The triple murder in Frostproof, Florida shocked the nation. However, one of the most surprising aspects was that prime suspect Tony "TJ" Wiggins (26) (left) was released from prison to commit the murders. Wiggins has a record of 230 crimes were charged and awaiting trial for a violent crowbar attack in which a man had a broken arm. This record included 15 convictions and two prison terms. Even as a defense lawyer, I am surprised that Wiggins was released in this earlier attack because of his records and the violent nature of this crime.
Wiggins is accused of killing 23-year-old Damion Tillman, 30-year-old Keven Springfield and 27-year-old Brandon Rollins.
There are surveillance videos showing how Tillman made purchases when the suspects were in the store. The police reported:
The clerk told the detectives that Damion said he was going fishing. The clerk also saw the suspects in the store at the same time, and they can also be seen in the video. The clerk told the detectives that the suspects heard Damion saying he was going fishing and that Keven would be with him while the clerk listened to everyone talking about it.
Robert followed the trucks in frostproof to Lake Streety Road. Robert stayed in the truck with Whittemore while TJ got out and confronted Keven Springfield, beating and yelling at him, and accused Keven of stealing his truck. Brandon Rollins and Damion Tillman get out of their truck and TJ keeps yelling at them all. Robert told Detectives that he had watched TJ shoot all three of the victims. TJ then asked Robert to help him put Damion in one of the trucks.
The police later arrested Wiggins' girlfriend Mary Whittemore (27) and his brother Robert Wiggins (21). They are accused of three cases of aiding and abetting murder and one case of tampering with evidence. Whittemore had no previous criminal record and Robert Wiggins had only one crime. They now look like serious times when they are convicted.
Whittemore reportedly bought the ammunition used for the Wiggin murders, even though he had no gun ownership as a former criminal. This seems to increase the possibility of being charged as an accessory before and after the crime. According to the Florida Law:
“Any person who maintains or supports the client or an accessory prior to the crime or provides other assistance to the perpetrator, knowing that the perpetrator committed a crime and that crime is a capital, a life, a first or second degree crime was or was previously an accessory, with the intention that the perpetrator avoids or escapes discovery, arrest, trial or punishment is an accessory after the fact. "
The punishment for such crimes can be as high as life in prison: “If the offense committed is a capital offense, the subsequent offense is a first-degree offense that is punished under s. 775.082, p. 775.083 or s. 775.084. ”
This is a case that asks for a bargain. There is not only significant evidence linking the three to the victims and the scene, but also the harmful image of the three who drive to McDonalds right after the murders to order 10 cheeseburgers. The jury should not take this into account in a murder case. It reminds me of the Leopold and Loeb case when they brought sandwiches with the victim's body in the car.
Wiggins has little reason to plead because prosecutors are likely to apply for the death penalty. The real question, however, will be the charge against the two suspected accessories and whether the prosecutor will supplement the charge or seek the maximum sentence (which seems likely).