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Detectives arrest 18-year-old man in slaying of transgender woman India Clarke

India Clarke, 25, a transgender woman, was found dead at the University Area Community Center on July 21. Authorities say she had been shot in the head. 
India Clarke, 25, a transgender woman, was found dead at the University Area Community Center on July 21. Authorities say she had been shot in the head. 
Published Jul. 29, 2015

TAMPA — Keith Lamayne Gaillard was first arrested at age 11. He spent parts of his childhood homeless. Now 18, Gaillard was arrested again on Wednesday, this time on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a transgender woman.

It was his 25th arrest, records show.

Gaillard of Tampa turned himself in early Wednesday after Hillsborough sheriff's detectives said they wanted to question him about India Clarke, 25. The victim was found dead July 21 with a gunshot wound to her head at University Area Community Center park.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the two had a "personal relationship," though spokesman Larry McKinnon declined to elaborate.

Sheriff's officials identified the victim by the name she was given at birth, Samuel Elijah Clarke, though she has identified as female for years. The case has drawn national attention.

Charles Thomas, one of Clarke's friends, said the arrest brought mixed feelings.

"I'm not glad, because (India's) gone," he said. "But I'm glad they did investigate it and her life mattered enough for them to try to find who harmed her."

The Sheriff's Office said a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, rented by Clarke, was parked near her body. Inside, detectives said they found a used condom, scattered paperwork and a cigar wrapper with Gaillard's fingerprint. They said DNA from the condom and from beneath Clarke's fingernails were matched to Gaillard. He had a scratch on his neck, deputies said, that looked like it was inflicted during a fight.

A witness told detectives that the day after Clarke's death, Gaillard told him, "I think I killed somebody," and made reference to shooting the victim near Fletcher Avenue.

Detectives also combed Gaillard's Facebook page, focusing on a photo that showed him pointing a revolver with duct tape wrapped around the handle. Investigators said the witness told them he had seen Gaillard with that gun, along with a tote bag he usually carries it in.

Another witness also identified Gaillard in the Facebook photo and said Gaillard sold him the gun for $50 on Sunday — five days after Clarke was found dead.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Gaillard has been arrested 25 times in the past seven years. The first was a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon at age 11. Last month, he was released from the county jail after pleading guilty and serving time for grand theft of a motor vehicle among other charges, according to records.

Gaillard's older brother Kendrick Gaillard, 19, said he thinks his brother did not murder Clarke. But he acknowledged Keith Gaillard was often in trouble.

"It's this hot-headed mode," Kendrick Gaillard said. "But he can also get blamed easy, too, because he doesn't know how to talk."

Kendrick Gaillard said he, his brother and their other siblings were often homeless as children. Keith Gaillard attended several schools before he dropped out after eighth grade.

He was never praised or encouraged, the older brother said, and by the time Keith Gaillard was arrested for Clarke's murder, only a few people would talk to him.

"Nobody was helping him out," Kendrick Gaillard said.

Early Wednesday morning, Kendrick Gaillard helped his brother turn himself in and filmed a video as the two walked into a sheriff's station.

"I don't want them to say my brother wasn't helping or anything stupid," the older brother said. "I don't want them to say he had a broken leg before he came or had problems breathing.

"My brother was fine before he turned himself in."

Sheriff's officials said Keith Gaillard asked for a lawyer after speaking with detectives. He was also arrested on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He was being held in the Hillsborough County jail without bond.

Contact Emily McConville at (813) 226-3374 or emcconville@tampabay.com.

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