Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Public safety

Suspect in Seffner double murder helped mother discover bodies

SEFFNER — As Karen Deas walked up the steps to her son's mobile home, she had no inkling the man standing beside her, Charles Anthony Foster, would be charged two days later with what she was about to discover inside.

After her son didn't answer calls or text messages and hadn't shown up for work at the Valrico Walmart, Deas went to the Seffner mobile home he shared with a roommate.

She found the bloody body of Kenneth Virgil Simmons Jr., 34, sprawled on the floor. She screamed, pushed past Foster and ran for the mobile home park's manager, she said. Lying near Simmons, but out of sight, was the body of her son, Joshua Austin Deas, 24.

She wouldn't learn until later that Foster, known as Tony to her and a lifelong friend of her son, would be charged in the slayings.

Foster, 23, even hung around the crime scene after detectives had arrived, speaking with her.

"I'm angry and I want to know why," Deas said. "Because I can't think of any reason why two young, wonderful men should have died in this manner."

As deputies sort through the details, Foster's friends and family, including his father, are left to reconcile their images of him with those that have emerged.

The one by deputies: That sometime Saturday night or early Sunday, Foster attacked the two men, likely with a hatchet or small-handled ax, leaving the roommates bleeding on the floor of their trailer at the Parsons Village mobile home park. Then he took off in Simmons' green Isuzu Rodeo to pawn belongings of Joshua Deas.

The other, by friends and Foster's father: That the young man was incapable of such violence.

"This is very out of character of him," Jim Foster said Wednesday from his mobile home. "I can't believe it. I still don't believe it. He was never violent."

Jim Foster and his son moved from Gibsonton a year ago into the Sunland Mobile Home Park in Seffner.

Foster, 56, underwent gastro-intestinal surgery 10 years ago. He was disabled and struggled to walk, depending on his son to care for him. "He stayed with me the whole time," Foster said. "He's as gentle as can be."

Neighbors echo that sentiment.

Bailey Manarina, who has lived next door for a year, described him as "this big gentle guy."

Then there's the image by Karen Deas.

She described Tony Foster in contradictory terms: A close childhood friend of her son and well-known to her, but the same man who escorted her up the steps of the trailer — already knowing two bodies lay inside.

"He was a friend of theirs," she had said Monday. "He walked up there with me."

Before Joshua Deas' death, Tony Foster often showed up at Karen Deas' house. As teenagers, the boys played basketball and video games together. She knew Foster's mother well, before she died four years ago. At one point, Foster and her son lived together at Foster's family home in Gibsonton. They were like brothers, she said.

That image of Foster, gentle and fun-loving, is what Jim Foster clings to.

He said his son worked seasonally for Golf Course Services Inc. of Valrico and was hoping to return this spring.

Co-owner Nick Rodgers said that was unlikely, though, after Foster allegedly stole a gas card a year and a half ago.

For now, Tony Foster sits in the Hillsborough County jail, held without bail.

He was picked up Monday night for violating probation on an earlier charge of providing a false name to a metal recycler. The charges were upgraded Tuesday to two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of robbery with a weapon.

The Deas and Simmons families are left to deal with funeral arrangements. Services for both men will be held at the same time: 10 a.m. Monday.

They met at the Valrico Walmart where both had worked. Simmons later transferred to the Seffner location. They had a mutual love of sports.

A memorial service for Joshua Deas will take place at the National Cremation and Burial Society in Ruskin.

"It's more for people to get together and celebrate his life and not the way that he died," Karen Deas said. "He touched so many lives."

The service for Simmons is scheduled at Wells Memorial Funeral Home in Plant City.

A former teacher at Bloomingdale High School, Simmons was trying to get recertified to teach again, possibly this fall, his family said.

"He just loved teaching children and being around children and wanted to go back to that," Simmons' sister, Lisa Evans of Ashland, Ky., said.

Simmons' half-brother, Jerry Skidmore of Plant City, said Simmons loved sports, especially the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and had a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the players. He had played football at Plant City High School and hoped someday to become a physical education teacher.

"He was always really protective and he was a big guy," Skidmore said. "He would stick up for me in school. It's hard to believe this would happen to him."

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.


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