"The investigators who are inside, in their opinion, we have a double murder at this point," Gee said close to 11 p.m. Thursday night, Oct. 10, at the corner of North Hilltop Road and Highland Ridge Circle, near where a search warrant was being served at 1528 Highland Ridge Circle. "We are looking at a person of interest, this person is Charlie Martinez."
As the search continued for Charles Andre Martinez, 24, a recent Florida State Prison releasee with warrants for home invasion robbery and false imprisonment, Gee said the man was known to both women. The charges were for an unreleated incident, said Gee, who added that he believed Martinez had been in prison for "shooting into a residence someplace here in Hillsborough County."
"We know that they knew each other," Gee said. "We've had some people tell us he's homeless part-time, he lives here part-time. And we know that he was here in the last day or so and we're trying to verify that timeline right now."
Gee said the car Martinez was believed to have been been driving, a brown Mazda, was found earlier in the night in Dover "and we're talking to people who we believe are associated."
The day's investigation started with a 911 call reporting the smell of smoke in the complex.
"We were already investigating through some family members a missing female, who we believe may have gone missing late Tuesday night," Gee said. "As a result of that investigation we've determined that we have two females that are in this apartment right now. We definitely see indication of homicide."
The victims' names were not yet being released, but investigators were in touch with their families, Gee said. He added that the women were age 23 or 24.
On the scene, too, were state fire officials and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue personnel, investigating "a fire that we believe could have burned for a long period of time undetected," Gee said.
"There was an enormous amount of smoke and soot," he added. "Some people reported later they might have smelled some smoke yesterday or late Tuesday night. We're still trying to verify that. We believe this fire was started to cover up this murder."
Inside the townhome, "everything is sooted up," Gee said. "It's a mess inside."
"The fire never engulfed the building," he added. "It just burned inside. There's some furniture that burned and things like that, so it could have smoldered for a long time."
According to Gee, state and county fire officials confirmed: "We're very fortunate we didn't have a blaze that involved the entire complex."
As for the elusive Martinez, Gee said the community should be concerned. Information about his whereabouts is requested and residents should be alert.
"He has this warrant for home invasion robbery, a very serious felony charge," Gee said. "So, yeah, he is clearly a person people need to be careful of."
Have a tip to help solve this homicide?
- Call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.
- To be eligible for a cash reward, for information leading to an arrest, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).
- Report anonymously online at Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay.
- Or, text "CSTB [plus your tip]" to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637).