LITHIA — The day before Halloween, two armed, masked men barged into a Lithia home to rob a man who lived there. One of the residents, a woman, fatally shot one of the men with an assault-style rifle.
Now the man who deputies say was the other robber is facing a murder charge in the case.
Ty’Zae Robinson, 21, of Plant City was arrested Saturday and charged with second degree felony murder while armed with a firearm, records show. Under Florida’s felony murder law, a suspect can be charged with murder if someone is killed during the commission of another felony.
In this case, the armed home invasion robbery resulted in the death of 27-year-old Joseph Michael Baez when the resident shot him with an AR-10 rifle, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Robinson’s arrest report lays out what investigators say happened that day.
About 8:45 on Oct. 30, an 11-year-old child at the home called 911 and said two masked men had entered the home on the 100 block of Old Welcome Road, robbed them and injured the child’s father.
Then the father, 34-year-old Jeremy King, got on the phone and said the suspects pistol-whipped him when he refused to give them money. King said his wife Casey Johns shot at the men with his “AR" rifle but he didn’t think either man was shot, the report states.
Responding deputies searched the area and found Baez’s body partially submerged in a water-filled drainage ditch. Near his body, investigators found a 9 mm Glock handgun, gloves, a mask with a skeleton design, money and a backpack.
An autopsy the next day revealed Baez died from a gunshot wound to the back that resulted in a perforated lung.
In interviews with Johns and the child, detectives learned that the child was in the kitchen unloading groceries when two men came in the back door, told everyone to get on the ground and demanded money from King. One of the men was wearing a plain mask, the other wore a mask with a skeleton design.
Johns was in a back bedroom at the time, heard the commotion, saw the two men and went to her room and retrieved the rifle, according to the report. She went to the living room but couldn’t figure out how to work the rifle. When one of the robbers pointed his gun at her, King got up and attacked the man wearing the skeleton mask. Then both robbers attacked King.
Johns retreated to a bedroom to try to figure out the rifle, hid herself from the robbers’ view and heard screaming. When Johns saw the robber in the plain mask walking in the kitchen toward the back door, she fired one shot. Both robbers fled through the back door.
Johns and the child were not injured, though one of the robbers pulled the youngster to the ground by the hair, put a gun to the child’s head and threatened to shoot the child if King did not comply, the report states. King was taken to a local hospital to be treated for a broken nose and several cuts on his face.
King admitted to detectives that he occasionally sells marijuana out of the house and that the robbers took about $300 from him, according to the report.
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In a news release Monday, the Sheriff’s Office said investigators believe the residence was targeted because of “criminal activity” happening inside the home.
A witness interviewed later told detectives that Robinson was the second man involved. The witness got the information based on “admissions of (Robinson’s) involvement” made in the witness’s presence, the report states.
Investigators surreptitiously obtained a DNA sample from Robinson that matched a sample taken from inside the skeleton mask found near Baez’s body, according to the report.
Robinson was being held Monday without bail in the Hillsborough County jail. Records show this is his first arrest in Florida.
Detectives later learned that 24-year-old Kiara Ragins picked up Robinson in her Ford sedan on Old Welcome Road immediately after the home invasion and was aware of the robbery, according to the report. Ragins was arrested Sunday and charged with being an accessory after the fact to second degree felony murder.
She was released from the county jail Sunday after posting $7,500 bail, records show.
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.