TAMPA — A Tampa man has been charged with manslaughter after an investigation revealed that he beat his roommate to death after a disagreement about a chicken foot, Tampa police said.
James Jugo, 52, admitted in an interview with detectives on Saturday that he beat his roommate, 56-year-old Benjamin Calderon, with his fist after an argument about some stolen food, police said.
The fight started earlier, when Jugo took a chicken foot from a skillet as Calderon cooked in the apartment they shared at 8722 N 48th Street, police said.
Officers were called to the apartment on Friday to investigate an "unexplained death." It is unclear when the fight took place and if Calderon died immediately. Police declined to share details, saying the attack is still under investigation.
An autopsy revealed that Calderon suffered internal bleeding after being hit numerous times on the face, neck and elsewhere, police said. A witness told police that she saw Jugo hit Calderon with a board.
Jugo was booked in jail Saturday. He is being held on $15,000 bail.
Jugo has been arrested 19 times in Florida on charges including burglary, cocaine possession, petty theft, probation violation, open container and possession of a dangerous dog, state records show.
Calderon had been arrested twice in Florida on charges of DUI and failure to appear. He had recently become homeless after losing his security job, his brother Bolivar Calderon said Monday.
Benjamin Calderon lived out of his car for a while and tried staying at a shelter. He ended up living with Jugo and female roommate, the brother said.
Calderon was saving money to apply for a license that would allow him to work as an armed security officer.
"He had plans. He was setting goals for himself," Bolivar Calderon said.
Benjamin Calderon leaves a mother, two brothers, a sister and children. The family is devastated, and they have lingering questions that they hope police will eventually answer, Bolivar Calderon said.
"No one deserves to die over a chicken foot," he said.
Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.