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Suspect pleads not guilty in Brooksville shooting rampage

BROOKSVILLE — A little more than a month after a shooting rampage in south Brooksville left three people dead and a fourth in critical condition, George Mason III pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted felony murder.

Inside a packed Hernando County courtroom, family members of Mason looked on as the suspect stood silently in handcuffs while the charges were read. Last week, a grand jury indicted Mason, 42, of Lutz, in the Aug. 29 shootings that killed Jannie V. Taylor, 81, Ralph Peyton, 29, and Mason's girlfriend, Tarasha Townsend, 37. Mason is also accused of shooting and severely wounding his half brother, Gabriel Taylor, 33.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said he hasn't decided whether he will seek the death penalty.

According to investigators, the incident began shortly after 9 p.m. Aug. 29 after an argument between Peyton and Mason inside the house of Jannie Taylor's daughter at 820 Peach St. Mason shot Peyton and Jannie Taylor with a 9mm handgun, then killed Townsend, who was outside, according to Brooksville police Chief George Turner. Mason then chased Gabriel Taylor across the street toward Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, the police chief said.

Mason fired multiple shots at Taylor, striking him several times in the head and upper torso, Turner said. Almost at the same moment, the suspect was accidentally struck by a Dodge pickup heading east on darkened M.L. King.

Autopsies of the three people killed showed that all of them suffered gunshot wounds to the head and neck.

Taylor was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. He has been released. Mason was also hospitalized after being struck by the truck.

No motive for the slayings has been disclosed, but authorities have said Mason had a lengthy criminal record with a history of drug sales and violence. Roughly a pound of marijuana was found inside the Peach Street residence, police said.

Mason is being held at the Hernando County Detention Center without bail. His next court appearance will be on Nov. 26 before Circuit Judge Stephen Toner.

Contact Logan Neill at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Relatives of George Mason III, the man accused of killing three people in Brooksville in late August, were in the audience during Mason's arraignment hearing on Tuesday. The audience members were incorrectly identified in a story published Wednesday.

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