she was ill, King said.

As the suspect pounded on the door, Lee went to answer it, unaware that a gunman was looking for the woman to settle a dispute, he said.

"It was just like Wanda to be cooking for somebody," added James Bailey, a friend and bartender at Hamburger Mary's. "She was always cooking for us."

Hamburger Mary's held a fundraiser Thursday to help pay the $11,000 cost for Lee's funeral.

So far, the group has raised $9,000, King said.

"We'll raise the rest. We're just trying to help the family deal with this," he said. "The Police Ddepartment, I just feel they've done a great job."

Tolliver has a criminal history dating to 2004 when he was arrested on drug charges by Polk County deputies. Other arrests include aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated assault, battery, burglary, marijuana possession, grand theft, resisting arrest and failure to appear in court, records show.

Tolliver, who was in state prison from July 2011 until January 2012 for a conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, was on probation at the time of his latest arrest. Records show he was scheduled to be on probation until Oct. 1, 2014.

News researcher Tim Rozgonyi and Miami Herald staff writer Steve Rothaus contributed to this report. Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 661-2454.

 
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