SEFFNER — The five-hour drive that brought Dykerius Cross down I-75 to Seffner from Albany, Ga., two years ago was intended to bring him closer to his family.
His uncle, Kilmon Cross, said Wednesday that he packed Dykerius' belongings into a light-blue late-model Chrysler, driving south for a new life, and maybe an opportunity to play football at Armwood High School.
At 6-foot-5, Dykerius was a prototypical wide receiver. He had height to pluck the ball out of the air. Since he was a baby relatives have called him "Micey" because of his immense appetite at the dinner table — and his ability to keep a lean frame in spite of it.
On Monday, news broke that Cross, a former Armwood football player, had been arrested twice in three weeks and charged with suspicion of trespassing, second-degree felony burglary and criminal mischief after breaking into neighboring houses looking for a place to sleep.
His family told the Times Wednesday that Cross has always had a home, but that at 18 years old, he has a rebellious streak.
"Micey wants to be grown," Kilmon Cross said. "And at 18, it's too early an age to act grown. … We love him and care for him, and we would never turn our back on him, but he chose to do these things. He always had somewhere to go."
Dykerius had a difficult youth. He lost his mother to epilepsy when he was 18 months old. His grandmother and neighbor found him dehydrated and alone in an apartment with his mother, the Albany (Ga.) Herald reported on July 23, 1991. But family members say he had several relatives who were there for him in Tampa. Sometimes he would sleep at the homes' of other relatives, but he always had a place to stay.
Lothia Cross, Dykerius' aunt, had one main rule in her home, which includes four children of her own: obey her midnight curfew. But family said Dykerius would often come home later, sometimes as late as 3 a.m.
He would stay with friends sometimes, Kilmon Cross said. He said he believes his nephew broke into the homes because he didn't want to get in trouble for coming home late.
"He is your typical 18-year-old teenager," Lothia Cross said.
The Crosses live in the Parsons Pointe subdivision, a cluster of cookie cutter homes in Seffner a mile from Armwood's campus. Several "For Sale" signs are in front yards and some homes appear to be unoccupied.
Police say Dykerius Cross twice broke into neighbors' homes, once prying open a sliding glass door and another time climbing through an unlocked window in the rain. He told deputies he was looking for a place to sleep.
But Kilmon Cross said Tuesday morning, hours before his nephew was arrested, everything was fine. Dykerius woke up in his own bed at his aunt's house, walked his cousins to the bus stop and even took out the trash.
Dykerius Cross faces a burglary charge and a criminal mischief charge for the second arrest. Cross, who has been removed from the Armwood football team, sat in Orient Road Jail on Wednesday night on $8,000 bond, but Lothia Cross and Kilmon Cross said they planned to bail out their nephew Wednesday.
Kilmon said he hoped his nephew can return to school soon and rejoin the football team.