Sheriff Judd on murders of 3 Florida fishing buddies: ‘It was horrible. And there was absolutely no reason.’

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday he simply could not explain why a suspected ringleader arrested in connection with the brutal murders of three Florida friends during a fishing trip had been on the streets, rather than behind bars.

In an interview on “The Daily Briefing,” Judd explained that 26-year-old Tony “TJ” Wiggins had 230 felony charges already under his belt.

“And, he’s out on bond for jumping on a guy and breaking his arm with a crowbar,” he said. “This guy is evil in the flesh. And, he murdered, he massacred three guys simply going fishing on Friday night near Frostproof, Florida.”


Wiggins, his 21-year-old brother William “Robert” Wiggins, and Robert’s 27-year-old girlfriend, Mary Whittemore, were all charged in last week’s Frostproof killings. Damion Tillman, 23, Keven Springfield, 30, and 27-year-old Brandon Rollins all died.

Wiggins’ criminal history dated back to when he was 12 years old. He had 15 convictions and has two stints in state prison on his record.

His brother has been charged with tampering with evidence and accessory. Whittemore has been charged with accessory after the fact of capital felony.

“Why, sheriff, is this guy on the streets?” host Trace Gallagher asked.

“I have no explanation for that,” Judd replied. “He has — you look at Florida statute… he’s done it all. He recently broke someone’s arm.”


Tony “TJ” Wiggins, 26, (left) was the alleged ringleader behind the “massacre.” His girlfriend, Mary Whittemore, 27, (center) and his brother Robert Wiggins, 21, (right) have also been arrested. (Polk County Sheriff)

“At the end of the day, he had a happenstance meeting with a young man, Damion that was going fishing. And, Damion mentioned: ‘I’m going fishing with Kevin.’ So, he told his brother Robert, ‘follow him to the lake.’ When he got there, he took his gun out and murdered all three of the people,” the sheriff added.

Judd said the killings seemed to stem from an argument over the elder Wiggins’ truck.

Investigators said Tillman apparently arrived at the lake first to meet his friends. When Rollins and Springfield arrived, they saw their friend being beaten. The attackers then turned on them and began shooting.

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 call the cops but, by the time they arrived, Rollins had died.

The other two men died shortly afterward.

Following the brutal assassinations, the three suspects drove to McDonald’s, where they ordered 10 double cheeseburgers and two McChicken sandwiches, investigators said. In addition, the next morning, Robert Wiggins took his truck to a car wash in Lake Wales to wash the clay from it.

There was an intense manhunt for the killers and a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case had already ballooned to $30,000.

TJ Wiggins had been arrested in March for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was released on bond. However, because he allegedly killed Tillman, Springfield, and Rollins while he was out on bond, he violated his pretrial release conditions and is therefore not allowed to bond out on the new charges.


“It was violent. It was horrible. And there was absolutely no reason,” Judd said.

“This was a happenstance meeting. He just heard that Kevin was going to fish with Damion, and this — and he snapped. He showed up. He had Robert, his brother, drive him there. And, Robert and his girlfriend Mary tried to hide evidence. But, our detectives — who are simply the very best — solved this case with the work and help of the community,” he concluded.

Fox News’ Barnini Chakraborty contributed to this report.

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