Willie Scott didn't see Malachi Timmons fall, but he did hear him scream. When Scott ran to help, he found Timmons, 48, unconscious and bleeding.
The construction worker fell more than 20 feet from the roof of a Winn-Dixie supermarket being built near Collier Parkway and State Road 54 on Wednesday.
Timmons, a Tampa native, never regained consciousness and died a few hours later at University Community Hospital.
"I never even saw what happened," said Scott, a foreman with D&D Sheet Metal. "I've known Malachi a long time. He was a good friend."
Although Timmons had spent much of his life behind bars, he had recently tried to turn his life around, said his stepson, Jay Woods, 25.
Timmons served time in the '70s and early '80s for robbery, manslaughter and sexual battery, records show.
He was released from prison in 1982 and married Woods' mother, Rosalin Smalls, in 1992.
The couple had been childhood sweethearts in Tampa, Woods said.
"I knew he had a lot of stuff in his past, but I never knew the particulars," Woods said. "He changed a whole lot after he and my mom got together. He was having a really good year. That's why this is so hard."
Timmons had been working on the Winn-Dixie site for about two weeks, Woods said. Before he got into construction, he worked in Miami for a company that stamped sports team logos on pennies, Woods said.
About 1 p.m. Wednesday, Timmons was walking backward as he rolled a portable generator onto a pallet on the Winn-Dixie roof. Near the roof's edge, he slipped and fell over, witnesses said.
He still was holding onto the generator, but it also tumbled over, witnesses said. Timmons fell headfirst to the ground.
Pasco County Fire-Rescue workers were on the scene in minutes, but Timmons had stopped breathing, officials said.
Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.
Court records show Timmons was in trouble with the law again in recent years. From 1991 to 1993, he had been arrested on charges of sexual battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping, though the disposition of those cases was not available Thursday. As recently as Oct. 8, he was arrested on a charge of domestic battery, a violation of his probation.
Still, Woods said, Timmons loved his wife.
"He and my mom had a rocky start, but things were getting better, the past year especially. He had really made a change for the better."