tampabay.com

Clash ends in stabbing by sword

A man confronts his wife and her new lover - sex offenders all - and it quickly turns deadly.

By MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
Published May 14, 2007


BRANDON - Willie Tarpley Jr. had just moved out of the home he shared with his estranged wife when he found her new lover in a sex offender database.

He was furious that she would allow the man near their two daughters, ages 3 and 14 months, said Lana Garcia, a neighbor and family friend.

About 8 p.m. Saturday, Tarpley, 46, drove to the posh Brandon home on River Rapids Avenue that he once shared with his wife, Jacqueline. He went into the garage, where, a neighbor said, he keeps a large collection of weapons.

He chose a 42-inch katana, a Japanese samurai sword, and went inside to confront Lee Alexander, a 25-year-old ranch hand from Polk County who was convicted in 2000 of a lewd and lascivious act on a person under 16.

Less than 15 minutes later, Alexander was dead.

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Alexander, Jacqueline, her 14-month-old daughter and her mother, Matilda Dean, were inside the house when Tarpley entered, sword in hand.

Tarpley, 46, had lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident about 20 years ago, Dean said, but that hadn't stopped him from becoming a black belt martial arts expert.

Tarpley picked up his daughter, then menaced his wife with the sword, warning her not to defend Alexander, said Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

Then, while still holding his daughter, Tarpley held the sword against Alexander's throat and told him that if he didn't leave, he would cut off his head, Carter said.

Alexander went to his car in the garage, but in his panic to leave, he backed into Tarpley's Corvette, Garcia said.

At that point, Carter said, Tarpley, no longer holding his daughter, walked up and plunged his sword into Alexander through his open car window.

Tarpley told his ex-neighbor that he walked up to the car to demand Alexander's insurance information. Somewhere in the exchange he jabbed the sword toward Alexander to emphasize a point, Garcia said.

Alexander opened the car door and ran several feet before collapsing in the street.

At first, Tarpley laughed at his wife for dating a coward, but stopped laughing when he realized one of the jabs had killed the man, Garcia said.

Garcia added that Willie Tarpley seemed remorseful.

He lay facedown on the ground when he saw deputies arriving. Tears were streaming down his face as officers put him in the squad car, she said.

"He looked and me and said, 'Lana, I'm gone, I'm out of here, I did something wrong. I think I killed him.' "

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Jacqueline Tarpley's mother said the couple had long planned to separate, though she wouldn't say why.

Court records revealed that the couple have a storied past.

Willie Tarpley pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges of domestic violence battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to Hillsborough County records.

Willie and Jacqueline Tarpley are both registered sex offenders. They both served prison sentences for the October 1987 sexual torture of a 21-year-old woman.

Police said Willie Tarpley and another man kidnapped the woman in Fort Lauderdale, drove her to a Tampa house and handcuffed her hands and feet.

The next day, Jacqueline Tarpley and another woman tortured the victim while Willie Tarpley watched, prosecutors charged.

Police called Tarpley the ringleader for the kidnapping, which was apparently revenge for the victim's theft of Willie Tarpley's possessions.

Jacqueline and Willie Tarpley both pleaded guilty to a long list of charges, including sexual battery, and received 20 years in prison.

They were released early, however, and in 2001 they also secured early release from probation.

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Alexander had dated Jacqueline Tarpley for months, her mother said.

Alexander was a teenager when he was convicted in 2000 of a lewd and lascivious act on a person under 16. The charge can apply to crimes including sex with a 15-year-old and fondling a 12-year-old.

He was sentenced to three months of community supervision, but no prison time.

Jacqueline Tarpley knew he was a registered sex offender, Garcia said, but he had persuaded her that he was not a pedophile.

The details of Alexander's Polk County conviction were not available late Sunday.

"He was very quiet, very nice, respectful, " she said. And, she added, he seemed to be good for Jacqueline.

"She's never been this happy, " Garcia said.

Times researcher Tim Rozgonyi contributed to this report. Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mmohammed@sptimes.com or 813 226-3404.