homepage logo

Records reveal investigative path in Cape Coral homicide

By Staff | Jul 29, 2010

Eric Leigh Stuebinger pulled a mask off one of two men who followed him and his ex-girlfriend into his Cape Coral house, leading investigators down a path that led to the arrest of two men in the homicide, recently released court documents show.
One suspect, Terry Frank “Frankie” Ragland Jr., 26, 314 N. Morgan Circle, Fort Myers, also admitted to his brother he and Timothy Wayne “T.J.” Tuttle Jr., 22, 4481 Goebel Road, also in Fort Myers, had committed the robbery which investigators described in the documents as a “brutal murder of Eric Stuebinger.”
Ragland and Tuttle face murder charges and remain held without bond in Lee County Jail.
Stuebinger, 28, 511 NW Second Ave., died at 2:37 a.m. July 10 after being Tasered, pistol-whipped in the head and shot in the torso, according to affidavits filed in the murder cases being developed against Tuttle and Ragland.
The records show Jamie L. Thorpe and her 17-month-old son Eli Stuebinger, were threatened by two masked men at gunpoint if she called police. Thorpe is described in the documents as Stuebinger’s girlfriend and ex-girlfriend. She told Cape Coral police detectives she had just arrived to spend the night when two men pushed their way in. Thorpe called 911 at 2:08 a.m.
Thorpe said two masked men entered the house, pointed a gun at Stuebinger and yelled: “Gimme the money. Where’s the drugs? Where’s the big bag of money?”
Stuebinger was shoved to the ground, and as he got up, was pushed into the living room. Thorpe said she then heard “the crackle of a Taser and saw Eric fall backwards into the love seat.”
She watched as the gunmen pistol-whipped Stuebinger in the head repeatedly. As Stuebinger reached to punch one of the men, he partially pulled the man’s mask off his face.
Thorpe told investigators she recognized the man as Tuttle. She also worked with a composite sketch artist.
After Stuebinger was shot, records show, the two men “began to run around nervously and scared. Jamie ran to the baby’s room as he began to cry.” That is when “the men pointed their guns at Jamie and Eli and threatened to kill them if she called the police. They fled out the front door.”
Later that day, a citizen called police and said a suspicious vehicle was in the area of the robbery at 2:13 a.m. The person saw a truck parked in a field and it didn’t have its lights on.
“As soon as an ambulance sped past the area with its lights on, the truck cranked on and began driving through an empty lot,” according to the reports. The truck drove around until a Cape police car drove by on Nicholas Parkway. The truck turned the opposite direction and drove away.
An anonymous tipster called Cape police dispatchers and said Ragland and Tuttle had a similar methods of operations in robberies in the Lehigh Acres area.
Lee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Larry King issued a prepared statement about what the tipster told investigators:
“If charges are warranted they will be filed accordingly. We respectfully decline to detail anything further as related to on-going investigations.”
Cape investigators subpoenaed Stuebinger’s and Thorpe’s cellular telephone records. Stuebinger’s showed a connection between him and Ragland.
On July 17, investigators caught a break in the case when they located Ragland’s brother, Tommy Ragland, who reportedly said Frankie Ragland owned a Taser, describing it as a “cop Taser,” and a 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun.
Tommy Ragland also told investigators that a 14-year-old youth was with the men when the home-invasion robbery occurred. The youth drove the truck away from the scene.
Tommy Ragland also said he believed his brother was with his girlfriend. Frankie Ragland was found at the woman’s grandmother’s house in Naples.
On that same day, July 17, investigators spoke to the teen who reportedly admitted pointing out Stuebinger’s house to Ragland and Tuttle when asked.
“(The youth) knew where Eric lived because his father, (name deleted), is allegedly involved with prescription fraud,” according to the documents. Family friends told The Breeze that the teen’s family, the Raglands and Stuebinger have known each other for years.
While en route to Stuebinger’s house, the boy told investigators the two men said they were going to “do this lick” and they “geared up,” pulling on mask, grabbed guns from a bag and left the truck.
The men, according to the documents, hid in the bushes and went inside behind Thorpe as she arrived. The door then shut and he didn’t see what occurred.
Soon the men ran out, jumped in the truck and ordered the teen to go.
“(The youth) further said that T.J. yelled that he ‘shot the guy’ and was ‘freaking out.’ The teen said he drove through a field and in an opposite direction of emergency vehicles. At some point, Tuttle took over driving the truck, the youth told investigators. He admitted they drove behind a Wal-Mart and Kohl’s stores without lights on.
Investigators found a Taser cartridge, 9 mm shell casing, an unfired 9 mm cartridge and spent bullet lodge in a wall of Stuebinger’s house. A large safe in his bedroom contained about a pound of suspected marijuana, numerous pills in pill bottles and a baggie with a substance in it which field-tested positive for cocaine. The documents did not say whether the pills were prescribed to Stuebinger nor how much suspect cocaine was found.
Tuttle was taken into custody on July 21 after a daylong manhunt in the San Carlos Park area.
Connie Barron, Cape Coral police spokeswoman, responded to an e-mail why the teen has not been charged.
She wrote: “It’s an ongoing investigation.”
The youth’s name is being withheld by The Breeze as he has not been arrested.