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Robbery was behind murder of two teens, Tampa police say in announcing arrest

Tavari Grant is led from the Tampa Police Department to a waiting squad car on Thursday. Grant will face murder charges in the killing of Kiara and Jeremi Brito. He and an accomplice, Charles Stephan Waits, stole several items from their house, police said.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Tavari Grant is led from the Tampa Police Department to a waiting squad car on Thursday. Grant will face murder charges in the killing of Kiara and Jeremi Brito. He and an accomplice, Charles Stephan Waits, stole several items from their house, police said.

TAMPA

Tattoos of a dollar sign and skull scarred both sides of Tavari Grant's face as police escorted him to a waiting cruiser Thursday night.

Money was the motive for him in murdering teenage siblings Kiara and Jeremi Brito early Sunday morning, Tampa police said.

Grant, 18, has been charged as the man who pulled the trigger in the robbery of their South Tampa home. Another man, Charles Stephan Waits, 19, whom investigators questioned this week, is also considered a murder suspect, police said.

Tampa police said that just before 6 a.m., Grant arrived at 3021 W Van Buren Drive north of MacDill Air Force Base with Waits, who knew the victims. And Waits persuaded the Britos to open the door and let them in, police said.

A short time later, Grant shot both siblings in the head, said Laura McElroy, a police spokeswoman.

"These are ruthless, brutal killers. There really is no reason that can be given as to why you would take the lives of these children," McElroy said.

Kiara, 16, died at the scene. Jeremi, 13, was removed from life support Monday and died at Tampa General Hospital.

"It is believed some cash was taken from the home," McElroy said. The robbers also took jewelry, electronics and other items, she said.

Witnesses got part of a license tag number from a vehicle believed to be involved in the shooting.

That led to Waits, who also lives in South Tampa.

For four hours Thursday afternoon, police searched Grant's home at 2709 N Lincoln Ave. and "found incriminating evidence" to go along with physical evidence tying him to the crime, McElroy said.

Grant "showed absolutely no remorse" during questioning, McElroy said. "He gave several inconsistent stories. He lied to detectives. He was not cooperative."

As a juvenile, Grant was charged with robbery in May 2010. Since turning 18, he has landed in the Hillsborough County jail three times.

In the first trip, in August 2010, he was charged with giving a false name to a law enforcement officer. In February and March, he was charged with marijuana possession.

The tattoos on his cheeks first appear in his March booking photo.

In a different time, Grant played football for the 2008 season, his junior year, at Armwood Senior High School in Seffner. A running back, he was the team's second-leading rusher with seven touchdowns in a 12-1 season.

Defensive coordinator Matt Thompson called him "a solid backup guy."

Head coach Sean Callahan didn't immediately respond to a text message.

Waits, a former football player at Spoto High School, turned himself in at an undisclosed location Monday after police announced they were looking for him.

Officers had issued an arrest warrant for him on a cocaine possession charge, and he was being held without bail late Thursday on the drug charges in the Hillsborough County jail.

On May 11, Waits was also arrested on cocaine and marijuana possession charges and released after posting a bond at the county jail.

The investigation is ongoing.

It was unclear exactly how the Brito children knew Waits, Tampa police said.

Kiara and Jeremi lived with their mother, Judy Brito, who was not at the home at the time of the shooting. Police described her as distraught and said she was cooperative with investigators.

Friends of the teens plan to hold a memorial service at 3 p.m. today at the First Baptist Church of Port Tampa.

Pastor Ron Satterwhite said he has been told to expect a packed house of people mourning the deaths of Kiara, who attended Robinson High School, and Jeremi, who attended Madison Middle School.

"They were very popular," he said.

The Brito family did not attend the church, at 8306 Interbay Blvd., but many of their friends did, Satterwhite said.

At least one friend plans to speak and Satterwhite also plans to address the crowd.

Times staff writers Ileana Morales, Jessica Vander Velde, Jodie Tillman and Joey Knight and Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Robbery was behind murder of two teens, Tampa police say in announcing arrest 06/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 10, 2011 7:36am]
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