By Michael Williams
ORLANDO, Fla. — Jake Bilotta was bloodied, barefoot and crying when police officers found him behind a gaming store near Maitland in November — shortly after authorities say he lured his former roommate to his house, stabbed him, then put his body in a trash bag with the plan of burying him.
Body-camera footage released Tuesday shows officers taking Bilotta into custody about a mile away from the South Boulevard home where he’s accused of stabbing Joshua Barnes, 24, to death. Authorities say Bilotta, angry that Barnes had stolen a smoking device, PlayStation and watch, coaxed Barnes to his home with the promise of going to a party.
Instead, Bilotta started stabbing Barnes as soon as he opened the door, deputies said. His roommate, Ian McClurg, was supposed to grab Barnes and prevent him from running away, but prosecutors say he backed out of the plan, though he still helped Bilotta place Barnes’ body in a trash bag.
The two were interrupted when another roommate opened the door after arriving home early from a Tinder date. Bilotta ran out of the home while McClurg hid in a bathroom.
Sitting on the ground in handcuffs, Bilotta described himself as “woozy” and “numb.” He complained of a knife wound to his hand that he said he suffered in self-defense: “He tried to stab me. I grabbed the knife.” However, he also appeared to refer to Barnes as “the victim.”
“I’m losing blood,” he said. “He tried to stab me with a knife.”
Bilotta, 23, faces a first-degree murder charge. Prosecutors last month announced they were seeking the death penalty against him.
McClurg, 21, initially faced the same charge, but the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office amended his charges after investigators determined he backed out of the plan to kill Barnes at the last minute. He faces charges of conspiracy to commit capital murder, tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Both are being held in the Seminole County Jail without bond.
Jeff Dowdy, Bilotta’s attorney, said in a text message Tuesday he was still reviewing the evidence “so it would be premature to discuss any potential self defense claims.”
Among the records released Tuesday were crime-scene photos showing what appears to be Barnes’ body wrapped in a duct-taped bundle of trash bags on a blood-soaked tile floor. A pot of water, a mop and a bloody knife wrapped in a paper towel are on the ground nearby. One picture shows blood splattered on Bilotta’s bedroom door, which has a large hole from when Bilotta punched it in a fit of rage after learning his stuff was missing, McClurg told police.
Additional photos show Bilotta with bruising to his chest, blood on his hands and an injury to his toe.
Prosecutors also released a 25-minute audio interview of McClurg conducted by detectives shortly after the stabbing. Detectives didn’t interview Bilotta because he invoked his right to remain silent, State Attorney’s Office spokesman Todd Brown said.
McClurg, who described himself as a music producer, told detectives he hoped to manage Barnes as a recording artist. Barnes was a rapper who went by “Sosa,” McClurg told detectives.
Barnes moved into the home Bilotta and McClurg shared about a month before he was killed, McClurg said. He was kicked out after two weeks because he wasn’t paying rent and left the door unlocked.
Weeks later, McClurg said Barnes sneaked in through a broken window and stole Bilotta’s PlayStation, smoking device and watch. McClurg said he also stole a pair of shoes that belonged to another roommate.
Bilotta was in Boston visiting family when the theft occurred, McClurg said. He came home the day Barnes was killed. Throughout the day, Bilotta became “progressively more pissed off” after learning his stuff was gone, McClurg said.
“He was talking about hitting (Barnes) with a katana … a large ninja sword … He would just talk about, like, basically stabbing … ” McClurg said.
“He had plans for him,” he said.
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