TAMPA — A 23-year-old rapper accused of shooting and killing two men during a recording session in Lutz told a witness he thought the men were planning to rob him, prosecutors say in a court motion.
The witness said he saw no sign of such a plan. Another witness said the two men were feuding with the rapper over money.
Billy Bennett Adams III, who performs as “Ace NH,” faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed burglary of a structure in the Nov. 19 shooting inside a shed-turned-recording studio behind a home in Lutz. No information about the victims has been released. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has labeled the slayings gang-related.
The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office says it will argue before a judge that Adams is a danger to the community and should be held without bail while he awaits trial. In their motion, prosecutors rely on the testimony of an unnamed witness to the shootings who operates the studio and lives at the site on N 23rd Street in Lutz.
The witness told investigators he was inside the studio with his back to the other three men when the shooting occurred. The witness turned around, saw the bodies, and was in fear for his own life when he said an armed Adams told him “they were gonna rob him,” according to the motion.
A hearing on the pretrial detention motion is scheduled to be held Dec. 1.
The motion provides new details about a case that has made headlines nationwide. The witness, according to the motion, gave this account of the shootings:
A man he knew as “Ace,” later identified as Adams, contacted him the night of Nov. 19 through the Instagram account clutch_25Ace about renting space in the studio. Adams had rented space from the witness at least four or five times in the past.
Adams arrived about 10 p.m. with two men the witness said he did not know. They all entered the small studio — at 12-by-20 feet, about half the size of a city bus. The witness sat at a computer recording Adams’ music while the other two hung around. The witness emailed Adams a copy of the recording.
At that point, with his back still to the other men, the witness heard gunshots and said he spun around to see Adams holding a gun. The men had collapsed, the witness said, one onto the floor and the other in a chair. As the witness left, he said he saw Adams fire another shot into the victim slumped in the chair.
Adams made the comment about being robbed and left in his car. The witness said he didn’t overhear the other men talk about a robbery or even argue before the shooting. He said he never suspected Adams was armed until he heard the gunshots.
An autopsy showed that the victim found on the floor was shot once in the back of the head from less than two inches away, according to the state’s motion. The other victim was shot twice in the face.
A woman listed as owner of the Lutz property did not return calls seeking comment.
Sheriff’s detectives identified the two victims and contacted their families. Soon after, another witness came forward to say the shooting appeared to be gang-related. No information on that witness is provided in the prosecution’s motion.
That witness observed one of the victims arguing over firearms and money with three local members of the Crips, one of the largest criminal gangs in the country.
“This incident sparked a feud which had been going on between the local ‘Crip’ gang and the two victims,” according to the motion.
Through Adams’ clutch_25ace Instagram account, the witness identified him as one of those involved in the feud with the two victims.
Adams has performed at Tampa venues since 2017 and has produced three long-play albums, two shorter albums and several singles, according to a post in May at the website NakedlyUnderConstruction.blog. He works in sales at the Finish Line store in The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, according to jail records.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office no longer releases the names of crime victims because of its interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a voter-approved amendment to Florida’s constitutional that’s meant to protect the rights of victims but deprives the public of information that had long been available under the state’s public records laws.
Staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report.