Early one morning in January 2020, Scott Jenks, 48, stumbled out of a St. Petersburg bar.
Less than an hour and a half later, a bar employee found his body, bloody and beaten on the pavement outside.
Police later arrested a fellow bar patron, Kristoff A. King, 40, on a murder charge and said he had kicked and beaten Jenks for 79 minutes until he died. Surveillance video from a nearby business captured audio from the incident. It also recorded a barrage of racial epithets and insults King heaved at Jenks during the attack, prosecutors say.
After about four hours of deliberations Tuesday, a jury found King guilty of first-degree murder and also ruled the killing was a hate crime. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philippe Matthey sentenced him to life in prison.
Jenks and King were regulars at The Sports Bar & Grill in the Northgate Shops strip mall on 94th Avenue North, where bartenders knew them by name, court records say.
Elizabeth Constantine, a state prosecutor who handled the case, said Jenks was a former cook at the bar. He would often visit his former coworkers and have a drink there.
“He was just kind of like a very happy, jovial guy,” she said.
Constantine said King had only been coming to the bar for two or three months prior to the incident. Video footage from inside the bar shows the two were sitting near each other that night but it was unclear if they conversed.
King ordered multiple liquor shots and Heineken beers, according to court records. Jenks was visibly drunk, witnesses said, and had to be helped out of the bar at closing time.
Jenks stumbled out of the bar and started walking down the strip mall, Constantine said. Minutes later, video footage showed King walk out of the bar with other patrons.
He waited until they had cleared the area and began to follow Jenks down the plaza, Constantine said.
About 4:40 a.m., a bar employee found Jenks’ body outside a nearby business in the shopping plaza.
He’d been beaten and robbed, with his pockets turned out. Officers found footprints on Jenks’ torso and in his blood around the scene. A shoeprint expert matched the prints to a pair of shoes that belonged to King.
Audio from security footage captured the details of the killing. King can be heard kicking Jenks on the ground for an hour and 19 minutes while Jenks begged for his life, police said.
Officers said Jenks pleaded with King to “please stop,” saying “Kris, I love you we are friends,” while King made comments about his race and beat him.
King, who is Black, called Jenks names like “cracker” and “colonizer” as he kicked him, Constantine said. He asked Jenks, who was white, if he wanted to “die on the ground,” according to police.
Because of this language, Constantine said the jury made a special finding that he was guilty of a hate crime.
Video footage from outside King’s apartment showed him arrive home immediately after the incident, stripped down to his underwear. He held a plastic bag that prosecutors believe contained his bloody clothes.
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Two days later, King was stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol while on a bus from Orlando to Georgia. State troopers took him into custody in Alachua County, where investigators found Jenks’ DNA on King’s belt.
He was later extradited to Pinellas County and spent more than four years in jail, held without bond.
Constantine said the 79 minutes of audio that captured the homicide was likely the most compelling evidence shown to jurors.
“People say a picture is worth 1,000 words. I think the audio here really spoke and was able to tell the story of what happened and how heinous this crime really was,” she said.
“The family is glad for it to be done and to have justice,” she added.
Lynley Flagler, King’s defense lawyer, said they plan to file an appeal.
She declined to comment on the case, but said King’s family was upset by the verdict and sends their condolences to Jenks’ family.
“The family is very saddened by the fact that this was turned into a hate crime,” she said.
Information from the Tampa Bay Times archives was used in this story.