Jul 22, 2020
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd Press Conference Transcript July 22: Frostproof Murders
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd gave a press conference on July 22 to give an update on the 3 men murdered while fishing in Frostproof, Florida. He described the suspect as “pure evil in the flesh”. Read the transcript here.
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Grady Judd: (00:00)
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us today. I asked that you come here so that we could give you an update. I’m going to first and foremost tell you that we have simply the best homicide team I believe in the entire nation. In 11 years, we only have two unsolved homicides, and quite frankly, if some friends of those victims would talk to us, we would have zero unsolved homicides, but apparently their friends would rather these folks be dead than help us find out who the murderers are, but that’s a side story. I knew when we sent this investigative team there that they would do everything they could and would more than likely solve this homicide because they are simply the very best, and they did on this case what they do on every other case. They investigated this homicide as if our victims, Damien Tillman, Kevin Springfield, and Brandon Rollins, were their brothers. That’s the energy and enthusiasm.
Grady Judd: (01:12)
They worked 24 seven around the clock, along with all of their colleagues, and they have solved the case. We have locked up the three people that are responsible for the murders of these guys. Let me once again lay out the details for you if you missed it originally. I want you to think about this. This is Polk County, Frostproof, the very south end of the County. It’s an extremely rural area. The county’s 2000 square miles. The population is almost 700,000, and all of it is from mid Polk County North. So it’s a sparsely populated area that’s made up of cow pastures, orange groves, beautiful lakes, and a very, very low crime rate in the Frostproof area, which is one of the best kept secrets and one of the safest places to live of any place in the nation, but all of that came to a crashing halt on Lake Streety Road, when we found these people, our victims massacred, literally massacred. We thought, “My goodness, what could have happened there?” Well, we know now.
Grady Judd: (02:36)
I’m going to introduce you to the people that were responsible for that. Then I’m going to give you a timeline. So this is going to take a couple of minutes and you pick from it what you need. This is the trigger man. This is the guy who directly did the damage. His name’s Tony Wiggins. He’s known as TJ. He’s 26 years of age. This is Mary Whitemore. She’s 27 years of age and she is the girlfriend of Tony Wiggins, and this is Robert Wiggins. He’s 21 years of age and he’s the brother, obviously, to TJ. But let me stop for a minute and give you a little history on TJ. TJ is someone who his criminal history should shock your conscience. It does mine. TJ started to be arrested when he was 12 years old. He is currently only 26 years old. TJ has 230 felony criminal charges in his arrest history. I didn’t stutter. He had 230 charges in his arrest history. 15 convictions and two times to state prison at only 26. There’s a picture of Tony Wiggins. Here’s the real Tony Wiggins.
Grady Judd: (04:18)
He’s a thug. He’s a criminal. He’s pure evil in the flesh. He’s wild and he’s out of control. Mary has zero criminal history. Zero. Robert has one misdemeanor arrest, virtually no arrest. Tony, 230 felony charges. They all are from the Lake Wells and Frostproof area, as was our victim. When we started receiving crime stopper tips, and we received them to the point that the call center said we had to bring in extra help. We had people call in from all over the nation about ideas and helping us investigate the crime and what they believed and psychics, but the local tips that came in that were filtered and there were hundreds that came to us. The predominant information we got was, “Look at TJ Wiggins from Frostproof.” It’s not that they had any idea that he did it, but this guy is just mean. He’s just violent. He’s currently out on bond for breaking a guy’s arm with a crowbar during a fight, waiting to go back to trial on other felony charges.
Grady Judd: (05:57)
This is a guy who they said would just walk up and punch you for no reason, or no reason to you, certainly a good reason to him. You look at the Florida statutes as it appears with criminal conduct, he’s got some arrest history, everything from burglary and theft, to aggravated battery, to resisting law enforcement officers, to battery on law enforcement officers, to battery on people that are 65 years or older, the elderly. He’s just wild and hostile and the people of Frostproof said, “Look at him,” but let me tell you, as I introduce you to these folks and I start through the timeline, what occurred. When our crime scene folks and our detectives were working the original crime scene, what we noticed in Damien’s truck … and understand when I talk today, Damien was in the red pickup truck and the white pickup truck had our other two victims in there, Kevin Springfield and Brandon Rollins. Kevin was driving the white pickup truck, Brandon was riding in the white pickup truck, and Damien was driving his red pickup truck. The three of them decided to go to the Lake to fish. What’s more wholesome than three friends, three close friends fishing together in Frostproof on a Friday night? And that’s what they were doing.
Grady Judd: (07:52)
But first Damien stopped at the Dollar General store, and we figured that out because we saw a Dollar General bag in the victim, Damien’s, truck and there were things that he’d purchased there. So we went to Dollar General, and I want to tell you, when you look at a professional business that was totally cooperative with us, it’s Dollar General. Dollar General always works well with us because they want good customers and they don’t care for criminals stealing their stuff, or certainly committing murders. What we saw when we pulled the video tape was Damien standing in line to check out. The person behind him in line to check out is, newsflash, TJ. The person behind TJ is Robert, and we also determined that Mary was in the store. So let’s go to a timeline. At 2156 hours … we call that 9:56 in the evening, Damien is checking out of the store with his product. He is followed out of the store by TJ who checks out about 15 seconds later, and he’s also followed by his brother and his girlfriend at 10:06 PM. Only 10 minutes later, Brandon, who is now in the white pickup truck, frantically calls his dad and says, “Help,” and I’ve already talked to you how dad ran to the –
Grady Judd: (10:03)
… And I’ve already talked to you, how dad ran to the scene only to find the massacre at the scene. What we know is that Damion drove directly to the lake from Dollar General to meet his friends, Kevin and Brandon. What we know is that as a result of that, the murder occurred in short order in less than 10 minutes. So we have all three of the suspects in the store with Damion and checking out 10 minutes before the frantic call for help. So our detectives now confirm that, hey, this guy, Tony or TJ that we’ve received tips from, is standing in line with and had a conversation with Damion in the store. We don’t have the conversation because there’s no audio, but from body language, it was not violent or animated. It was just a normal conversation.
Grady Judd: (11:28)
But our detectives on Monday, found our suspects and they were living on Sarver Avenue, in a family compound of camper trailers and this is in the woods outside of Frostproof and they were living off the grid; no running water, no electricity. They had some generators.
Grady Judd: (12:08)
So understand that now we’re talking about Frostproof, in a rural part of the county. The shooting happened in a rural part of the county and we literally have to walk the road and we go down a dirt path through the woods that opens up into a compound off the grid. That’s how far out in the woods this is. So our detectives immediately interviewed Tony Wiggins and Robert and Mary Whittemore. Robert and Mary consistently lie to protect TJ. Robert lies to us. Mary lies to us. TJ lies to us. They don’t tell us the truth. The only common thread during their interviews, otherwise the stories are all over the place. From different vehicles, to where they went, to they didn’t go any place. But they agreed on one thing. They went to McDonald’s and ordered 10 double cheeseburgers and two McChicken sandwiches. That’s the only thing.
Grady Judd: (13:24)
So on Monday we executed a search warrant at the compound. TJ was found to be in possession of two shot guns and two SKS 7.62 rifles. He’s a convicted felon. He can’t possess firearms. So he was immediately arrested.
Grady Judd: (13:51)
Our forensic investigations team found one, nine millimeter shell casing. One, at TJ trailer. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said from the very beginning, I had two conversations with the commissioner this weekend. He’s a dear friend of mine.
Grady Judd: (14:22)
He said, “Grady, FDLE is here to do anything you need, and I told you about them chipping in $10,000 to help,” and he says “Our labs are at your disposal.”
Grady Judd: (14:35)
I called him Monday afternoon. I said, “We need to compare some shell casings from the scene to a shell casing at our prime suspects house. We plan to bring it over in the morning.” He said, “No, bring it over tonight and let’s get started.” They brought in people. That’s the help. That’s the teamwork.
Grady Judd: (14:58)
What did we determine? The shell casing at the scene, the shell casing at TJ’s house, were all fired from a Smith and Wesson handgun and both the shell casing at home and at the scene were fired from the same weapon, the weapon that committed the massacre in the hands of TJ. So on Tuesday when we got the paperwork wrapped up with all of that investigation, we went back to the scene and we ask Robert and Mary if they would join us at the Sheriff’s office for a clarifying interview and they agreed to come up to the Sheriff’s office to talk to us. Tony had lawyered up. Mary made some admissions. She said, “I bought the ammunition. TJ was with me.” Newsflash. We got video of that too. That ammunition was purchased on the 9th of July.
Grady Judd: (16:22)
She also gave us once again, multiple stories about being with and confirming she was in the Dollar General that night. We’ve got evidence to show they were together, less than 10 minutes before the murder.
Grady Judd: (16:41)
Then when we pressed her for the details and she realized, “Oh my gosh. They’ve got me.” She lawyered up. She didn’t cooperate anymore.
Grady Judd: (16:55)
Robert, the younger brother, we talked to him. Robert, up to this moment or up to this event, is not a bad guy, at least in the criminal sense. One misdemeanor arrest. When Robert’s in line, he hears Damion tell the clerk, “We’re going fishing.” Damion tells the clerk because the clerk knows everybody. It’s a small town. “Yeah, I’m going fishing with Kevin.”
Grady Judd: (17:42)
So Robert and TJ are talking and he says, “Yeah, Damion’s going fishing with Kevin.” And TJ says, “What? Kevin’s going to be there?”
Grady Judd: (18:04)
So when they leave the store, TJ tells Robert who’s driving, “Go to the lake.” Now they had no plans to go to the lake until TJ told Robert, “Go to the lake,” and they did. Damion now is at the lake and he has met up with, during this timeframe, Kevin and Brandon, who were in the white truck and they have turned their trucks so that they’re door to door talking to each other in the middle of the road.
Grady Judd: (18:50)
Robert drives and pulls up behind the white truck that’s driven by Kevin with Brandon in the passenger side. TJ exited his truck. When he did, Brandon got out of his vehicle and shined a light back to see who was pulling up behind them. TJ rushed up to Brandon, pushed him against the truck, pulled the hand gun out and said, “Where’s Kevin?” Kevin’s sitting in the driver’s seat right there and he looks and sees Kevin. He runs around, he being TJ, runs around between the red truck and the white truck.
Grady Judd: (19:39)
He points the gun at Kevin and TJ says, “Where’s my truck.” Kevin goes, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Yeah, you do. Where’s my truck. You sold the engine out of my truck.” Kevin’s saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Grady Judd: (20:02)
At that moment in time….
Grady Judd: (20:03)
Of what you’re talking about. At that moment in time, according to the information we’ve received, TJ hits Kevin. Damien starts to open the door of his vehicle and is screaming at TJ, “Put the gun away, put the gun away, put the gun away.” TJ is out of control screaming, “Where’s my truck?” And he starts shooting Kevin and Brandon inside of the white truck. It’s estimated, and this is still under investigation, he shoots him nine to 10 times between the two of them. Then he turns on Damien and begins to shoot Damien, who’s got his door open but is in his truck, several times. Then he goes back to Kevin’s truck, and during his excitement, now he has dropped the magazine to his firearm and he can’t find it. So he opens the truck door and Kevin falls out on the ground, and that’s where Kevin’s found. He finds the magazine to the handgun that he drops when he goes back, points the gun back, and then he calls Robert. Robert says he sitting in the truck. He said, “I never got out of the truck and when he pulled the gun, I started to get out of the truck. By that time, it was all over with.”
Grady Judd: (21:50)
You can believe what of that, that you want to. May, TJ’s girlfriend, she doesn’t know anything. And this is one mean woman. She’s not cooperating. She’s not talking. She becomes incensed at the detectives, when they try to confirm the spelling of her last name, because it’s not spelled in the traditional way, you would think you would spell Whitmore. She’s saying nothing, but she’s there the entire time. And she’s lying to protect him.
Grady Judd: (22:27)
TJ then tells Robert, “Come here. Help me put Damien in the truck.” So Damien now, and we don’t know the lineage, the details because they’re not given to us any better than what I’m about to tell you. They grabbed Damien. We don’t know if he’s already pulled out of the truck or if he’s in the truck, because there is blood evidence all over the place. But they pick him up and heave him over into the back of the pickup truck, with his foot sticking up over the edge of the bed, and then they leave.
Grady Judd: (23:16)
They go to a undisclosed location and supposedly strip down the gun, take it apart, and throw it away. They immediately go to McDonald’s in Lake Wales and order 10 double cheeseburgers and two McChickens. While they’re in line, they go through the drive through, it’s very quiet. TJ simply says, “We weren’t there.” And that’s all the conversation that they will admit to. We believe there’s more than that. We found throughout the investigation that they lied for TJ. She bought ammunition for TJ. And then later on Saturday, keep in mind this happened on Friday night, Robert takes that truck, which belongs to another relative, to a carwash because it’s coated in red mud and cleans it up.
Grady Judd: (24:44)
The owner of the vehicle knows that they’re driving the vehicle. That young lady who is a relative doesn’t know anything about anything. She’s just throwing a fit, “Because you said you were going to Sebring or Avon Park in my truck and you bring it back looking like this.” Robert cleans it up. We asked, “Did you clean the inside?” “Oh no, we didn’t clean the inside.” Well, duh, they did. We found trace evidence of blood, where TJ was sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle. That’s being packaged up and take him to FDLE.
Grady Judd: (25:29)
So at the end of the day, we’ve charged TJ Wiggins, appropriately with three counts of first degree murder. At this point in the investigation, we have charged Robert with three counts of assessory, and one count of tampering with evidence. We’ve charged Mary with three counts of assessory to the murder and one count of tampering. The investigation is ongoing. The folks who lost their loved ones that night are poor people. We’ve had a lot of people offer to give us more money for a reward. We don’t need that. But if there’s an inclination to help these folks bury their loved ones, I’m certain that would be appreciated. Because there’s nothing worse than having to bury your child, unless it’s, you’re having to bury your child and you don’t have any money.
Grady Judd: (26:50)
It’s important to understand, and I alluded to this the other day, I can give you more details today, that as I said originally, normally, the normal murder is around drugs, alcohol, money, domestic events. No evidence of drugs in either of the victim’s car,, none, zero, no beer, no beer cans, no meth, nothing. In the suspect’s vehicle, when we see it, there’s no indication of drugs at all. The only information we have is TJ, is allegedly mad over some kind of truck deal that happened some period of time ago.
Grady Judd: (27:47)
We’ve not had an opportunity, the homicide team, to dig into that civil disturbance, if you will, yet, because we’re busy solving a triple homicide but that will come together later. State Attorney’s office, which is simply the very best, worked with us hand in glove during the entire investigation and we’ll be doing the same with them as we prepare with them to prosecute TJ for the massacre of these three folks.
Grady Judd: (28:32)
Robert and Mary’s charges may be upgraded. We may add charges. That investigations ongoing. Understand that this is Wednesday, we started this investigation Friday night when we were called and by Tuesday afternoon, this homicide team had them in jail. We’re grateful for the tips we received. We’re grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. We’re grateful we had people from around the country as far away as Tennessee, that I’m aware of, want to send us money for a reward.
Grady Judd: (29:15)
You see that’s the United States. That’s the state of Florida and that’s the community I know and love. Good people came with promises and prayers for the family from around this country. The community pulled together and that’s the United States of America that I know. Now, quite literally, other than investigative details, we’re working on evidence we’re preparing to take the lab. You know what we’ve been told up to this point in the investigation. You can ask questions, I’ll either answer them or I won’t. Yes. Ma’am
Speaker 1: (29:58)
Beyond this, the argument over the-
Speaker 1: (30:03)
You know, the argument over the engine and the car. Was there any other motive that you guys found?
Grady Judd: (30:08)
The only conflict we see is this. “Where’s my truck? I heard you stole the engine, or stole the engine out of my truck. Where’s my truck? I heard you stole the engine out of my truck.” And for that, this guy massacres three young men, 23, 27 and 30, on their way fishing Friday night near Frostproof? It’s gut wrenching. This is evil in the flesh. This is a guy who can hurt you just because it’s the right thing for him to do at that moment in time with his three brain cells. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 2: (31:04)
How do you know that this truck deal? Is one of the suspects cooperating or is this something that Brandon Rollins told his father?
Grady Judd: (31:12)
We’re not telling all of how we put this together, as you can imagine. I’m giving you the 30,000 foot view so that you can have the complete picture of what happened. But some of the information and some of the sources that people have wanted to provide us information, it’s not appropriate at this stage to release. Yes, sir.
Speaker 3: (31:38)
At what point in that timeline was Brandon able to call his father? Was it after they left?
Grady Judd: (31:44)
Brandon called his father 10 minutes after they left the store. So that means they left the store, he met his buddies, they’re talking, the suspects pull up. Whether Brandon, I imagine, all information I have is he made the call when the argument started, because by the time dad got there and found his son on the ground, gasping his last breath, and he’s holding his son, he’s with his son during the very end of his life, and he’s panicked. As I told you, he ran to the store and people, good question. Well, why didn’t he just pick up his son’s cell phone and call? Well, his son’s phone had fallen down inside the truck, and in his panic and fear, he didn’t see any cell phones. He just knew the three boys and his son were shot to pieces and he ran for help, which is all he knew to do. We’ve tried to comfort dad. The wounds were so severe that quite literally, if an emergency room had been across the street, they couldn’t have saved his life. But you can’t imagine the horror of a dad to find his son shot up. I don’t mean shot. I mean, shot up. As we say in Polk County vernacular, multiple gunshots, and dying in your arms. Yes ma’am?
Speaker 4: (33:47)
You said you got several tips pointing to Tony Wiggins. Can you specify about how many tips?
Grady Judd: (33:55)
I don’t know how many of them specifically talked about TJ or Tony, several. And you know why? Not that they had any information about the murder, but he’s just mean as a snake. And it’s a small community. Frostproof is probably 3000, 3500 people, and this is in what you would call the outskirts. It was not downtown Frostproof. Frostproof is the mega center at 3000. This is probably three or four miles, five miles south of Frostproof in a very remote area. But everybody knows that Tony Wiggins is the prime suspect for anything that goes wrong. And that’s easy to assume when at 26 years of age, he’s got 230 felony charges, and he’s been arrested consistently from the time he was 12 years old. I’m sure somebody thinks he ought to have counseling and pretrial release. Our goal, and we pray that the state attorney can seek the death penalty. He needs to receive a fair trial, the appropriate appeals, and then be executed. And you know what? Legally, we can’t execute him like he did those three guys who were just trying to fish on Friday night, nor would we suggest that the system be as barbaric as his conduct toward our three victims. Anything else? Pretty well know it. Thank you, God bless you. See you later.