911 tips led to arrest of second suspect in shooting death
Johnny Hooker wasn’t the only person who called authorities the afternoon Timothy Wayne Tuttle Jr. was taken into custody for the July 10 slaying of Eric Leigh Stuebinger.
And Hooker, who has received $2,000 in rewards from people, says the other man should also get a reward.
The other man, who asked that his name not be used during a telephone interview Friday, called 911 at 4:35 p.m. — 21 minutes before Hooker placed a call to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on an administrative line.
Tuttle, 22, had been hunted for about 24 hours in the San Carlos Park area and going north toward Southwest Florida International Airport before he was captured July 21.
Tuttle and Terry Frank Ragland Jr., 27, have been charged in the home-invasion robbery-murder of Stuebinger at his home at 511 NE 2nd Ave., Cape Coral. Two other people, Carl Robert Dugo, 24, and Sarah Christine Lampila, 22, have been charged with accessories after-the-fact to second-degree murder. Officials say they helped Tuttle by providing money, water and food to him, even after they’d been warned not to help the fugitive.
Recently released tape recordings of those calls show the man who called 911 was traveling south on Interstate 75 and saw someone matching Tuttle’s description near where a 24-hourlong manhunt had taken place. Earlier reports show the manhunt had ended about 3 or 3:30 p.m. July 21.
The other man, who has not sought out public attention in regard to his call that led authorities back to the search area, said he doesn’t watch the news, but earlier in the day traveled to Naples and back to Fort Myers and saw the manhunt.
“I got on my Blackberry and found out what was happening,” he said during the Friday afternoon telephone interview. He made another round-trip to Naples and just happened to glance over and saw a man without a shirt wearing black shorts.
The call was at 4:35 p.m.
“I think I just spotted the guy you are looking for,” he says on the recording. “He had black shorts on and no shirt or shoes. I could just see him as I was driving by,” he told the dispatcher.
“It looks like he was standing and looking around the building,” he said, indicating a yellow building near a Frito Lay truck. He also saw a Lee County Emergency Medical Services vehicle nearby. “I wish I could give you a better detail of the building.”
Authorities swarmed the area.
The man, who is a Christian, said he didn’t know anything about a reward until some friends told him later. He did check to see if qualified for it, but he didn’t. He called 911, not Crime Stoppers.
Hooker, several minutes into his call that he placed at 4:56 p.m., did express interest in the reward and provided his name and number.
But, he said Friday during a telephone interview, he didn’t do it for the money. He did it because he lived through a similar situation when he was 3 years old in witnessing the death of a family member.
“I stutter because of it,” he said.
And, Hooker said, “I have nine kids and no kid should have to see that kind of stuff. That baby is only 18 months old.” He was referring to Stuebinger’s toddler, Eli, who was in the house during the slaying.
“In order to get a reward from us the information has to come through us. We are not connected into 911 or the 18 counties we cover,” Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers coordinator Trish Routte said. “We have a segregated system. If their intention is to get a reward, they must call us.”
When Crime Stoppers was founded about 30 years ago, the intent was to give people an avenue to call in with tips without fear of reprisal or being called to testify in court.
“When a young college student, Michael Carmen, was shot to death during a robbery at an Albuquerque, New Mexico gas station in July 1976, Detective Greg MacAleese had no idea who was responsible for the killing,” according to the Crime Stoppers International Web site.
“No witnesses came forward and it appeared the senseless and brutal shotgun slaying would remain a mystery. MacAleese, who worked for a newspaper before joining the Albuquerque Police Department, knew something innovative would be necessary to encourage the public to get involved and help solve the murder.
“He conceived the idea of producing a video re-enactment of the homicide, guaranteed anonymity for anyone who was willing to call him with information and put up a reward from his own pocket to encourage someone to provide a lead that would help identify those responsible for the murder of Carmen.
“It seemed almost unnecessary to take such extraordinary steps to solve the killing of Carmen. It was a case that should have outraged the community and brought forth many witnesses.”
And Crime Stoppers was born.
Crime Stoppers only pays rewards — up to $1,000 — if the person calls 1-800-780-TIPS. Anyone with information can call 911 but must do so prior to the suspect being taken into custody, she said.
Some people have questioned whether the Crime Stoppers number is too difficult to remember.
Routte said any entity who would like to have bumper stickers, pencils, magnets, or other collaterals that have the Crime Stoppers number on it can call her at 477-1407.
Hooker, who made several news appearances upset that he wasn’t getting the Crime Stoppers reward, was given $1,000 by an anonymous Cape Coral woman and another $1,000 by the owners of Seductions.
He says the other person who called that day should also receive a reward.
But the other caller, who says he would accept a reward if offered, said no one has contacted him about one.
Both men said they were doing what anyone else would do in the same situation.
Hooker never even knew the other man had called previous to him.
Hooker used some of the reward money to reinstate his driver’s license. He had been out of town from May 4 through July 12 on construction jobs throughout Florida and had forgotten to take a 12-hour course. That caused his license to be suspended.
“I knew my license got suspended,” he said. It was reinstated Thursday.
But, he says, he wasn’t driving that day that his and the other man’s tips leads authorities to one of Southwest Florida’s most wanted.
“My wife was with me,” Hooker said. “That’s how I was able to call on the phone.”
But he really believes anyone who helps law enforcement catch a “scumbag” should get a reward.
“Oh yeah,” Hooker said. “If he made a call. I ain’t gonna damn no one. I wish the best for him.”
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is glad both men called.
The information provided by the 911 caller “provided critical information as to the location of Timothy Tuttle,” according to a prepared statement. They did not release the name of the 911 caller and cannot pursuant to Florida law.
“As deputies were responding to the area provided by the 911 caller, a second call came in via an administrative line,” according to the statement. That line is not regulated by the same privacy laws as 911 and Hooker identified himself on the recording.
“There was a 21-minute time difference between the two calls. The 911 caller provided information that allowed law enforcement personnel to get to the right location quickly. Mr. Hooker was able to provide information as well. Both citizens played a role in assisting law enforcement in locating accused murderer Timothy Tuttle.”