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Drugs lured killers to teens' Interbay home, police say

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:38 PM
TAMPA -

Sixteen-year-old Kiara Brito 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.

Drugs, police said, are what brought two men to her Interbay home last year on a trip that ended in the shooting deaths of Kiara, 16, and her brother Jeremi, 13.

Dealing was a family tradition, according to witnesses. The siblings' mother, Judy Brito, "sells enough cocaine to pay the bills," Kiara's boyfriend, J.J. Hubbard, told police.

The information came to light Thursday with the release of more than 400 pages of reports gathered in preparation for the trial of the two men charged in the slayings – Tavari Grant and Charles Waits, both 20.

The two face two counts of first degree murder and home-invasion robbery in the attack just before 6 a.m. on June 5, 2011, at the Brito home, 3021 W. Van Buren Drive.

Judy Brito declined to comment on the case Thursday but acknowledged the statements in the court documents.

"She's not denying the comments in the police reports, especially her own," said Briot family attorney Ricky Martinez. "She exposed her kids to her poor lifestyle choices. She's forever remorseful for that."

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.

Judy Brito 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.

Hubbard told police, "Kiara manages money from her own narcotics sales," and he saw as much as $1,300 to $1,400 in her possession.

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. The siblings were comfortable opening the door when the men knocked, police said.

Waits entered, and Grant shot the siblings, investigators said. The pair then stole jewelry, electronic equipment and other items.

Judy Brito was spending the night at Treasure Island with her boyfriend.

Neighbors told police they heard popping noises coming from the Brito home and thought it was firecrackers. Jermel Allen, who lived two doors down, thought otherwise.

Allen told investigators he saw a man running from the Brito residence, so he grabbed a handgun and chased him. Allen lost track of the man, but down the street, he saw a second person standing outside a Chevrolet Impala, talking on a cell phone.

Allen wrote down the Impala's license plate number and followed the car.

The driver saw him and fired shots, Allen told police. Allen said he returned fire. The driver picked up the man who had left on foot and drove away.

Allen, a convicted felon, tossed his gun over the Gandy Bridge fearing he would be arrested.

Waits was later identified as the driver of the Impala, according to the court documents.

After his arrest, Waits told investigators he was forced to drive Grant to the Brito house to rob them.

The documents describe a gruesome crime scene.

Police officers found Kiara and Jeremi 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, which 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 pawn shops.

Waits knew Kiara because a month before she was slain, she had sold him a quarter-pound of marijuana, the court documents said. Hubbard told police Waits was also tattooed by Kiara – a service she offered at her house.

Kiara had been home only minutes before she was killed, said Hubbard, her boyfriend. She had gone to a club in Ybor City with friends, he said.

Kiara's friend, Sarah Taylor, recalled how that night of revelry ended, according to the court documents.

"We talked about how you were making money and doing so good," Taylor said. "I sat in your driveway and told you, 'Goodnight, I'll see you later.' I watched you walk in the house, waited a minute then pulled off. I miss you Kiara."

Hubbard said Kiara's last words to him were a two-word text message sent at 5:22 a.m.

"I'm home."


rreyes@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7920

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