'Evil in the flesh': Convicted felon arrested in 'massacre' of 3 Florida friends on fishing trip

Suzie Schottelkotte, The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger
·3 min read

BARTOW, Fla. – A chance meeting at a dollar store last Friday night led to the shooting deaths minutes later of three friends who’d met to go fishing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday. A Lake Wales man was arrested in the killings.

Tony “T.J.” Lee Wiggins, 26, is charged with fatally shooting Brandon Rollins, 27, and his friends, Keven Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 30.

Wiggins' brother, William “Robert” Wiggins, 21, and Mary Whittemore, 27, were also arrested, charged with three counts of accessory to murder and one count of tampering with evidence.

Investigators linked a shell casing found at the scene to a handgun discovered at Wiggins’ camper Monday.

Detectives found trace evidence of blood in a truck Wiggins was riding in, and it’s being processed.

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According to preliminary investigation, Wiggins, in the moments before he allegedly fired, accused Springfield, a mechanic, of selling the engine from his truck.

“For that, this guy massacres three young men, 23, 27 and 30, on their way to fishing on a Friday night in Frostproof (Florida)?” Judd said, displaying Wiggins’ photo during Wednesday’s news conference. “It’s gut-wrenching. This is evil in the flesh.”

Judd said the Wiggins brothers and Whittemore went to the area where Rollins, Springfield and Tillman were found after Robert Wiggins overheard Tillman tell a clerk at a Dollar General he was meeting Springfield to do some fishing.

After Wiggins got to the scene, he drew a handgun and accused Springfield, according to Judd. Springfield and Rollins had arrived in the same truck. Wiggins hit Springfield before he started firing at him and Rollins, Judd said, describing Wiggins as "out of control."

Sheriff: 3 friends on fishing trip killed in 'massacre'

Wiggins fired nine to 10 shots at Springfield and Rollins, Judd said.

Tillman tried to intervene, telling Wiggins to "put the gun away," Judd said. Wiggins allegedly shot Tillman and instructed his brother to help him put Tillman's body in the back of one of the trucks.

After leaving the scene, the Wiggins brothers and Whittemore drove to a McDonald’s restaurant.

“While they’re standing in line or in line at the drive-thru, it’s very quiet,” Judd said. “T.J. simply says, ‘We weren’t there,’ and that’s all the conversation they will admit to. We believe there’s more than that.”

Detectives were told that Robert Wiggins took the borrowed truck they used that night and cleaned it out.

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Wiggins, a convicted felon, was arrested Monday after detectives executed a search warrant on his travel trailer and discovered a cache of firearms.

The night of the shooting, Rollins called his father, Cyril, to say he needed help. Judd said Wednesday that he called before the shooting began. By the time Cyril Rollins got there, his son was critically wounded, and after talking with him for moments, the elder Rollins left to call for help because he had left his cellphone at home.

Judd said some questioned why Rollins didn’t use his son’s cellphone.

“His son’s phone had fallen down inside the truck,” he said, “and in his panic and fear, he didn’t see any cellphones. He just knew the three boys, and his son, were shot to pieces, and he ran for help, which was all he needed to do.”

Follow Suzie Schottelkotte on Twitter @southpolkscene.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Convicted felon arrested in 'massacre' of 3 Florida friends