Jim Peppard, WTSP, February 29, 2012
Three teenage inmates attacked a fourth at the Polk County jail Friday and face enhanced “hate crime” charges in addition to attempted felony murder, the sheriff’s office said tonight.
The three are identified as Trevon Leondra Hendrix, 16 , of Haines City, Devin Terrel Watlington and Michael James Hector Jr., both 17 and of Lakeland. They are adult-charged juveniles with a history of multiple arrests in the county.
The victim of the attack is Travis Eugene Winemiller, 16, of Bartow, who also has a large arrest record.
The sheriff’s office says the incident, according to Winemiller, began last Friday when Hector demanded Winemiller fight him. “Are you kidding me?” Winemiller responded. Hector then punched him and began fighting.
“Watlington then came up behind Winemiller and held him while Hector hit him in the head several times. The two then slammed Winemiller onto the floor and Hendrix wrapped a pillowcase around Winemiller’s neck and strangled him until he was unconscious, according to the statement made by Winemiller,” the sheriff’s office said.
Winemiller said the three men hogtied him on the floor with a sheet wrapped around his hands, arms and neck and threatened to kill him if he told deputies. He said he was punched several times and whipped with wet towels.
Winemiller alleges that one of the suspects said, “this is how you slave a real cracker” after he was tied up with a sheet around his neck and a section run through the a bar on the window.
He further stated that one of the suspects said “well it was your ancestral background that did it, so now we’re going to show you how it [explicative] feels.” These alleged statements are the reason why the charges against the suspects were enhanced/increased from a first degree felony to a life felony, the sheriff’s office said.
Hate Crime enhancement was brought because of “racially-based prejudiced statements made by the suspects,” the sheriff’s office said.