Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Tampa man charged in Gibsonton woman's killing

RIVERVIEW — A Tampa man has been charged with murdering a 21-year-old Gibsonton woman whose body was found behind a Riverview shopping center in January.

Jose Enrique Gonzalez, 48, of 2311 Osborne Ave. in Tampa was arrested Thursday morning by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies in the death of Meaghan E. Casady. He faces felony murder and sexual battery charges, the Sheriff's Office said.

Casady's nude body was found Jan. 18 behind the Summerfield Shopping Plaza at 11323 Big Bend Road. The discovery came hours after she was seen leaving CJ's Saloon, 9411 U.S. 301 in Riverview, with Gonzalez.

A sheriff's deputy first encountered Gonzalez about 4:30 a.m. that day, according to an arrest affidavit.

Gonzalez was parked along Rhodine Road near U.S. 301 in Riverview. Casady, who was in the front passenger's seat, appeared to be intoxicated but uninjured. She said she was "okay," and the deputy suggested that Gonzalez take her home as soon as possible.

A garbage truck driver found Casady's body in a grassy area behind the shopping center three hours later. A surveillance camera at the shopping center captured video of a car similar to Gonzalez's about 90 minutes after he spoke to the deputy, the affidavit states.

A sheriff's detective noticed fresh scratches and gouges on Gonzalez's face, hands and arms during an interview the next day. Gonzalez explained that he got hurt while trying to intervene in a fight outside CJ's Saloon a day earlier.

But a bar bouncer later told detectives that Gonzalez had no injuries when he got kicked out of the parking lot hours before Casady's death. Gonzalez told a detective he left the bar with Casady but said he dropped her off at a Riverview intersection shortly after he spoke to the deputy because she was "going crazy" and wanted out of the car.

He denied being anywhere near the area where her body was found, but detectives later found cellphone records showing Gonzalez was close to the area where Casady was found dead, according to the affidavit.

DNA samples taken from Casady, including samples from her fingernails, matched those of Gonzalez, according to detectives. Hair found on the floor of Gonzalez's car also belonged to Casady.

Gonzalez has two other arrests in Florida, state records show. He pleaded guilty to soliciting a prostitute in June 2010. Adjudication was withheld and he was ordered to pay $765 in court costs. In October 2010, he was charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913.

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