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Tampa shooting suspect lashes out at judge

TAMPA — The man accused of gunning down a young woman and wounding two others in a shooting rampage refused a public defender's help, shouted obscenities at a judge and complained about his leg irons and restraints during his first court appearance Sunday.

Hillsborough County sheriff's officials say Andre R. Watkins, 53, killed 19-year-old Alyssa Aracich and left two men in critical condition on Friday before he led deputies on a manhunt that ended when he was captured filling up his gas tank at a Plant City station early Saturday.

On Sunday, three deputies led a visibly agitated Watkins, confined with cuffs and, briefly, a mesh spit hood over his head, to a lectern at the jail. As is typical with first hearings of inmates, the proceeding was beamed by video from the jail to the courthouse.

Watkins immediately began shouting obscenities over the video conference at Hillsborough County Judge John Conrad.

"Why do you let these people handle my body like this?" he asked Conrad. "You ain't helping me none."

When the judge asked if he needed a public defender appointed, Watkins said no — he would hire Dominic Fariello, who represented him in 2008 on an assault charge. The charges were dropped in that case.

Fariello could not be reached for comment after Sunday's proceeding.

The judge then postponed the hearing until Tuesday so Watkins could meet with his attorney.

He remains in the Falkenburg Road Jail without bail, facing charges of first-degree murder, carjacking using a firearm, felony kidnapping and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

He is accused of going on a shooting rampage in northwest Hillsborough on Friday night and then threatening sheriff's deputies over the phone.

Authorities say that, in a spray of gunfire, he killed Aracich as she sat in a car. Then he wounded Areil Love when he answered the front door and Akbar Alwani while he worked at a convenience store.

Interviews with neighbors indicated that at least two of the victims did not appear to be the intended targets.

After an intense manhunt, deputies found Watkins early Saturday at a gas station in Plant City.

Bay News 9 and Times staff writer Letitia Stein contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Andre R. Watkins, 53, accused of a deadly rampage Friday in Tampa, made his first court appearance from jail Sunday.

Bay News 9

Andre R. Watkins, 53, accused of a deadly rampage Friday in Tampa, made his first court appearance from jail Sunday.

Tampa shooting suspect lashes out at judge 02/14/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:47pm]
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