Suzie Schottelkotte, The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger
Published 8:00 a.m. ET July 22, 2020 | Updated 4:18 p.m. ET July 22, 2020
The Polk County Sheriff announced in a press conference that three suspects have been charged in the Frostproof triple homicide investigation.
FROSTPROOF, Fla.— Kris Meyer knelt over the roadside memorial to his friends Tuesday and laid his head on a makeshift cross remembering Brandon Rollins.
“They need to catch whoever did this,” he said after laying fresh flowers at the memorial. “I don’t mean to sound hateful or anything like that, but they need to feel the pain that they did to them — where they beat them to a pulp like that.”
The three best friends, Rollins, Damion Tillman and Keven Springfield, were brutally beaten and shot along Lake Streety Road on Friday night. They had met there for some night fishing.
A can of Sprite sits atop the cross bearing Rollins’ name. Brightly colored beads dangle from the crossbar, and a branch from a pine tree leans against the bottom. Rollins was 27.
Socks are draped on Springfield’s cross, recalling his disdain for shoes, and someone has left a sprig from a cotton bush. He was 30.
Friends have left a bottle and a can of Mountain Dew on the memorial to Tillman, who was 23 when he died Friday night. His T-shirt is draped over the cross, a hat bearing the Confederate flag sits atop it and a friend has left a McDonald’s bacon double cheeseburger at its base.
Meyer said he’d spent countless hours fishing Lake Streety with his three friends, and he wants to see their killer or killers convicted.
“They were killed right here in the road,” he said. “I just wish I knew something about who did this. I wish I knew why.”
He’s convinced there was more than one assailant that night, and that his friends would have put up a fight, especially Rollins.
“He wouldn’t come looking for a fight, but he wouldn’t back down if someone came at him,” Meyer said, “and the others would have been right there with him.”
Law enforcement is offering a $30,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest of those involved in Friday’s murders. As of Tuesday afternoon, detectives were continuing to pursue leads, said Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brian Bruchey. At this point, neither robbery, drugs nor domestic issues appear to be the motive, according to the sheriff’s office.
The three friends had arranged to meet Friday night at a remote boat ramp along Lake Streety for some night fishing, which was a regular pastime for the three, Meyer said.
Dottie Payton, Rollins’ mother, said his dad received a call from him about 10 p.m., saying he needed help. By the time Cyril Rollins got to the lake, his son was near death but able to talk. The younger Rollins died shortly after that.
The murders have galvanized this community of about 3,300 residents, usually a haven from such tragedy.
“This is a quiet town, and we aren’t used to something like this,” said Levi Shirley, who’s lived in Frostproof all of his 37 years.
He said he knows the area where the three friends were brutally murdered, and he wouldn’t go out there now unless he was armed.
“I don’t think this was a random killing,” he said. “Whoever did this was looking for someone.”
Katie Clarke, who’s lived in the Frostproof area since 1975, said her son often goes fishing at night, like Rollins, Springfield and Tillman were doing.
“That bothers me,” she said. “I hope they catch them. If they can get away with that, they will do something more.”
She said the murders haven’t left her fearful, and her trust is in God, but she’s staying home more often these days.
“Between this and the COVID, I’m staying close to home,” she said.
Candy Hutto, who works at P&J Recreation in downtown Frostproof, said she’s worried.
“We’re hearing so many stories that we don’t know what to believe,” she said. “But it’s scary that (Polk County Sheriff) Grady Judd says it’s one of the worst murders he’s ever seen. I don’t like it at night, and I get scared and don’t go outside.”
Like so many others in Frostproof, Don Hodge said he wants answers.
“Everybody in town is talking about it, and giving their opinion” said Hodge, who owns an auto service center in downtown. “I try not to pay no attention to it, but you don’t know. I believe they will catch them, and it had to be somebody who knows them. They were out there fishing. Something like this doesn’t just happen for no reason.”
Follow Suzie Schottelkotte on Twitter @southpolkscene.
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