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St. Pete North Shore murder after Thanksgiving 1990 was little noticed, never solved

More than 30 years after the beating death of a Black man in a North Shore pool parking lot, his family is left with little information.
Broderick McCullough with his niece, Keony Dilworth. McCullough was found beaten in the parking lot of the North Shore pool the day after Thanksgiving in 1990. His murder remains unsolved.
Broderick McCullough with his niece, Keony Dilworth. McCullough was found beaten in the parking lot of the North Shore pool the day after Thanksgiving in 1990. His murder remains unsolved. [ Courtesy of Latronda Flanning ]
Published Nov. 22|Updated Nov. 22

ST. PETERSBURG — On a rainy night in 1990, a man was found beaten in the parking lot of the North Shore pool.

Broderick McCullough, 29, had been spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his sister, but wandered off after an argument.

After first responders found him at about 11 p.m., witnesses told officers that they had seen two white men kicking and punching McCullough, who was Black.

McCullough’s injuries, which included a broken nose and jaw, made it difficult for him to speak to officers. He told them he didn’t know the men who attacked him and that he hadn’t been robbed.

McCullough was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where a doctor told police that his injuries didn’t appear to be life-threatening. But McCullough died at the hospital 16 days later. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

It’s unclear if the St. Petersburg Police Department publicized what happened. Their records of media releases don’t go back that far. And, unlike most local homicides, it appears McCullough’s death didn’t receive any media coverage.

Police records indicate that investigators circulated descriptions of the attackers among officers and brought suspects in for questioning, but no arrests have been made in the case. After 32 years, it is among 218 cold-case homicides at the St. Petersburg Police Department.

That the case remains unsolved and appears to have never been brought to light frustrates McCullough’s family. They are particularly perplexed that the killing of a Black man at a high-profile location in the city received such little public attention.

“It didn’t even make the news,” said Latronda Flanning, 41, one of McCullough’s nieces. “You found a man bludgeoned to death on the main beach … and this wasn’t news?”

‘A family person’

McCullough worked at a Publix in Tampa. His nieces and nephews just called him “Uncle B.”

As a kid, he was struck by a car and had a plate put in his head. After the accident, he had a tendency to ramble and sometimes had seizures.

McCullough had his struggles. He sometimes used drugs, one of his sisters said, and police found an arrest history that included convictions for minor crimes.

Family members said he was a gentle-spirited, positive person. He told his father he had found God and started attending church.

McCullough didn’t have children, but he was loved by kids in the family. One time, his sister Orynthia Smith recalled, she left the house while McCullough was playing hide-and-seek with nieces and nephews. When she came back, she and her sisters found him in a closet with a sock around his mouth and his hands and feet bound; the kids had convinced him that they needed to tie him up for their game.

“He was just a family person,” said Smith, 62.

Flanning said McCullough was her favorite uncle. He made her a T-shirt using bubble paint and she still has it, tucked in the top drawer of her bedroom dresser.

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“I don’t like to brag,” she said, “but we had a special bond.”

The investigation

McCullough had been at his sister Angela’s house on Thanksgiving, but left after they got into an argument. He wound up at a friend’s house, but left there to return to his sister’s home the night after Thanksgiving. At the time, she lived about a mile away from the North Shore pool. It’s unclear how McCullough got there.

McCullough’s family didn’t learn of the attack for some time. According to police reports, officers contacted Angela McCullough at some point, though it is unclear when. The rest of the family, however, did not find out that Broderick McCullough was in the hospital until a social worker found his ID and contacted his aunt. By that point, he was already comatose, so no one could speak with him about what had happened.

The neighborhoods around North Shore Park were up-and-coming at the time. One resident told city officials during a public meeting in 1991 that he felt the North Shore area was known for shootings and crime, according to Tampa Bay Times archives. North Shore Park was then frequented by gay sex workers, police noted in their reports on the investigation, but those who knew McCullough said he was straight.

Nothing is known about what motivated McCullough’s attackers. Police reports reviewed by the Times do not say what may have led to the attack, including whether it was racially motivated.

Still, racist attitudes stirred in pockets of the city at the time, including the neighborhood around the pool, residents recalled.

Jesse Marsano, 84, moved into his home near Beach Drive NE in the 1990s, after McCullough’s death. Until he learned about it from a Times reporter last week, he had never heard about the McCullough homicide. But he remembered a neighbor who expressed racist sentiments during a conversation shortly after he moved in.

“The guy said, ‘Oh, welcome to the neighborhood. We were worried about who was moving in and we’re so glad you’re white,’” Marsano recalled.

The St. Petersburg Police Department grappled with its own race-related controversies at the time. Police Chief Ernest “Curt” Curtsinger was appointed to lead the agency just a few months before McCullough’s death.

Curtsinger embraced community policing, but canceled the agency’s diversity training and opened internal affairs investigations into Black officers who criticized him. He was fired in 1992 after city leaders said he lacked cultural sensitivity. Curtsinger could not be reached by phone.

Five days after McCullough was found in the North Shore parking lot, police arrested three male suspects who had chased a Black man up into a tree near the North Shore pool, yelling threats and “racial and derogatory remarks,” according to police reports from McCullough’s case.

Officers also arrested another suspect who had violated his probation who they said matched the physical description of one of the suspects witnesses had seen.

However, witnesses did not recognize any of the four suspects, whose names were redacted from the reports St. Petersburg police provided to the Times.

Police wrote profiles of the two suspects based on interviews with the witnesses. One was estimated to be a man in his early to mid-20s with straight, brown, shoulder-length hair who stood about 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed about 165 pounds. The other suspect was also described as a man in his early to mid-20s with wavy, shoulder-length brown hair who was roughly 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed about 155 pounds.

Flanning, McCullough’s niece, said she thought DNA samples were taken at the time. But reports say police didn’t call a technician to take DNA at the scene as it was raining and they believed the evidence had been washed away.

Without DNA evidence to submit for testing or additional suspects to investigate, the case grew cold.

St. Petersburg Police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said detectives feel they did all in their power to solve the case.

“They worked hard on the case at the time with the resources that they had,” she said. Fernandez said the agency released portions of its reports on the homicide to the Times in the hopes that the publicity could generate new leads.

Hoping and waiting

Flanning said her now-deceased mother, Angela, approached the police about reopening the case a few years ago, but she is unaware of anything coming of it. McCullough’s father, Jacob McCullough, 81, said he never heard from the police directly.

Through the years, the family has relied on their faith to give them strength in the face of an unresolved tragedy.

“God is in control,” Jacob McCullough said, adding, “Whoever did this thing might get by but they won’t get away.”

When the family gathers for the holidays, they pray for justice for their lost loved one, said Smith, McCullough’s sister.

“When we say our prayer over the food, we always pray that they will find who hurt Uncle B,” she said. “Always, every Thanksgiving.”

Anyone with information on the case can contact the St. Petersburg Police Department homicide unit at 727-893-7164 or the communications center at 727-893-7780.

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