Teddy Osceola told detectives he killed Immokalee teenager Ricky Trevino with a shotgun after the two argued over a drug rip-off.
He guided them to the body, which he said he dumped off a rural road in the Big Cypress reservation.
But whether Hendry County jurors hear that confession, and whether they learn of Osceola’s role in finding the body, remain unanswered as Osceola heads to trial on Monday. Hendry Circuit Judge Nick Thompson has yet to rule on a defense request to prohibit the confession and its fruits.
The decision could make or break a case with high stakes for all involved. Osceola, charged with second-degree murder, faces life in prison. Trevino’s family seeks justice for the teenager, who was missing for days before relatives learned he was dead.
“My son’s not an angel, but he’s my baby,” Noemi Trujillo told the Daily News in 2009.
Trevino, 17, was last seen by his mother as he and his girlfriend, Tiffany Villa, 21, watched “Monday Night Football” together at the familiy home on Grand Avenue in Immokalee. Villa told police she then drove Trevino to Eden Park, where he left with Osceola for a pair of “licks,” or thefts, of ATVs.
Two days later, a distraught Trujillo spotted Osceola behind the wheel of a passing SUV on the Big Cypress reservation. She attempted to flag him down, and, failing, gave chase in her car.
What resulted was a three-way phone conversation between Trujillo, a Collier County sheriff’s detective handling Trevino’s missing person report and Seminole Police, who ultimately stopped Osceola’s car and arrested him after he gave a false name.
That coordination, and what Seminole Police knew when they stopped and arrested Osceola, are central to a defense claim that police went too far when they questioned Osceola.
Detectives spoke to Osceola 90 minutes without recording the conversation, a problem if Osceola was a homicide suspect. But detectives claim they only asked Osceola about Trevino’s possible location — a response to the missing person’s report, they say — when he suddenly told them he killed Trevino. Detectives then recorded a full confession.
Osceola, through attorney Lee Hollander, suggested a different account. Hollander suggests detectives were aware of some of the details Trujillo gave the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for the missing person’s report, among them that Osceola was rumored to have taken a contract on Trevino’s life.
Hollander accused detectives of a “question first, warn later” tactic, contending they never read Osceola his Miranda Rights until he confessed and they began recording.
Osceola, whose 22nd birthday comes Tuesday, has a round face and a thick body, at 230 pounds and 5 feet, 9 inches. A tattoo on the right side of his neck reads “239,” and an outline of Florida marks the left side. The words “High Till I Die” are tattooed on his right hand.
He remained silent during a recent hearing on the legality of the confession, and he will decide whether he wants to testify at trial.
His previous arrests include an August 2007 traffic stop in which he gave a false name. A Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy discovered a loaded revolver and ski masks in the vehicle, according to an arrest report. A search of Osceola’s name turned up four outstanding warrants, the report said.
In a 2006 arrest, Osceola was found with a 12-gauge shotgun and marijuana in his possession.
Both men dropped out of school. Trevino was enrolled in Collier County’s Phoenix Program, an alternative school for youth recommended for expulsion, for the 2006-07 session, according to the county school district. He withdrew in January 2007.
By the accounts given by Osceola and a juvenile witness in 2009, detectives say Osceola shot Trevino once in the chest and then again in the back. The two men had disputed a “rip,” or drug rip-off earlier in the week, according to Seminole Police reports.
The witness said the argument began when Trevino accused Osceola of setting up the robbery, in which both Trevino and Osceola were victims. When Osceola responded by pointing a shotgun at his friend, Trevino raised his empty hands in surrender, detectives say.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” Osceola recalled telling Trevino.
With the initial shot, the teenager fell to the ground, then turned and attempted to stagger down the driveway. Osceola struggled to reload the shotgun before firing the second shot.
Osceola told police he asked his “boys” in the house for help disposing of the body, according to reports. One, the juvenile, helped roll the body into the back of the pickup truck with the aid of an ATV ramp. They then dumped the body on the side of Blumberg Road near a sugar cane field and covered it with nearby brush, reports state.
Twelve jurors will be asked to judge Osceola’s fate. Testimony is expected from Trujillo, Villa and detectives in the case.