Kathy Leigh Berkowitz
Three Frostproof men were brutally murdered when they were beaten and shot while on their way to fishing in a remote area of Lake Streety late Friday night, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
During a media briefing near the scene on Lake Streety Road Saturday morning, Judd identified the victims as Damion Tillman, 23, Keven Springfield, 30, and Brandon Rollins, 27. The three men had been friends for years, Judd said, adding the families of the victims gave PCSO permission to release their names.
According to the preliminary investigation, Judd said just after 10 p.m. Friday, Rollins called his dad on his cellphone and said “Help.” Judd said Rollins’ father knew his son was fishing with his two friends and drove to Lake Streety Road.
Upon arriving at the scene, Rollins’ found his son barely alive and his two friends both dead.
Judd said Rollins was able to say a few things to his dad before he died, which the sheriff’s office didn’t release at the morning briefing.
Judd said it appeared that Tillman arrived first in his red pickup truck, and that while he was being murdered, Rollins and Springfield arrived in a white pickup truck and also were shot.
“In Brandon’s father’s excitement to run to help his son, he forgot his cellphone at home. So now he is out in the middle, as you can see, of no place without any communication,” Judd said. The father drove back to the nearest convenience store to call 911 and said “my son needs help.”
A 17-year-old girl, the daughter of the convenience store’s owner, jumped into the vehicle of Rollins’ father and the two drove back to Lake Streety Road, Judd said.
Polk County EMS, Polk Fire Rescue and PCSO were notified, but by the time they arrived, Rollins had succumbed to his injuries.
“These folks appear to be beaten and shot … We are seeking leads, we need help so we can solve this crime sooner rather than later,” Judd said, adding that PCSO suspects there was more than one killer.
Describing the “quiet, quaint” community surrounded by groves, forest and cattle ranches, Judd said the murder scene area was “about as far out in the woods as you can get.”
“This is a horrific scene. I have been to a lot of murder scenes in my life and this ranks up with the worst of them,” Judd said. “They were viciously murdered.”
Judd said few details are being released at this point of the investigation, but added that anyone with information about the murders is urged to contact PCSO at 863-298-6200. Heartland Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 cash reward for information that leads to the arrests of the suspects responsible. Visit heartlandcrimestoppers.com or call 1-800-226-TIPS (8477).
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