The killer crouched in the aisle among the potato chips and candy.
When the unsuspecting 7-Eleven clerk walked by, the killer attacked. He stabbed 54-year-old Kenneth Lee Redding again and again, then left him to bleed to death on the floor of the Riverview convenience store. Security cameras captured the bloody scene.
“I've seen a lot of stuff,'' said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee. “This rates among the most brutal I have seen.”
On the way out, the killer stopped to grab a slew of scratch-off lottery tickets - a decision that might have proved his undoing.
The attack happened at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. By about 6 p.m., authorities had captured three people, including Lawrence Bongiovanni, 20, the Brandon man they say carried out the killing.
Bongiovanni was arrested by a Charlotte County sheriff's deputy who spotted him walking along a road in that county. At about the same time, a Sarasota County deputy pulled over two men on Fruitville Road in a car investigators said was used by the killer.
Hillsborough sheriff's investigators interviewed those men - 25-year-old Russell Beasley of Riverview and Brandan Garrett Green, 23, of Brandon, into early Thursday morning before releasing them. They were not charged in Redding's death.
Bongiovanni was booked into the Charlotte County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder.
Investigators had been tracking the flight of the three men for hours. Their trail wasn't hard to find - everywhere they went, they cashed scratch-off lottery tickets taken from the 7-Eleven.
The attack happened in the 7-Eleven at 11015 Bloomingdale Ave. Redding was the only clerk on duty at the time.
Store security video shows a man entering the store. The man goes to the bathroom and stays there for seven to nine minutes, then comes out and hides in an aisle, the sheriff said.
The killer and his accomplice or accomplices then left the store in a white, two-door Toyota Solara.
Redding probably didn't know anyone else was in the store before he was attacked, Gee said. He said there is no indication Redding knew or was acquainted with the attacker.
Investigators were able to identify Bongiovanni and Beasley as suspects by using surveillance video and the only items taken from the store: a fistful of scratch-off lottery tickets, Gee said.
Both men started cashing in winning tickets hours after the killing, the sheriff said. A few of the tickets, which are as traceable as debit cards, were cashed in in the Tampa area. At 9 a.m., another ticket was traded for cash in Nokomis, just north of Venice; an hour later, several more were cashed at stores in Charlotte County, Gee said.
Gee said he was taken aback by the intensity of the violence in the attack.
“This is a brutal, premeditated attack,” Gee said. “He stalked the clerk, hid and waited for him to be alone.''
Gee said the suspects have “a complete disregard for human life” and that robbery might not have even been the motive for the crime.
“This does not appear to be a robbery gone bad,” Gee said. “Bongiovanni went in with the intent to attack the clerk.”
Customer Jimmy Walker said he was putting gas in his motorcycle a few minutes after the attack and had no idea a vicious stabbing had just occurred.
“I didn't notice a guy behind the counter,” Walker said. “Then I got to the third aisle and... it was a really bad scene.”
Redding was on the floor, in a puddle of his own blood, Walker said. He yelled at another customer outside to call 911, then rushed back to Redding.
“I couldn't stop the bleeding,” Walker said. “It was awful. What was going through my mind was saving him.”
Redding, of Gibsonton, was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Walker said he didn't know Redding by name, but the two would often chat when Walker went to the store to get gas for his motorcycle.
“We would just shoot the breeze,” Walker said. “I prayed for him.”
Redding's mother said she has no idea why anybody would have wanted to hurt her son.
“I'm in shock,” Jeanette Cochran said. “He was a decent man. He never got into any trouble. He never did dope and he never drank.”
Redding had worked at the 7-Eleven in Riverview for about 18 months. The store at the corner of Bloomindale Avenue and Providence Road was shut down for most of the day Wednesday as detectives and forensic investigators combed the scene for evidence.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened,” 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said about Redding's killing. “This is a great loss to 7-Eleven, his coworkers, family, friends and customers. We hope for a quick apprehension of the suspect involved.”
Records show Bongiovanni has been arrested 12 times in the Tampa area since 2008 on a string of charges including burglary, aggravated battery and grand theft. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to a charge of felony battery/domestic battery by strangulation and spent almost two years in prison.
Beasley has been arrested three times since 2008 on charges of petty theft and larceny. In 2008, he pleaded no contest to a charge of violating an “injunction against dating violence,” records show.
According to Bongiovanni's Facebook page, he was born in Brandon and attended Spoto High School and once worked at a Mexican cafe in California. He didn't post often on Facebook. On Dec. 17, 2012, he noted it was the “first new years that I havent been locked up. Looking for something to do.''
Tribune reporter Jose Patino Girona and News Channel 8 reporter Adrienne Pedersen contributed to this report.t.