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Suspect in shooting death of two North Tampa roommates returns from state mental hospital

Devon Arthurs, 20, is accused in the 2017 shooting deaths of his two roommates in a New Tampa townhouse. He spent a year in a state hospital after being deemed incompetent to stand trial. He was returned to jail Tuesday. [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
Devon Arthurs, 20, is accused in the 2017 shooting deaths of his two roommates in a New Tampa townhouse. He spent a year in a state hospital after being deemed incompetent to stand trial. He was returned to jail Tuesday. [Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
Published Mar. 26, 2019

TAMPA — Two young men were shot to death with an assault rifle in May 2017 at a New Tampa townhouse.

The shooter, police said, was their roommate, 18-year-old Devon Arthurs, later described as a former neo-Nazi who converted to Islam and shot the pair after they mocked him. In the garage, investigators found bomb-making chemicals belonging to a fourth roommate, the founder of a white nationalist sect.

The bizarre series of crimes yielded a federal prison sentence for one man and a stay in a psychiatric hospital for the other.

The saga continued Tuesday night as Arthurs strolled into a booking room at the Orient Road Jail.

The bushy-haired Arthurs arrived at 8:13 p.m. He has spent more than a year at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, undergoing treatment to make him competent to face trial.

Previous coverage: Suspect in neo-Nazi murders tells of anger problem, says 'I might be kind of sick'

Last week, doctors there approved his return to court. A hearing is scheduled for April 3. A judge will likely appoint a local mental health expert to assess whether Arthurs is, indeed, well enough to understand the proceedings and to assist his defense attorneys. An order in his court file directs jail personnel to continue administering any medication that Arthurs is prescribed.

Now 20, Arthurs faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 19, 2017, shooting deaths of Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuck, 18. He also faces kidnapping charges for holding several people at gunpoint after the murders in a nearby smoke shop, investigators said.

Arthurs rambled about Islam before Tampa police arrived and persuaded him to surrender. Placed in handcuffs, he told officers they would find his roommates dead in the townhouse.

During an interrogation, he said he had shot the pair because they were neo-Nazis and they had ridiculed his conversion to Islam. The families of the two victims later denied that they harbored such beliefs.

Arthurs also told homicide detectives he felt mentally unwell. He said he wished he had sought treatment before the killings and asked to speak to doctors in jail.

The fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, was a member of the Florida National Guard who returned home from training about the time of Arthurs' arrest. He had nothing to do with the murders, investigators said, but later admitted to possessing the bomb-making materials that were found in the garage.

Russell was the founder of a group known as Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist sect. He pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Although he apologized in court, Russell's voice later accompanied a two-minute video that Atomwaffen members posted to YouTube. In it, he thanked his "loyal comrades" and quoted Hitler to chastise others who have "abandoned ship."

Related: Neo-Nazi leader from Tampa, now behind bars, stars in new video extolling Hitler

Russell, now 23, was previously housed at a federal prison in Atlanta. After the video emerged in June, he was moved to a prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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