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Two teens charged in April murder case

The youths, first charged with robbery, now stand accused of killing a tile setter at his apartment.

By MIKE BRASSFIELD

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 3, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Two teens charged in several street robberies over last weekend are now charged with murdering a Honduran tile setter during an April robbery attempt.

Marquise Jerome Jenkins, 17, of 2330 Eighth St. S, and Xavier Javiors Love, 16, of 4014 31st St. S, each were charged Friday with first-degree murder.

They are accused of killing Juan Jose Gonzalez, 24, at his ground-floor apartment at 4200 37th St. S.

About 9:40 p.m. on April 26, police said, Gonzalez answered a knock at his door as his roommate was walking out of the kitchen with plates of steak and onions.

Gonzalez opened the door to find two young men outside demanding all his money, police said. He tried to close the door, but one of the robbers shot him. He died at Palms of Pasadena Hospital.

On Tuesday, police arrested Jenkins, Love and an adult in connection with several robberies around St. Petersburg last weekend. Police said that during their investigation of the robberies, the two teens admitted to killing Gonzalez.

Both teens were behind bars Friday -- Jenkins in the Pinellas County Jail, and Love in the Juvenile Detention Center.

Jenkins' and Love's families declined to comment.

In the street robberies, detectives say three young men would drive up to pedestrians or motorists and ask for directions, then rob them with a BB gun that resembled an Uzi machine gun.

Jenkins is charged in three robberies, and Love is charged in one, according to arrest affidavits. Those holdups occurred at 4855 First Ave. S and 2996 16th St. N. Detectives say the youths are suspected in 10 robberies, most of which were committed in the same stolen car.

Gonzalez was killed on a Monday night after working all day. He was shot at what was then the Spindrift Apartments, now renamed Maximo Heights Apartments, a two-story building behind the Mokart indoor go-cart track on 34th Street S.

His apartment is now vacant.

Gonzalez's landlord, Jim Johnson, said his tenant was a hard-working tile setter who paid his rent early and sent money home to his family in Honduras.

Gonzalez and his roommate had lived there nine months, having moved out of their former St. Petersburg home when it was burglarized, Johnson said.

"They were trying to get away from the crime element," Johnson said.

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