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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Arrest made in slaying of former Gulf High basketball player

A New Port Richey man faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of a recent Gulf High School graduate, whose body was found alongside a road Wednesday in the Moon Lake area, deputies said.

Thomas J. Lesher, 31, of 11731 Imperial Oaks Blvd., admitted to stabbing Antonio Rangel several times with a knife during a drug deal “altercation,” a Pasco sheriff’s affidavit states.

Rangel, 20, was captain of the Gulf High boys basketball team as a senior in 2011-12, the school’s website said. Rangel graduated in 2012.

A passer-by alerted authorities after seeing Rangel’s body just before 8 a.m. Wednesday along Moon Lake Road near Canton Road, the sheriff’s office reported.

Rangel’s body had several lacerations to the face and head and a large puncture in his chest, deputies said. A knife and Rangel’s cellphone were found near his body, and his 2001 silver Hyundai was missing, an investigator’s affidvait said.

Investigators learned from the cellphone that Rangel had been texting a “Tom” to set up a drug transaction. Investigators traced the number to Lesher, who lives about 2,000 feet from where the body was found, the affidavit said.

The unlocked Hyundai was located with the keys in the ignition about seven hours later in the same neighborhood, deputies said. There was a large amount of blood on the console and seats, deputies said.

About 10:15 p.m., investigators talked with Lesher at his home. According to the affidavit, Lesher admitted to being involved in a drug deal with Rangel and stabbing him several times during an “altercation” about drugs.

According to the affidavit, Lesher admitted taking Rangel’s Hyundai, fleeing the scene and abandoning the car. Lesher said he then returned to his home and discarded the blood-stained clothing he was wearing in a nearby wooded area, the affidavit said. Lesher took investigators to the clothing, the affidavit said.

The vehicle was taken to a forensics lab to be searched for evidence, a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said.

At Gulf, Rangel played guard on the basketball team and in 2012 was an honorable mention on The Pasco Tribune’s all-county team and a third-team selection on the All-Sunshine Athletic Conference team.

The school’s website posted a news item on his death along with video and photographs from when he attended Gulf.

Lesher was booked at the Pasco County Jail at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. No bail was set, according to the affidavit.

According to jail records, Lesher was arrested in 2007 on a charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant person. Records show he was arrested again in October 2012 on a domestric violence/injuction violation and in October 2013 for a probation violation related to a domestic violence injuction. The adjudications of those arrests were not available.

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