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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Key witness refusing to testify in trial of man accused of slaying Tampa teens

TAMPA — As the first of two suspects goes on trial this week in the slaying of two teens, an important prosecution witness remains behind bars refusing to testify.

Charles Waits and Tavari Grant are each accused of murdering siblings Kiara Brito, 16, and Jeremi Brito, 13, on June 5, 2011 in their home at 3021 W. Van Buren Drive. The two face two counts of first-degree murder and home-invasion robbery.

Authorities say the suspects killed the teens in a home invasion robbery over drugs. Kiara kept expensive, hydroponically grown marijuana in her dresser drawer and sold enough at one point to stash $1,300 cash in her bedroom, according to police reports.

Waits is scheduled to go on trial this week; Grant faces a separate trial later this month.

Among the witnesses the prosecution hoped to call was Grant’s brother, Denzel Baker, who was jailed last month for contempt of court for refusing to cooperate. According to court filings, Baker saw Grant and Waits leave together before the killings and then return to his house after the crime with items that were taken from the Brito home, including a Luis Vuitton bag and some marijuana.

Baker also described seeing Waits in possession of a firearm that matched the description of a gun that has been identified by investigators as the murder weapon.

Baker was cited by Circuit Judge Samantha Ward after refusing to answer questions during a deposition at the public defender’s office. He’s been in the Hillsborough County Jail without bail since Sept. 12.

In her statements to police, Judy Brito described how her daughter — a basketball player at Robinson High School — sold not only marijuana but designer watches, which she bought on the Internet then resold at a profit.

The victims’ mother, Judy Brito, was spending the night with her boyfriend on Treasure Island the night of the killings. She told police that before her daughter’s death, Kiara had bought about a “quarter pound and a half” of marijuana and kept it in a bedroom dresser.

Police said Grant and Waits went to the home to rob them.

Waits told investigators the encounter started when Grant asked him if he had any marijuana to sell, according to the court documents.

Waits said he did not, but “he knew where he can get some,” and the two men went to the Britos’ home, according to the documents.

Waits, then 19, was a friend of Kiara and Jeremi, who attended Madison Middle School. After Waits entered, Grant shot the siblings, investigators said. The pair then stole jewelry, electronic equipment and other items.

Police reports describe how Kiara and Jeremi were found in a living room stained with blood and littered with spent bullet casings. In Kiara’s bedroom, investigators found several bags of marijuana and $1,027 in cash inside a Louis Vuitton designer purse.

Judy Brito told police that her daughter had about 70 designer watches that were worth between $250 and $500 apiece.

Several watches were taken in the robbery, the documents said, and Grant tried to sell some — along with a few of Kiara’s rings — to people and pawnshops.

Four months after the slayings, Judy Brito was arrested on a drug charge after sheriff’s deputies went to her home because of a report of a suicide attempt.

Brito was charged with cocaine possession after deputies said they discovered a small plastic bag filled with cocaine hidden inside a cigarette box.

But the prosecution later dropped the charge because the state couldn’t prove the case because the cocaine was found in a bedroom occupied by a roommate, in a box under a bed.

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Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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