TAMPA — Social worker William "Bill" Denham Jr. was a small-framed, openly gay, 53-year-old pacifist, his friends and family say.
That's why they call it absurd that a woman accused in Denham's slaying told police he had walked into a back yard and masturbated in front of her.
Jadian Sinead Zeiders, 26, was arrested late Friday and charged with second-degree murder in Denham's beating death Jan. 14.
Zeiders told police she pointed Denham out to two other men after the incident in her yard and they struck him in self defense, according to a police report obtained Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Times.
"He never would have attacked anyone," said Maureen Tourigian, one of Denham's three sisters. "Anyone who knows him knows that, and that he never would expose himself to a woman. He wasn't interested."
The police report shows investigators turned their attention to Zeiders on Jan. 17, three days after police found Denham lying unconscious around 10 p.m. on a sidewalk near the corner of North 15th and East Elm streets.
Denham, who lived on East Crenshaw Street, died at St. Joseph's Hospital. An autopsy found he died of blunt trauma to the face and body.
A witness at the scene told investigators he saw two men and a woman beating Denham in the street and kicking him after he fell down. The witness told investigators that one of the men said something about the man being a "pedophile."
Three days later, police received an anonymous tip that Zeiders and two men beat Denham to death. The Times is not naming the men because they have not been formally linked to the case. Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said only that detectives have identified two suspects in addition to Zeiders.
"We clearly have some conflicting information we have to sort through," Hegarty said.
Zeiders initially told police she didn't know what happened to Denham. But later, in the same interview, she said she was outside a home on the 1500 block of Escort Avenue when a man she didn't know entered the yard and started masturbating in front of her.
Zeiders said she hid in the laundry room of the house and when two men she knew returned there, she told them what had happened. According to Zeiders, her two acquaintances caught up with the man near 15th and Sligh Avenue and began arguing with him.
Zeiders said the man ran back to Elm Street and her companions followed. They tried to detain him, she said, and were forced to defend themselves when he attacked one of them. The man fell to the ground and her companions walked away, she said.
At that point, Zeiders told police, a black man she didn't know came out of the bushes, kicked the man in the head and started rifling through his pockets. She said she watched as an ambulance arrived and the man walked away from the scene, refusing medical treatment.
A second witness told investigators one of the men who beat Denham lives at the Escort Avenue address, the police report says. This man told the witness the day after the beating that he and a male and female companion beat a man to death because he tried to rape Zeiders in the yard, the police report says.
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Five days later, according to the same witness, the same man repeated the claim and said detectives had questioned him. A third witness told police the man bragged that he had hit someone who died.
A fourth witness who knows Zeiders and the other two men said he went to the Escort Avenue home the day of the beating, the police report says. This witness said Zeiders repeated her account that a man had come into the yard and masturbated and that her two acquaintances chased him down and beat him.
The witness said Zeiders repeated the claim about a black man coming out of the bushes, kicking the man and going through his pockets, but also added that one of her two male acquaintances beat him to death.
Last month, another witness told police that Zeiders and her male companions attacked because Zeiders claimed the man raped her.
"The witness was very clear that Jadian Zeiders acknowledged kicking the victim several times," Detective Nicholas Sclavakis wrote in the report.
Zeiders remained in the Hillsborough County jail Tuesday in lieu of $100,000 bail. State records show she was arrested in November on charges of heroin possession and failing to appear in court for a driving infraction.
Denham's partner of 30 years, Dan Kane, told the Times in January that Denham had walked alone to a nearby Walmart and bought a few frozen dinners, stopped by his old house on East Paris Street, then headed toward the small, white wood-framed house on East Crenshaw Street that he and Kane bought in November. The house is less than a mile north of where he was killed.
On Tuesday, Kane said Zeiders fabricated a story to protect her and her accomplices. He said he suspects the trio tried to rob Denham and beat him up when they found he only had a few dollars in his pocket.
Kane has had to pass by the intersection with the knowledge that Denham's killers are probably still in the area. He called Zeiders' arrest "a start" and hopes two more will come soon.
"I don't think they need the death penalty, but they do need to be in prison for a long time to think about what they did," Kane said. "They're a danger to the community and need to be off the street."
Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.