TJ Wiggins, Suspect in Fishing Trip 'Massacre,' Has 230 Felony Charges on His Record. Why Was He Not in Jail?

Polk County Sheriff's Office
Polk County Sheriff's Office

Tony “TJ” Wiggins, was charged in connection with the murder of three friends who were killed as they headed on a night-time fishing trip in Florida last month.

After Tony “TJ” Wiggins was charged with the murder of three friends killed on a night-time fishing trip in Florida last month in what authorities called a "massacre," it became clear Wiggins had a long criminal history. The 26-year-old had been charged with 230 felonies throughout his lifetime, and many wondered how he could have been out of jail to allegedly carry out the murders of Brandon Rollins, Damion Tillman and Keven Springfield, considering his long rap sheet.

Wiggins has thus far been charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. His brother William “Robert” Wiggins, 21, and his girlfriend Mary Whittemore, 27, were also arrested in connection to the killings. They were charged with being accessories after the fact. They have not yet entered pleas.

Jacob Orr, an assistant district attorney in Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit, said he understands why the number of charges Wiggins has faced in his lifetime “causes everyone alarm,” but added that “there is a little bit more to the story.”

“While he [Wiggins] was a juvenile, he was arrested approximately 12 times,” Orr told Inside Edition Digital. “Two of those arrests were when he and some kids broke into several storage units, but each time they did, they were charged with three separate charges.”

Orr said those charges included burglary and grand theft, among others.

“Over a couple days of breaking into storage units, he got more than 200 counts. You can’t lock up a child for breaking into storage units for life,” Orr added. “No matter how many counts of felonies a delinquent is charged with, they cannot be sentenced to prison well into adulthood.”

Six of the eight years Wiggins served in prison were done as an adult, according to records. Wiggins had been involved in three separate felony cases in his adult life. He was convicted in Highlands County on one count of burglary and grand theft in 2012 and was sentenced to two years in prison. After being released in 2014, he was charged and convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, and Wiggins was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Then in November 2015, Wiggins was convicted in Highlands County on three counts of burglary of a conveyance and three counts of grand theft. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

On the night of July 17, when Rollins, Tillman and Springfield were shot to death near Lake Streety in Frostproof, Wiggins was out on $6,000 bond for alleged aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault, which he was arrested for in March. In that case, Wiggins is accused of breaking a man’s arm after hitting him with a tire iron, officials said. Orr said the state was pursuing a designation as a “Prison Releasee Reoffender” and a sentence of 15 years in the case.

On the night of the murders, police say Rollins’ father received a call from him pleading for help around 11 p.m. He rushed to Lake Streety where he found his son and his son's two friends shot to death. As police investigated the murders, they found a receipt from Dollar General and when they checked the camera footage at the store, they saw that Tillman had purchased items from the store before the murders, authorities said. Wiggins, his brother, and girlfriend were all in the store at the same time, police said.

Wiggins allegedly knew Springfield, according to reports, and was upset because he claimed that Springfield stole the engine from his truck, so he told his brother to follow Rollins, Tillman and Springfield. Police said Robert Wiggins told them that his brother then began arguing with Springfield. TJ Wiggins allegedly shot numerous times into a car Rollins and Springfield were in, Robert Wiggins said, according to police. He then shot into Tillman’s car, authorities said. Police claim the trio then got rid of the murder weapon and purchased food from McDonald's.

After the killings, police said they received tips that Wiggins may be involved. A search warrant was served on Wiggins’ travel trailer and authorities found multiple guns and ammunition inside. Wiggins was arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Police also found other bullet casings in the house that they later matched to the casings found at the scene of the murders.

Wiggins is currently being held without bond.

“Obviously he is a criminal and has a criminal past,” Orr said. “My office is going to be prosecuting him tot he fullest extent of the law for this case.”