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St. Petersburg man beaten by roommate, found dead 24 hours later, police say

The 55-year-old man now facing a manslaughter charge said he left his roommate in his bedroom, according to St. Petersburg police.
Damien Knight, also known as Craig Hammerly, 58, faces a charge of manslaughter, according to St. Petersburg police.
Damien Knight, also known as Craig Hammerly, 58, faces a charge of manslaughter, according to St. Petersburg police. [ Pinellas County jail ]
Published May 12, 2021
Updated May 13, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — A 55-year-old man killed his roommate during a fight this week, police say.

But he didn’t know his roommate had died until Tuesday, 24 hours after St. Petersburg police say he brawled with the 58-year-old man.

Officers arrived about 7 p.m. Tuesday to an apartment at 3460 24th Ave. S to investigate a suspicious death, according to police.

They found Richard John Trembly dead in his bedroom with injuries to his head, police said. Their investigation pointed them to his roommate, Damien Knight, also known as Craig Hammerly.

They initially arrested Knight on a charge of manslaughter just before midnight Tuesday. He was booked into the Pinellas County jail under the name Hammerly, where he was being held Wednesday in lieu of $10,000 bail.

But on Thursday morning, police said that charge had been upgraded to second-degree murder. Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the new charge came after officers received forensic information and interviewed additional witnesses.

Knight told officers that they got into a fight, according to an arrest report, but it doesn’t say over what. Trembly suffered traumatic injuries to his head, the report said, which Knight said were the result of his roommate falling in the bathroom.

He said Trembly was “unresponsive” after the fight, so he put him in his bedroom and left him there for 24 hours, police said. Then Knight said he discovered about 7 p.m. Tuesday that Trembly had died, and police were contacted. That would mean the fight took place on Monday.

There were no weapons involved, said police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez. Knight suffered “severe facial trauma” and had hand injuries consistent with punching something, his arrest report said.

He has several Pinellas arrests in recent years under both names, the last in 2019. He also served several stints in Florida prison. He was sentenced to three years in prison for property crimes in the late 1980s, then in the 1990s was sentenced to five years for forgery, state records show.

He spent several years in the 2000s and 2010s in prison on charges such as grand theft motor vehicle, false imprisonment, burglary and bringing contraband into prison. He was last released in July 2019.

Knight remained in jail Thursday morning, records showed. Jail records reflected the upgraded charge but did not list bail for that charge.

Times staff writer Jack Evans contributed to this report.