Residents in Seminole heights, Tampa, Florida, are on high alert in fear of what may be a “serial killer on the loose”.
Three people have been killed in the street over the last 10 days by an unknown assailant whom the media has dubbed “the Tampa serial killer”. It’s important to note that, at the time of writing this, there has been no official statement that Tampa is dealing with a confirmed serial killer; however the murders are thought to be possibly linked to one individual.
Enzo Yaksic, founder of SHEISC (the Serial Homicide Expertise and Information Sharing Collaborative) who has over a decade of experience with profiling serial and mass killers, gave his insight on the case in this article with WFLA news. Yaksic believes that the killer is local, between 20 – 30 years of age and works during the day. He theorizes that the murders may be some sort of gang initiation exercise or a hatred for “wealth and status” however there are officially no known motivations for the crimes at this time.
(Benjamin Mitchell. Source)
The first victim was a 22 year old African American man named Benjamin Mitchell. He was a business management student who attended the local community college and had no previous criminal record. He was a graduate of Middleton High School, where he was involved with sports such as football and basketball and he also played music.
Mitchell was shot dead in the street on the 9th of October while waiting for a bus at 15th Street and East Frierson Avenue. Mitchell had relocated to Tampa, Florida, because his family deemed it to be safer than the previous cities he’d lived in.
(Monica Hoffa. Source)
The second victim was a 32 year old Caucasian woman named Monica Caridad Hoffa.
According to this article, Hoffa was discovered on Friday 13th of October in a grassy patch of land just off East New Orleans Avenue and North 11th Street.
Monica was a server at a restaurant called “Suki sushi”. She was fluent in Spanish and sign language and had several friends who were members of the deaf community. She loved her family and extended family and always made sure to visit and spend time with them and make sure they knew that she loved them dearly. She also enjoyed sketching and writing and taking walks and was described by her family (in this very touching tribute) as a bright and happy girl who was very much in love and had a lot of plans for the future that was stolen from her.
A criminal record online details an incident in September of 2016 where Hoffa was charged with "leaving the scene of a crash with injury" and "leaving the scene of a crash with property".
The only other thing I could find online was a short quote from her step mother to the media stating:
“I spoke to her eight months ago. She seemed to be having problems, and I told her she could come move in with us. This is so awful”. There doesn’t seem to be any elaboration on this comment anywhere else in the news but this incident is not thought to be in any way linked to the murder of Monica Hoffa who was taken from this life far too soon.
Monica’s Facebook profile (now a memorial) is active for those who wish to drop by and includes older status updates showing Monica smiling with a pet and updating about how much she loved her significant other.
(Anthony Naiboa. Source)
The third victim was a 20 year old Hispanic man named Anthony Naiboa. He was Autistic, worked at a food plant packing hurricane relief supplies and was recent graduate of Middleton High School. On October 19th, Naiboa had mistakenly taken the wrong bus home, a small error that would result in fatality as he was shot several times from behind while walking to another bus stop in the Seminole heights neighborhood.
When he failed to return home, his family reported him missing. The police were later on their doorstep to deliver the unfortunate news that Naiboa had been shot dead in the street.
According to this article, police who were on patrol in the area that night had actually heard the shots being fired. Frustratingly, they were unable to catch the killer, despite utilizing dogs, a SWAT team and a search helicopter. This indicates, to me at least, that whoever is responsible for the murders knows the area well.
The only lead the police have so far in the case is this individual who was captured on CCTV. (Stills from this clip) He was walking around alone around the time of crimes and is a suspect.
You can view the footage here.
All three victims were killed within a mile of each other.
In all three murders the killer used a hand gun.
This makes the murders both less intimate (suggesting that the victims are likely unknown to the perpetrator and are “random” as the media implies) and safer for the perpetrator who is able to defend himself with the firearm and leave little evidence regarding his identity on account of his distance from the crime scene. In the case of the “Tampa serial killer”, it seems as though he is just picking off his victims at a distance before expertly slipping away.
All three victims have been murdered along the same bus route. This has provoked some theories that the killer may be an ex-employee of the bus company or maybe just someone who lives somewhere along the bus route.
The media has been drawing a possible similarities between the “the Tampa serial killer” and the “beltway snipers”. If you’re not familiar with the beltway snipers case (also referred to as the “D.C. sniper attacks”) this is a case from back in October 2002 where two men, seventeen year old Lee Boyd Malvo, and the considerably older 41 year old John Allen Muhammad, went on a violent spree shooting and robbing over two dozen victims over the course of three weeks. They ended up fatally wounding 10 of their victims, and injuring a further 17. (You can listen to the Generation Why podcast episode on the case here)
Although in the case of the “Beltway snipers” the victims seemed random, they were apparently part of a bigger plan that Muhammad had concocted. Apparently his main aim was to murder his wife, but since it would have been obvious to authorities if she wound up murdered that he was responsible (due to the couples past tumultuous marriage which included him kidnapping their children for a year and half) he decided to murder other people sporadically to make it look like she was a random victim of the shooting spree.
Until the assailant is caught, undercover police and police in uniform are patrolling the area and children are being escorted to their bus stops on the way to school. Residents have been warned not to walk around alone at night and to keep their lights on. Buses have changed up their routes and some stops are being monitored for both the safety of civilians and in an attempt to catch the killer.
Bus surveillance footage has been handed over to the authorities to aid them in an arrest, and local investigators are hoping that they can rely on locals to give up the culprit if they know anything about the crime. Perhaps the $25,000 reward would tempt anyone in the know to do so.
Stay safe, Tampa.