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Tampa man arrested on murder charge in heroin overdose death

A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office social media campaign helped detectives find the defendant.
Joseph Stillitano, 31, was charged with first-degree murder under a Florida law that allows the state to seek murder charges when a person dies from an overdose.
Joseph Stillitano, 31, was charged with first-degree murder under a Florida law that allows the state to seek murder charges when a person dies from an overdose. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Jun. 18
Updated Jun. 18

A Tampa man was arrested on a murder warrant on Wednesday in connection with a heroin overdose last year.

Joseph Stillitano, 31, was charged with first-degree murder under a Florida law that allows the state to seek murder charges when a person dies from an overdose.

According to a criminal affidavit, the investigation began on July 16 when a woman called 911 to report that her boyfriend, Joshua Sutphin, was dead in his Riverview home. When officials arrived on the scene, they found four small bags containing a tan substance. Each bag was marked by unusual insignia: a graphic of red dice.

Detectives examined Sutphin’s phone and found that he had been in contact with Stillitano. It appeared the men had been discussing a drug transaction, specifically mentioning heroin, the affidavit states.

The next day, Stillitano was pulled over in a traffic stop while he was driving Sutphin’s vehicle. Stillitano was also found with drug baggies marked by the same red-dice insignia that had been discovered in Sutphin’s home, the affidavit states.

The Medical Examiner’s Office later confirmed that all those red-dice baggies contained heroin and had a unique chemical makeup.

Stillitano told officials he knew Sutphin and had met with him on the day he died. He also told officials that he watched Sutphin ingest illegal narcotics.

On Nov. 17, the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Sutphin had died of an overdose due to the combined effects of heroin and fentanyl.

On May 25, a judge signed a warrant for Stillitano’s arrest.

Detectives gathered tips on Stillitano’s location this week through a social media campaign called Warrant Wednesday, which highlights people wanted by law enforcement. Using surveillance cameras, they confirmed his location at a Roadway Inn in Tampa and arrested him.

“I hope this serves as a warning and reminder to anyone who is attempting to sell drugs in our community; just like Stillitano, you will pay the consequences for your actions,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement.