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.
Balmy Jones, Lehigh Acres, FL says
You seem to have intentionally blurred the line between what is legal (pit hunting), and what is illegal (cock-fighting). And this soon after this senseless stone-cold killing of three innocent men, anything other than condolences is wrong. Speaking for every Floridian aware of the unfolding story of the killings, we are SHOCKED that a mope with 230 felonies against him… could be allowed to walk amongst non-criminals.
This is an horrendous failure of the judicial system. Better to have focused on the failure, than blurring the line between legal and illegal.
Merritt Clifton says
That the law erects an artificial distinction between some forms of sadistic killing and others reflects a gap in the law, not in moral reasoning which recognizes the capacity of feral pigs, dogs, poultry and catfish to suffer, as well as that of human beings.
Elementary moral reasoning, moreover, should recognize that individuals who recreationally set dogs on pigs and drag fish on hooks are scarcely “innocent,” except in the sense of having not been convicted of acts which––even in Florida––would constitute prosecutable crimes if committed in slightly different contexts. That T.J. Wiggins remained at large despite having been charged with 230 felonies is appalling, but not more so than that countless other people are allowed, indeed encouraged, to torture-kill countless sentient beings just for the “fun” of it, without so much as a word of criticism from much of society if the torture-killers buy a license first.
Balmy Jones, Lehigh Acres, FL says
“230 felonies is appalling, but not more so than that countless other people are allowed, indeed encouraged, to torture-kill countless sentient beings just for the “fun” of it”
“But not more so”… really? Comparing this sadistic stone-cold deranged career felon killer w/ legally licensed hunters? Putting them on equal footing? Merritt, I appreciate your passion for defending wildlife. I’ve made contributions. But your hyperbole is over the top this time. Sigh… I love your work, and thus, your passion gives you a pass.
Merritt Clifton says
Within my great-grandparents’ lifetime, and completely within what passed for peacetime, within the constraints of “law and order,” a white person could legally hunt and kill runaway slaves in seven U.S. states, legally kill any black person in the state of Oregon, legally kill any person of Chinese ancestry in parts of several states, legally kill Native Americans in most of the western half of the U.S., and legally kill persons of Mexican and Japanese ancestry in much of the Southwest. Many of these forms of legal hunting persisted until into the mid-20th century. The killers often kept body parts of their victims as trophies. Those people who spoke against such behavior, including egregious acts of associated cruelty, were mocked and ridiculed as alleged “humaniacs” in essentially the same manner as above. Meanwhile, in instances of those same law-abiding hunters putting animal life above human lives, a person could be hanged for horsetheft, if the horse happened to belong to a white person; hanging poor people and people of color for poaching was a custom dating back into the Middle Ages; and in April 1926 a black man named Charles Davis was lynched for dog theft in New Port Richey, Florida, albeit that Davis also killed a sheriff’s deputy when he correctly guessed that he would be lynched if captured.
The moral and ethical issue here, in short, is not whether something is legal, or whether something involves elevating the life of one category of sentient being above another; rather, it is whether comparable deeds, committed for comparable reasons, in a comparable manner, are viewed in a comparable light. Simply put, sadistic killing for pleasure is exactly that, whether the victims are pigs and catfish, or killers of pigs and catfish.
John Doe says
It’s a great thing that your site would only appeal to the out of touch with reality frame of mind because after reading the first few paragraphs it’s clear the author is simply writing ones perspective and not fact. Although the article in question contains uncommon individuals who were of the lowest form of life, the fact that you’ve encompassed all outdoorsmen and women in the same circle by saying “depressed rural areas” and acting like hunting is only done for bragging rights as if people are just bored. Go spend time in rural Montana, Ohio, Georgia. Outdoorsmen and woman contribute nearly all funds and labor to the protection of wild lands and wildlife than the average person. Its them who contribute money to wildlife conservation, them who replant forests after fires ravage areas, its them who build nesting structures for endangered migratory birds. They hunt and fish because they believe in eating organically and sustaining a natural way of life, taking care of our earth and letting it take care of us. It’s a true to life interaction with the world we live in, not a propped up narrative of mass produced grocery stores with chemically grown produce and steroid filled meats. So please, before you type some car fetched article classifying all outdoorsman as blood thirsty, uneducated, cold blooded boredom killers, go out and experience these areas for yourself. You spread a very offensive message with 100% bias and no facts surrounding your objective. Thanks to people like yourself and thousands of others writing articles similar to this about varying topics, our world is divided now more than ever and we all have to label and point fingers. Do something worthwhile with your life, something that actually makes and impact and something that you are fully aware of the situation and your actions.
Merritt Clifton says
Practically any public discussion of hunting soon brings a lengthy posting from an individual of unverifiable identity reciting talking points in favor of “ethical hunting,” all of which rest to varying degree on false claims and half-truths.
The author of the above diatribe, for instance, appears to be unaware that Beth and I have each spent substantial portions of our lives in rural areas in California, Alaska, Quebec, Vermont, upstate New York, Washington, Kentucky, Michigan, and in Beth’s case Florida, within easy walking distance of the scene of the Frostproof murders. We are thereby thoroughly familiar with hunters, hunting culture, and how hunting culture has evolved and degenerated over the past several decades. During this time we have seen very few examples of hunters voluntarily doing anything that specifically benefits non-target wildlife, but have seen countless hunters killing “varmints” and “small game” just for target practice, killing predators to eliminate rivals in pursuit of the “game,” and––in Beth’s case, as a police officer, in mine as longtime volunteer assistant to a Quebec deputy game warden––have seen at close range that the hunting lifestyle is anything but respectful of life and nature.
Incidentally, state and federal licensing fees and Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on outdoor equipment (including much that is purchased by non-hunters) make up less than a third of the cost of funding state and federal wildlife agencies, and have almost no part in funding other public land management agencies that provide recreational access and wildlife habitat, such as the National Parks Service, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management, along with their state and local equivalents. For further info, see Killing for Fun(ds), by Laura Nirenberg, Trevor Desane, & E. Anne Benaroya Center for Wildlife Ethics.
We also recommend Killing the female: the psychology of the hunt.
Jamaka Petzak says
Some of the “patriotic” types beat their breasts and yell about “America” being their “country” right or wrong. I’ve always seen it as 50 distinct states, with at least 50 distinct cultures, and much disagreement, often vehement. I would love to visit the states in the southern part of the continent, but I will not, because quite frankly, the culture and a lot of the people living there scare(s) me. This article just illustrates that point. Sharing to socials, with gratitude, sorrow, and disgust.
Balmy Jones, Lehigh Acres, FL says
This article should NOT be construed as representative of Southern culture. The article is all about a stone cold killer… who should not have been allowed to roam free. It is an indictment of a failing penal system in Florida. But not to worry, 1,000,000+ Floridians have Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) licenses – ALL of them law abiding citizens.
Merritt Clifton says
A check of Florida crime statistics for 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, shows that 454 Floridians were shot to death by concealed handguns, most of them legally possessed.
Balmy Jones says
If FL CCW (Concealed Carry Weapons) license was legally possessed, the holder did not have prior criminal history. And with > 1,000,000 CCWs in FL circulation, the 454 shooting were presumably mostly self-defense, legal shootings… and not prosecuted?
(Too bad CA does not hand out CCWs to as many law-abiding citizens.)
CCWs – I encourage all law abiding citizens to get one… handy when being attacked by dangerous pit bulls.
Merritt Clifton says
Those 454 handgun shootings were specifically murders, not self-defense.
NEIL KENNEDY says
it’s been said countries with the most violence also have the most animal consumption……after reading this story I believe that
Cock fighting is alive and well in Western Washington too. Just check out the livestock section of CL.
If you want an up close and personal view of it, I bet I could point you at a recurring one off of 702 in Pierce county.
Merritt Clifton refers to fishing as “recreational killing,” pointing out that cleaned catfish sells for less than a night spent fishing, which I doubt seriously. Besides why is it worse to kill what you eat, rather than pay someone to kill it for you? Of course people eat what they fish, but Clifton seems doubtful and seems to think the victims deserved to be murdered since they were “killers” of feral pigs and catfish.
Still for the record I am against cockfighting, dog fighting, murder, and breaking someone’s arm with a crowbar.
Merritt Clifton says
Recreational fishing is called “recreational” because it is done for fun. Whether it is “better” or “worse” than killing strictly for profit is a question for philosophers to ponder, immaterial to the victims, and irrelevant to the fact that it is killing for pleasure, easily recognized as sadism when the victims can speak for themselves.
Joel Klutch says
How can someone with 230 felony criminal charges be free to walk the streets? (How is it even possible to accumulate 30 felony criminal charges, much less 230?)