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A warrant reveals the mother and stepdad didn't die of blunt trauma. They were shot.
By Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008
Jackie Lee Braden is no longer a "person of interest" in the slayings last week of his mother and stepfather, Sherrill and David Wright.
Now authorities say he is the person responsible for their deaths.
Braden, 36, was arrested Thursday on two counts of first-degree murder.
"This is horrific," said family friend Nancy Tabbert. "I just cannot understand how a son can kill his own mother. It is just beyond me."
Braden's mother, Sherrill Wright, 54, was gunned down in her own bedroom, according to a search warrant made public Thursday.
She was dressed in her pajamas, shot three times in the face and body.
Stepfather David Wright, 54, was found shot in the back of the head, the warrant said, sitting in his recliner.
Braden was in the Pinellas County Jail when he was arrested in the two Pasco murders.
They are by far the most serious charges he has faced in a long criminal history of arrests and convictions dating back to age 19.
Braden has been in the Pinellas jail since his arrest on drug charges Feb. 11 - hours after the Wrights were found dead in the Shady Hills home they sometimes shared with the suspect just south of the Hernando County line.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office originally said the Wrights died of blunt trauma. But a search warrant made public Thursday revealed that the couple was gunned down. It also provided other new details about the case.
Hours after the bodies were found, Pasco and Pinellas deputies tracked Braden down to an Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Inn.
Braden and two others were inside Room 205, the warrant said, but no one would answer deputies' knocks. A deputy staking out the back balcony ordered Braden to open the door. Minutes later, he did.
Inside the motel room, deputies said, officers found $194,060 in cash and 43 pounds of marijuana. They also found a .357 revolver with six spent shell casings, the warrant said.
Braden was booked into the Pinellas County Jail that night on charges of conspiracy to traffic marijuana, possession of crack cocaine and armed trafficking of marijuana.
While searching Braden, the warrant said, deputies found something in his pocket:
David Wright's wallet.
Parked in the Holiday Inn lot was the silver 2005 Toyota pickup truck that belonged to Wright.
Braden told deputies his stepfather let him use the truck when he left their home at 18101 Moorhaven Drive on Feb. 8.
But family members told deputies that David Wright would never let his stepson use his truck.
Inside the victims' bedroom, the warrant said, is a 6-foot-tall metal safe.
It was just a few feet from Sherrill Wright's body. It was pried open and sawed through the top.
Metal dust found there was consistent with metal dust found in the bed of the pickup truck, according to the warrant.
The documents said a hammer, sledgehammer, metal ammo box and cardboard box for a saw were also discovered in the truck.
The Wrights were found by a relative concerned he hadn't heard from them all weekend.
The Sheriff's Office offered no more details Thursday about the slayings, such as a motive or what, if anything, was taken from the safe.
Nancy Tabbert lives with Duke Shelton, the brother of Sherrill Wright. Still recovering from a stroke, he welcomed the news about his nephew's arrest.
"He's happy that he's finally been arrested," she said.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 869-6236.
[Last modified February 21, 2008, 21:57:22]