Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has “been to a lot of murder scenes.” The one he visited in Frostproof, Florida on Saturday morning horrified him. It “ranks among the worst” he’s been to. The father of one of the victims was there before the police. He arrived just in the nick of time to hear his son’s dying words, which may have been enough to identify the killers. Three young men out for a night of fishing “appear to have been beaten and shot.”
Sheriff says they were ‘shot up’
Around 10:06 p.m., Brandon Rollins called his dad, who was sleeping at home, and said “help.” Cyril Rollins dashed for the door, without his cell phone. The lake was a regular fishing hole for the tres amigos about 10 minutes away. “When I got there, I was looking for my son. It was a mess.” According to Sheriff Judd, on Friday night, 23-year-old Damion Tillman was the first to arrive at Lake Streety.
Rollins, age 27, and close friend 30-year-old Keven Springfield pulled up in a pickup truck, as expected. What they weren’t expecting was to see Tillman being beaten. Sheriff Judd believes that Tillman “was killed when the two other victims arrived.” He called it a “massacre.” Judd was shocked by the grisly nature of the killing ground.
“This is a horrific scene. I’ve been to a lot of murder scenes in my life, and this ranks among the worst. These folks appear to be beaten and shot.” As the latecomers arrived, “they saw Tillman being beaten and were shot by one or more of his attackers.” Rollins was still conscious when the assailants left. That’s when he called his dad, begging for help. When he got there, Brandon’s dad found his son barely alive. The other two boys were already dead. Brandon was able to have a brief conversation, which the Sheriff says “we are not releasing at this time.” Dad realized he didn’t have his phone and drove to the nearest convenience store to call police.
Just fishing for catfish
By the time first responders arrived, Brandon was also deceased. They weren’t planning on going out on a boat, just fishing for catfish from the shore. The three “buddies” had done it lots of times. Police are convinced there were multiple assailants. As sheriff Judd relates, the boys were “shot up” but the “murderers didn’t count on” Brandon’s ability to “call his father, and say ‘help.'” His grieving parent feels some comfort that he reached his son while still alive. “I found my son. I was holding him. He was telling me what happened, but I was too shocked to know what was going on.”
Police aren’t speculating as to whether “the suspects knew the victims,” but Sheriff Judd says “our intuitiveness tells us you don’t just stumble upon somebody out here.” It’s a lake, about 70 miles south of Orlando, not the Intracoastal waterway. So, they probably didn’t stumble on smugglers. “This is a dirt road, a clay, dirt road way out in the middle of what we call God’s country. It’s not like there’s a lot of people around here. As you can see it’s cow pastures and lakes.”
Usually, authorities wait before posting a reward but not this time, Judd announced “$5,000 was immediately offered for anyone who has a tip that leads to an arrest.” He’s convinced that he’ll track down those responsible but wants them off the street now. “The victims, their parents and their families deserve for us to solve this sooner rather than later.” Rollins’ girlfriend, Jessica Steenson, said “the sheriff shook her hand” at the murder scene, and vowed to catch the killers. “He will not stop until justice is served for them three boys, my boyfriend, and his two best friends,” she told the press.