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Urge to kill prompted Clearwater man to fatally shoot acquaintance, police say

CLEARWATER — Authorities say a man whose body was found behind a vacant restaurant last month was killed by a friend who told police he wanted to murder someone.

Michael Stephen McKinney, 37, of 2095 Sunset Point Road, No. 1906, was charged with first-degree murder on Friday. He's accused of shooting 40-year-old Casey Steven Garber multiple times.

"Apparently, it was just something he wanted to do and he felt the victim would be the best target," said Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.

McKinney and Garber were acquaintances who were using and selling prescription drugs together, according to Clearwater police.

On June 27, a woman walking her dog called police after she found a man's body behind the closed Dogwater Cafe at the Clearwater Executive Golf Course at 2506 Countryside Blvd.

The man was identified as Garber, and an autopsy showed he suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Clearwater police detectives learned McKinney and Garber were together at the golf course at the time of the murder, which they believe happened June 25.

There is no indication the two had an argument before Garber was shot, Watts said.

McKinney has been in the Pinellas County Jail since a July 7 arrest on charges of possession of oxycodone, criminal mischief, burglary, possession of burglary tools, and loitering and prowling.

In that case, investigated by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, McKinney is accused of trying to break into the East Lake home of a 29-year-old man and his girlfriend twice on July 7.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the couple caught images on a home surveillance system of McKinney, whom they knew, cutting the screen of their back patio earlier in the day. McKinney tried to enter the home through a back door, but couldn't, and left, the Sheriff's Office said.

Later that day, deputies were called to the home when McKinney returned. Deputies said the homeowner caught an image of McKinney using some sort of tool to cut the power cord to the surveillance system.

Deputies found McKinney close to the home. He had two wire cutters, a lock-picking set, 23 narcotic pain pills and a pocketknife on him, according to the Sheriff's Office. Deputies also found a loaded Ruger .380-caliber handgun hidden in some mulch near where they found McKinney. It was later determined that the gun had been stolen from Largo, the Sheriff's Office said.

McKinney has previous convictions in Pinellas County on charges of retail theft and obtaining property with a worthless check, according to court records. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance. On Friday, he was being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail.

As for Garber, his last known address was in Trinity in Pasco County, but he had been staying with various friends in the area, Watts said. He was convicted of driving under the influence in 1998 in Pinellas and was sentenced to drug offender probation in Hillsborough County in 2000 after a cocaine trafficking conviction. Relatives of Garber's could not be located Friday.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Urge to kill prompted Clearwater man to fatally shoot acquaintance, police say 07/15/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 8:01pm]

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