16-year-old boy arrested in St. Petersburg killing

Published January 27 2015
Updated January 28 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — A 16-year-old boy was arrested Monday in connection with the October killing of another teenager.

David Nathan Garrett of 1110 32nd Street S in St. Petersburg faces a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Donald "Donnie" Avery , 17, a Lakewood High student who was found bleeding Oct. 11 on the Pinellas Trail early in the morning.

Garrett had met Avery at about 2:40 a.m. to conduct a drug deal, police said. A passerby heard gunshots and found Avery on the overpass that spans 34th Street S, near Gibbs High School. He was pronounced dead at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

After a months-long investigation, detectives determined Garrett shot Avery several times with a handgun, police said.

They have yet to establish a motive.

Police spokesman Mike Puetz said it is rare to see such violence among minors when it comes to dealing drugs, since the amount and stakes aren't usually high.

"You tend to see that in an older level," he said.

Detectives initially questioned Garrett, a then-student at St. Petersburg High with three prior arrests for possession of marijuana, police said. He denied any involvement. Shortly after the shooting, Garrett's family moved the teen to LaBelle in South Florida. He was arrested Monday at LaBelle High School.

At this time, Puetz said police have no reason to believe Garrett's family sent him away in an attempt to avoid the law.

After Garrett's arrest Monday, police say his sister, Karissa Smock, 21, called a witness in the case and threatened to kill him. She was charged Monday with tampering with a witness in a first-degree murder case.

Smock has been arrested in Pinellas County on five other occasions since 2012 for charges including domestic battery, aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and false report of a crime, according to records.

Avery's mother, Winona Kitto, said right now she doesn't want to know the details after learning on Monday of Garrett's arrest. It would only make her angry.

"I don't feel any animosity for Donnie's betrayers. I feel great sadness for them, whoever they are. They must not know what love is," she said by email. "And they must know they killed a beautiful young man for nothing. What a painful burden to carry."

News researcher Caryn Baird and Times Staff Writer Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report. Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8913. Follow her @kemettler.