Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

One of St. Pete's most wanted murder suspects is a 14-year-old boy

ST. PETERSBURG — One of the most wanted murder suspects in the city right now is a 14-year-old boy.

Police on Monday named Franco Harris Thomas of Pinellas Park as the third suspect in the killing of a 20-year-old college student earlier this month. Authorities said Thomas participated in the July 8 attack on Jeremy Mayers in front of a home in the Coquina Key neighborhood.

Since then, police said, detectives have been in touch with Thomas' family, who promised to turn him over to authorities.

But that hasn't happened, police spokesman Mike Puetz said Monday.

Now, police want the public's help. Officials are offering a reward for information that leads to the teen's arrest.

"Detectives do suspect that Thomas' family is fully aware of his location and may be actively hiding him to avoid arrest," Puetz said.

Thomas' family could not be reached for comment Monday.

A grand jury has indicted Thomas and two other St. Petersburg teens, Brittany Detwiler and Scionti Hill, both 16, on charges of first-degree murder in connection with Mayers' death.

Detwiler and Hill were arrested earlier this month. Prosecutors have said they plan to prosecute them as adults.

Officials have described the attack on Mayers, who worked at a Sweetbay Supermarket and was studying music and business at St. Petersburg College, as "heinous."

Detwiler, who Mayers had recently met through a social network on the Internet, lured Mayers to Coquina Key to rob him, police said.

When Mayers arrived, police said, the teens beat him with a shotgun, choked him until he passed out and stole his car, wallet and cell phone.

Police investigating an unrelated hit-and-run crash caused by two joy-riding kids later that morning in the same neighborhood found Mayers unconscious in the front yard of 3632 Sea Robin Drive SE.

The 2009 Lakewood High School graduate was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead.

Police uncovered information that led them to the teens.

Public records show Detwiler does not have a criminal record. Hill has arrests dating to when he was 9 years old for crimes such as battery and car theft.

Thomas, Puetz said, has a previous misdemeanor battery arrest from last fall. No details about that case were available Monday.

Anyone with information about the case or Thomas' whereabouts can call police at (727) 893-7780.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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