Doesn’t everyone order 10 double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s after killing three catfishers?
FROSTPROOF, Florida––Brandon Rollins, 27, Keven Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 23, were shot to death at Lake Streety, Florida, on the night of July 17, 2020, much as the three of them had cornered and killed countless feral pigs.
But Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman were not accompanied that evening by the pack of pit bulls and Catahoula hounds that they bred at the nearby Rollins family home and often deployed against pigs.
Instead of killing pigs on the night they were murdered, Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman hoped to kill catfish.
Killing animals is a way of life
Recreationally killing animals is a way of life in and around Frostproof, Florida.
Status among young men in Frostproof, as in many depressed rural areas, tends to be bought with bragging rights about what they have killed, where, and how.
If nothing else could be killed that night, killing a catfish would do, on the pretext of eating the fish.
Never mind that ready-cleaned catfish go for less than the cost of a night’s fishing at Publix, the 1,252-store grocery chain founded by former Piggly Wiggly clerk George Jenkins at nearby Winter Haven in 1930.
Back then, in the depths of the Great Depression, local young men aspired to kill and sell animal carcasses by the multi-million.
T.J. Wiggins: 230 felony charges by age 26
Alleged triple murderer Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, 26, charged with killing Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman, was actually only hunting Springfield, Polk County sheriff Grady Judd indicated to media. Presumably T.J. Wiggins had no thought of eating Springfield, nor of selling his corpse, nor of bragging about the deed, though all of this remains conjecture.
But whatever T.J. Wiggins had in mind, he shot both Rollins and Tillman repeatedly at close range too, after shooting Springfield, according to sheriff Judd, to get rid of witnesses.
T.J. Wiggins, accompanied to the killing field by his girlfriend Mary Whittemore, 27, and his brother Robert Wiggins, 21, had already logged 230 felony criminal charges against him since age 12, had served two state prison terms, and was out on bond, Judd said, for allegedly breaking a man’s arm with a crowbar.
Whittemore and Robert Wiggins were both charged as accessories to murdering Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman.
“What’s more wholesome” than killing for the hell of it?
T.J. Wiggins, as a convicted felon, was not allowed to possess firearms or ammunition, but Whittemore on July 9, 2020 allegedly purchased the ammunition that T.J. used to kill Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman in Lake Wales, about 10 miles south of Frostproof and the murder scene.
Whittemore, Judd said, had no previous criminal history, while Robert Wiggins had just one misdemeanor arrest.
Victims Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman reportedly had no criminal history. Judd repeatedly depicted them as innocents.
“What’s more wholesome than three buddies going fishing?” Judd rhetorically asked, at a media conference at the crime scene on July 18, 2020.
But the three buddies were in truth habitual recreational killers, whose lives centered on killing animals until the hunters became the hunted and they themselves became the trophies.
Murders followed cockfighting bust
Hours earlier, Cyril Rollins, 56, responded to a cell phone call from his son Brandon and found him dying, with Springfield and Tillman already dead at the scene.
The alleged motive for the murders, Judd indicated after the suspects were arrested, was apparently that T.J. Wiggins believed Springfield had stolen a truck belonging to T.J. Wiggins, and had sold the engine to a third party. Whether anything of the sort had actually happened, and when, is unclear.
Judd indicated that the suspects, when questioned, apparently agreed only that they celebrated the shootings by ordering 10 double cheeseburgers at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.
In absence of an evident motive, meanwhile, observers looked toward the most recent previous major crime in the area, the arrests on April 20, 2020 of 13 alleged cockfighters at 1940 West Frostproof Road.
Road to hell is unpaved
This was less than a mile, as feral pigs and pit bulls run, from Lake Streety. A dirt access road along the northeast side of Lake Streety, apparently the very road along which Rollins, Springfield, and Tillman were murdered, makes a direct connection to the cockfight location.
Jorge Luis Ocasio-Montanez and Carmen Idalia Rivera-Rodriguez, both 56, and 11 of their guests, all fellow Floridians, were apprehended after Judd and deputies arrived to find “wounded and bloody roosters, a fighting ring, acrylic spurs and scales, sparring gloves with spurs, vitamins, antibiotics, performance-enhancing drugs, and blood-clotting ointments,” a Polk County Sheriff’s Office media release detailed.
It was the biggest cockfighting bust in Polk County since Judd and deputies in June 2015 impounded more than 120 gamecocks from a site in Winter Haven, about two miles from the nearest Publix. The Polk County Sheriff’s Department had been tipped off to a cockfight in progress by a pizza delivery driver.
Why call for pizza instead of going to Publix?
“We really appreciate this pizza delivery driver calling us,” Judd said. “Frankly, I can’t understand,” Judd added, “why someone would ask for a pizza delivery during an illegal cockfight.”
The pizza joint was nearly twice as far from the scene as Publix.
Sheriff Judd has a long history of busting cockfights––more, perhaps, than any other U.S. sheriff.
But cockfighting, though a felony in all U.S. states and territories since 2008, remains as much a part of recreational animal killing in much of the country, especially in the South, as hunting, fishing, and even dogfighting, though dogfighting has been technically illegal in most of the U.S. for more than 100 years.
Cockfighters go down on their knees
Lloyd Plumbar, 40, self-anointed pastor of Holy Fight Ministries of Denham Springs, Louisiana, contended in a recent federal court lawsuit that cockfighting is central to the practice of his religion, and therefore should be recognized as a constitutionally protected religious right, or rite, even if it is illegal in Louisiana and all other states.
Testified Plumbar’s attorney, Jim Holt, “Reverend Plumbar, Holy Fight Ministries and its congregation hold the sincere religious belief that cockfighting represents that while they strive for Christ, they have a necessary symbolic physical manifestation, an epiphany through the fighting cock, a religious mandate of the struggle between good and evil, a struggle for life or death for the salvation of the soul, and thus cockfighting is an integral and essential part of their religious faith.”
Cockfighting “more commercial than religious”
Responded U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, dismissing the case on July 14, 2020, “Several photographs taken during a police raid were offered by [the government]” in evidence.
“The photos depicted a cockfighting arena littered with discarded food and alcohol containers; a handwritten betting ledger; ‘cockhouse’ fees and membership rules; rooster corpses; and other indicators of a commercial cockfighting operation. Signs were discovered in the area, including one reading ‘Milk Dairy Game Club House Rules,’ and another smaller sign reading ‘Holy Fight Ministries’—apparently the only indicator of any religious object in the facility.”
Concluded Judge Jackson, “[Plaintiffs] are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims  because Defendants have provided satisfactory evidence to show that the state has a compelling interest in enacting a law banning cockfighting and  because the evidence casts doubt upon the type of institution operated by Plaintiffs. In other words, the evidence suggests that the cockfighting activities were more commercial in nature than a bona fide religious ritual.”
Did deputies say they were at church?
Patrick Robinson, sheriff of Clay County, Kentucky, and Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, among others, have yet to respond in any meaningful way to cockfights exposed on July 6, 2020 by Duane Pohlman, chief investigative reporter for the Cincinnati television station WKRC, and a day later by ANIMALS 24-7.
Both exposés were based on weeks of undercover videography of at least three illegal cockfighting arenas by investigators for Showing Animals Respect and Kindness [SHARK], funded by the Humane Farming Association.
As ANIMALS 24-7 headlined, Kentucky state cops let 33 cars leave alleged cockfight before investigating.
But that was not all. SHARK caught two Clay County sheriff’s deputies on video, who “Instead of shutting down the illegal fight, acted like hired security and protected the cockfighters,” alleged SHARK media contact Stuart Chaifetz.
“Laughing & joking”
“The Sheriff’s office went so far as to claim there was nothing going on when questioned by a SHARK investigator,” namely Chaifetz himself, who called to report the cockfight in progress.
Summarized SHARK founder Steve Hindi, “You can see cockfighters laughing and joking with officers as the illegal animal fighting and illegal gambling continued,” exactly as previous undercover video investigations at other Clay County cockfighting venues documented in 2008 and 2009.
Wrote Hindi to Sheriff Robinson, “On June 20, 2020, an illegal cockfight was held in Manchester [Kentucky], at its usual location off KY-11. This is nothing new. It is apparent that you and your officers have known about this illegal activity for a long time.
“On this particular date, SHARK personnel were in Manchester, acting on a tip. Stuart Chaifetz, one of our investigators, called your office to report the illegal cockfight, illegal gambling, violations of COVID-19 rules, and the involvement of children in gross, indefensible animal abuse.
“See video here”
“Chaifetz called a few times, and later in the evening, I also called,” Hindi summarized. “We were given a string of lies from your officers, ranging from a claim that you had no one to send to the cockfight location, to a claim that you sent someone there and nothing was going on, to a claim that cockfights are legal in Kentucky. All of these are lies. See video here:
“You probably know by now,” Hindi told Robinson, “that we had a presence inside the cockfight. As a result, we have extensive video documentation of your officers who did not enforce the law. These officers chose to completely ignore their duty to protect and serve the public. They also ignored violations of federal law.
“It came as no surprise when we learned that there is no police report about the incident. This is how corruption works. It appears your office has operated this way for a long time.
“We want answers, justice, and a Clay County Sheriff’s Office that actually does its job,” Hindi said. “Toward that end, I have the following questions:
“Who was the officer who falsely claimed there was nothing happening at the cockfight location?
“Who were the officers that responded to Mr. Chaifetz’ call about the cockfight?
“Why was the cockfight not immediately shut down?
“Why is there no police report of the incident?
“Is there, or will there be an internal investigation into this matter?
“Have the officers that went to the cockfight and failed to act been disciplined?
“Who is the property owner of the cockfight location?
“What action has been taken against the owner of the cockfight property?
“Who were the people managing and/or working the cockfighting, and what action was taken against them?
“Why did Deputy Wes Bromley (Badge #1108) claim that cockfighting is legal in Kentucky?
“Do you support the position that cockfights are legal in Kentucky?”
One more big question
Asked ANIMALS 24-7 in March 2016, Why is cockfighting the blood sport most often linked to murder?
One reason may be that cockfighting appears to enjoy the most protection from corrupt law enforcement.
But this is not the case in Polk County, Florida. There, Sheriff Grady Judd enforces the law against cockfighters.
Other crimes and various legal forms of recreational animal abuse lead to murder in Polk County, but cockfighting seems to have had nothing to do with why the three bullet-riddled bodies of Brandon Rollins, Damion Tillman, and Keven Springfield were found sprawled in and around their pickup trucks on July 17, 2020 at Streety Lake, Frostproof, Florida.