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Man linked to pair of shootings

The July wounding of a father and daughter in Lacoochee and the death Friday of two teenagers in Trilby were not previously considered related.

Published August 3, 2006

[Times photo: Lance Aram Rothstein]
Two memorial crosses were recently placed near the intersection of Trilby Road and Harris Hill Road in the northeastern part of the county, where two teenagers were found shot to death on Friday. The Sheriff's Office had said it was looking for a gang leader for questioning in the Trilby slayings.

Two east Pasco shootings that occurred within three days and 4 miles of each other may have another common link, authorities said Wednesday.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested an 18-year-old man in the July 26 shooting that wounded two people in Lacoochee. At the same time, the Sheriff's Office said it was looking for that man's gang leader for questioning in the slaying of two teens in Trilby on Friday.

Previously, the shootings seemed related only as statistics in this summer's wave of violent local crime. But Wednesday's announcement appears to connect the two incidents - and two very distant and different communities of suburban Wesley Chapel and poor, rural northeast Pasco.

Authorities put one person at the center of the cases: Jeremy Hanson Henry, a 20-year-old from the Dade City projects whom authorities are calling armed and dangerous.

His criminal record says as much.

* * *

Jonaey Peyton, 18, was arrested Wednesday morning at his home at 38714 Barbara Lane in Lacoochee on a charge of attempted murder.

Authorities say Peyton was involved in the double shooting July 26 in which Chanel Cato, 31, was shot in the chest and her father, Ponce Cato, 54, was shot in the face. The daughter picked Peyton out of a photo lineup, sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.

Cocaine was found at the Lacoochee home where the Catos were shot, but authorities have not said whether drugs played a role in the crime. Ponce Cato has served time in prison for charges including sale and possession of cocaine and heroin, law enforcement records show.

Peyton, a former Pasco High School wide receiver, was charged with only one count of attempted murder - of Chanel Cato. Tobin would not say whether Ponce Cato has identified Peyton or comment on the shooting victim's medical condition.

"We do believe others were involved in the attempted murder and we continue to actively investigate that," Tobin said.

One of Peyton's teammates at Pasco High said he was a solid member of the team.

"He was real cool to me," said McClain Bryant, who will be a junior this fall. "I don't think he would shoot anybody."

Records show Peyton was charged in 2001 with battery on a school employee and judged a delinquent. He's also been charged with marijuana possession and driving under the influence of alcohol.

* * *

The high-speed pursuit in August 2004 across Georgia and Florida lasted 7 miles. It ended when deputies blew out the vehicle's tires.

The 18-year-old driver was wanted on an attempted first-degree murder charge in Pasco. His name was Jeremy Hanson Henry.

Authorities said Wednesday they are seeking Henry for questioning in Friday's fatal shooting of two Wesley Chapel teens, Derek Pieper, 17, and Raymond Veluz, 18. The two were found shot to death on Harris Hill Road.

"For (the investigation) to move further, we would like to speak to Jeremy Henry ... and that's all it means at this time," Tobin said.

Henry's name comes up again and again in arrest reports and court records. His first arrest was in 1995 at age 11, court records show, for retail theft. He was 16 when he was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. Over the years he's faced charges such as burglary and battery. Then in March 2004, authorities said, Henry fired five bullets into Willie Dwayne McGriff at 2 a.m. in the parking lot of Rumors Lounge, the same club where Pasco sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison was gunned down the year before.

The next year, a jury acquitted Henry. The state's witnesses said Henry confessed to them. Defense witnesses said they saw his cousin, James McClinton, with a gun that night.

Henry was arrested again this March, according to authorities, and charged with aggravated battery in the shooting of a Dade City man.

Deputies were told Henry might be "high on drugs," wearing body armor and armed. He again tried to run from deputies but was restrained.

On the drive to jail, according to the report, Henry told deputies he knew where the weapon was, but wouldn't say.

"Why ... should I do y'all's job?" he said.

Weeks later, authorities dropped the charges.

"The victim appeared in our intake and said that Jeremy Henry is not the person who committed the crime," said Assistant State Attorney Phil Van Allen.

His cousin, 25-year-old Jason Wright, painted a different picture of Henry. He wasn't working, Wright said, and spent most of his time with his longtime girlfriend.

"He's just been chillin' lately," Wright said. "They know Jeremy's known for carrying a gun, so any little shooting the first name they say is Jeremy."

So why does Henry carry a gun?

"I don't know," his cousin said. "It's just the life he lives."

* * *

An alert from the Sheriff's Office early Wednesday morning put a new label on east Pasco crime: gang-related.

"The Pasco Sheriff's Office believes Peyton is a member of Jeremy Henry's Posse, well-known in the Dade City area," the alert said.

Tobin called it a loosely knit group with no discernible connection to major national gangs.

But well-known to whom?

Dean Baldwin, gang investigator for the Dade City Police Department, said he knows both Peyton and Henry, but he doesn't know of Jeremy Henry's Posse.

"I've never identified a particular black gang," Baldwin said, adding most of the activity tends to be in the Hispanic community. "It would be kind of surprising to see that they're actually forming now."

Wright, Henry's cousin, laughed at the notion of a posse: "They make it sound like a little Western."

The Sheriff's Office is remaining tight-lipped about motives in both cases. Tobin says that makes it easier for detectives to identify which witnesses have firsthand knowledge because it removes the possibility that they're repeating details they've seen in the media.

Details, though, remain scarce, particularly anything that might explain how the two Wesley Chapel teens turned up dead on a country road more than 25 miles from home.

Times staff writers Thomas Lake and Izzy Gould contributed to this report.

[Last modified August 3, 2006, 07:22:57]

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