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Two of four suspects in fatal South Tampa fire arrested

TAMPA — Authorities have arrested two men on murder charges in connection with a robbery and fire last week that left a South Tampa man dead.

Kermit Lee Sanford, 34, was arrested Saturday night by Polk County deputies. Tanner Blake Harrison, 19, was arrested Sunday morning by Orange County deputies.

Tampa police had issued warrants for their arrests Saturday afternoon, identifying them as two of four suspects in the death of Richard Lee Blackman, 65.

The men entered the home at 6709 Interbay Blvd. early Thursday morning to rob Blackman, police said. They attacked him and stole items before setting the house on fire.

"It's not clear if the victim knew these two individuals," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "We believe the motive was they went there to rob Blackman, but as far as why they targeted him, that is still under investigation."

Sanford and Harrison, both of Polk County, were identified as suspects through physical evidence, witness statements and other leads, McElroy said.

Last week, police released surveillance images of a woman taken at a nearby Circle K convenience store at the time of the crime. The woman told the clerk she was from Lakeland, police said. Investigators later located her, but did not say what, if anything, she knew about the crime.

Authorities have not revealed the names of the other two people they believe are suspects. Detectives were trying to find the suspects, but had not issued warrants for them, McElroy said.

Records show Harrison was previously arrested in Polk County on drug and misdemeanor charges.

Sanford was released from Avon Park Correctional Institution on Aug. 1, according to the state Department of Corrections. In and out of prison since 1993, his arrests, most of which occurred in Polk, include felony burglary and grand theft auto.

Sanford's profile page on Facebook includes a photo of him wearing what appears to be a prison uniform while standing next to Rosealey Sanford, whom he wrote he had married in July.

The page included recent updates that appear to have been posted by someone else under his name. One posted Sunday night reads: "i love you kermit. every thing will be okay. keep your head up. we will get though this together. till death do us part."

Kermit Sanford's grandfather, William Jewell, told a reporter Sunday in a phone interview that his grandson was wanted only for questioning.

He said he heard from Sanford a week ago, and Sanford was supposed to stay at the house while Jewell underwent an operation. But his grandson never showed.

"He didn't tell me nothing," Jewell said. "He told me I was going to see him when I got back."

Asked about the warrant for Sanford's arrest, Jewell said he didn't know anything about it.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443. Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

Two of four suspects in fatal South Tampa fire arrested 09/25/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 25, 2011 11:21pm]
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