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Three arrested in slaying of three friends headed to fishing trip, Sheriff Judd says

Among the leads that drew detectives to the suspects were tips to the Crime Stoppers line.

FROSTPROOF — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said detectives have arrested two men and a woman responsible for the fatal shootings of three friends found dead while they were headed to a fishing trip near Frostproof on Friday night.

At a news conference Wednesday, Judd identified the suspects as Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, 26; his girlfriend Mary Whittemore, 27; and Wiggins’ brother William “Robert” Wiggins, 21.

Among the leads that drew detectives to the suspects were hundreds of tips to the Heartland Crime Stoppers line.

“‘Look at T.J. Wiggins from Frostproof,‘” Judd quoted some of the callers saying. “Not because they had any idea he did it, just because he’s mean.”

Tony Wiggins was first arrested at age 12 and has a history of 230 felony charges including battery and weapons charges, Judd said. He has been convicted 15 times and served two terms in state prison, Judd said.

“He’s wild and he’s out of control.”

Related: Reward for information about Frostproof triple murder raised to $30,000

A video recording shows that the fatal encounter apparently began when the victims and suspects ran into each other Friday night at a nearby Dollar General Store, Judd said. In describing the shooting scene, the sheriff said T.J. Wiggins screamed at one of the victims, “You stole the engine out of my truck.”

“The only evidence we have,” Judd said, “is that mad over some kind of truck deal that happened a long time ago.”

All the suspects and victims are from the Lake Wales and Frostproof area.

The killers followed Damion Allen Tillman, 23, from a Dollar General Store to the shooting scene near Frostproof, investigators said. [ McLean Funeral Home ]

The victims were beaten and shot to death as they were heading to Lake Streety near Frostproof to go fishing, Judd said. They are Damion Tillman, 23, Keven Springfield, 30, and Brandon Rollins, 27.

“What’s messed up is that Keven and Tony knew each other,” said Keri Black, a longtime friend of victims Brandon Rollins and Keven Springfield and the mother of five of Springfield’s eight children. “They all knew each other. They grew up together.”

“T.J.” Wiggins was a familiar face at local hangouts in Frostproof. He wasn’t a close friend of the three victims, but he wasn’t an enemy either, Black told the Times on Wednesday. No one was, she said.

“All three of them shared a really, really gentle soul,” Black said. “Keven would do anything and everything for anybody, without question. He was loving and kind to everyone he ever met.”

Judd gave this account of the slayings:

Tony Wiggins ran into victim Tillman in line at the Dollar General Store 9:56 p.m. Friday as Tillman was buying supplies for the fishing trip. Wiggins learned through a clerk at the store that Springfield was going on the trip, too.

Wiggins and the other two suspects followed Tillman out of the store. Ten minutes later, a fatally wounded Rollins placed a frantic cell phone call to his father, saying only, “Help.”

Investigators soon identified the three suspects, and on Monday, located them “off the grid” in a wooded family compound of camper trailers, Judd said. Investigators found two shotguns and two rifles in a gun safe at Wiggins’ trailer and arrested him. He was out on bail at the time, following an arrest in March on charges including aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Brandon Rollins, 27, called his father as he lay dying after he and two friends were fatally shot. [ Courtesy of Keri Black ]

Investigators also located a single shell casing from a 9 mm pistol in Wiggins’ trailer that matched the Smith & Wesson handgun used in the shootings.

William Wiggins and Whittemore agreed to be interviewed by detectives. Whittemore admitted buying ammunition before the shooting then stopped cooperating. William Wiggins provided more details.

Detectives learned that the suspects had no plans to go to the lake until Tony Wiggins decided to follow Tillman. William Wiggins was driving a pickup truck carrying the suspects when they pulled up to find the three friends parked side by side in two pickups on Lake Streety Road. They were talking to one another, Tillman in his truck and Springfield at the wheel of other with Rollins in Springfield’s passenger seat.

Tony Wiggins and Tillman got out of their trucks. Wiggins pulled a handgun and pushed Tillman, yelling, “Where’s Keven?”

Wiggins spotted Springfield sitting in the truck, ran toward and him and pointed the gun at him, demanding, “Where’s my truck? You sold the engine out of my truck.” Springfield, who worked as an auto tech, replied that he didn’t know what Wiggins was talking about.

Wiggins struck Springfield. Tillman screamed repeatedly from the other truck, “Put the gun away!”

“T.J.‘s out of control screaming, ‘Where’s my truck,’ and he starts shooting Keven and Brandon inside the white truck,” Judd said.

The two were hit about nine or 10 times. Wiggins then shot Tillman several times as Tillman sat in his truck, he said.

Keven Springfield, 30, was the main target in a triple slaying Friday near Frostproof, investigators said. [ Courtesy of Keri Black ]

William Wiggins said he was not involved in the shootings but afterward, helped lift Tillman and place him in the back of one of the pickups, Judd said. Whittemore declined to talk to investigators about the incident and lied to protect her boyfriend, Judd said: “This is one mean woman. She’s not cooperating, she’s not talking, she becomes incensed at the detectives as they’re trying to spell her last name right.”

The suspects disposed of the gun and immediately drove to a McDonald’s restaurant in Lake Wales, where they ordered 10 double cheeseburgers and two McChicken sandwiches at the drive-thru, Judd said.

William Wiggins later cleaned the outside of the truck, covered in red mud, after a relative they had borrowed it from complained. They had told her they were going to use it for a trip to Sebring or Avon Park. Investigators found blood inside the truck where Tony Wiggins had been sitting.

Tony Wiggins has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. William Wiggins is charged with tampering with evidence and both he and Whittemore are charged with accessory after the fact. William Wiggins has one prior misdemeanor arrest and Whittemore none, Judd said.

All three are scheduled for a first appearance hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday.