TAMPA, Fla. — A family is speaking out after the man charged with murdering their loved one skipped his court date and went on the run. They worry the suspect will never be caught.
Unfortunately, it’s not a unique situation and there have been big cuts to the section assigned to find him and thousands of other wanted suspects.
“Wolf cannot be around you for a couple of minutes and not make you laugh,” said Jordanes Hyppolite, describing his son Wolf Hyppolite.
“He was never down or negative. He was always positive,” said Dynna Jackson, Wolf’s sister.
“We buried him on his birthday”
Last July, Wolf was at a party when he was fatally shot by a man he didn’t know.
“My brother got shot in the back, outside, smoking a cigarette, minding his own business,” Jackson said.
“We buried him on his birthday. The day he was going to turn 29, that was the day of his funeral,” said Huguette Hyppolite, Wolf’s mother.
Wolf left behind two young daughters.
The day after wolf died, Brandon Jerelle Howard, who had served time in prison for armed robbery, was arrested at a Tampa motel and charged with murder.
“I was happy that they caught him,” Jackson said.
But Brandon Howard disappeared in April while out on bond.
“We average in the 15,000 to 16,000 range”
Col. Robert Ura says Howard is among thousands of suspects currently wanted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
About 24% are considered violent offenders.
“We average in the 15,000 to 16,000 range,” said Ura. “We constantly strive to lower that number, but we know it’s not an exact science.”
“You watch movies and they lead you to believe if there’s a warrant they’ll get the guy,” said Jackson. “Hearing there’s 15,000 warrants out for people who’ve not been caught is shocking. Shocking.”
In 2016, HCSO had 15 deputies assigned to its warrants section.
Currently, there are only five deputies.
A sheriff’s office spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the reduction in the size of the warrants section:
“Advancements in technology allow patrol deputies to now access databases right from laptops in their vehicles to help track individuals who are wanted. It became obvious that a better use of resources would be to shift some of those roles to patrol deputies, because they interact with the public more than any other sworn position at HCSO, and they are more likely to come across someone who has a warrant through those daily interactions, such as traffic stops."
Wanted Hillsborough County fugitives committed multiple murders
Before the section was downsized, wanted fugitives went on to commit other serious crimes.
Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr. was wanted on multiple felony warrants issued in Hillsborough County in October 2014.
Two months later, he shot and killed Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek when Kondek was responding to a disturbance call.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Kelley McDonald after he attacked his ex-wife Kelly Garrison at her apartment complex in December 2017.
He remained in hiding until mid-February of 2018 when he showed up at Corbett Prep School where Garrison worked as a teacher.
School security called 911, but McDonald ran away before police arrived.
Garrison quit her job and fled the state.
McDonald encountered her at the home of her sister Tracy Runnels in north Georgia in April 2018.
“All I heard was big banging like a gunshot. I heard somebody screaming,” said Runnels' 11-year-old daughter on a 911 tape obtained by the I-Team.
Runnels’ 16-year-old daughter was shot in the face when she opened her garage door.
“My jaw. I can’t talk right. My teeth are missing. I’m having trouble talking,” she said, choking back tears while summoning help from the 911 dispatcher.
When deputies arrived at the home, they discovered McDonald fatally shot Garrison, Runnels and himself.
Runnels’ injured daughter spent weeks in the hospital.
“I think those are tragic events. But we have to be careful in making sure we place the blame where the blame should be placed, which is on the suspects of these horrendous crimes,” said Col. Ura.
Unserved warrants are a regional problem
Ura says his department serves about 11,000 arrest warrants a year and he says even with fewer deputies, the number of unserved warrants has remained steady.
During COVID, the number of wanted fugitives declined in Hillsborough County.
HCSO had 16,799 active warrants in 2019, but only 11,426 in 2020.
Other Tampa Bay area departments have similar challenges.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office currently has 34,414 active arrest warrants and 20 deputies assigned to the section assigned with serving them.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office currently has 9,217 active warrants, but it has no specific section assigned to serve them.
How you can help
“Well I think people would understand It’s a difficult endeavor to try to execute all these warrants,” Ura said.
“When I called, they told me ‘We’ll catch him. He’ll make a stupid mistake,’” Jordane Hyppolite said.
“Every day that goes by, it’s just like it’s not gonna happen. That’s how I feel like it’s never gonna happen,” said Jackson.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has a database of active warrants on its website. You can enter your name or that of someone you know to see if there is an arrest warrant.
You can also anonymously report wanted fugitives by contacting HCSO’s tip 411 program.
If you have a story you think the I-Team should investigate, email us at email@example.com