CHICAGO (News Nation/WFLA) — Three friends were killed just moments after gathering together for some night fishing at a lake in central Florida, authorities said Saturday. They were found by the father of one of the men who managed to call for help just before he died.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who has worked at the department since 1972, described the killings at a Frostproof lake a “massacre.” He said the men were beaten and shot.
“This is a horrific scene,” Judd said at a news conference Saturday near Lake Streety where the bodies were found. “I’ve been to a lot of murder scenes in my life, and this ranks among the worst.”
Killed were Damion Tillman, 23; Keven Springfield, 30; and Brandon Rollins, 27.
Judd said this is what investigators believe happened: Tillman arrived at the lake first to meet his friends for “night fishing” for catfish. When Rollins and Springfield arrived, they saw Tillman being beaten. The attackers then began shooting them.
Rollins was still alive when the attackers left and called his father for help. His father rushed to the fishing spot about 10 minutes away, but forgot his cellphone in the hurry to help his son. He drove to a nearby convenience store, and the clerk helped him reach authorities, but by the time they arrived, his son had died.
Judd wouldn’t say what information Rollins shared with his father before he died, but said they did have a conversation. He also did not say whether authorities have identified any suspects, but noted that his department is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the capture of the killers. He said investigators believe more than one person was involved in the slayings.
Judd also wouldn’t speculate on whether the attackers knew the victims, although he also suggested it wasn’t a random attack.
“You don’t just stumble upon somebody out here. This is a dirt road, a clay dirt road, way out in the middle of what we call God’s country, on the way to a nice little fishing lake. It’s not like there’s a lot of people around here. As you can see, it’s cow pastures and lakes,” he said.
That $5,000 reward was increased to $30,000 Monday after contributions from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Florida Sheriff’s Association, according to News Nation affiliate WFLA.
Judd said their agency has received “well over 100 tips” in the case, but there are no suspects. Some tips have been promising, and some have been “absolutely ridiculous,” Judd said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.