A teenager has been charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of a 15-year-old boy near Lake Wales, Polk County officials said.
Deputies said they were called at about 2:45 p.m. Monday to a wooded area along Caloosa Boulevard near U.S. 27 and First Avenue North, where Giovanni Diaz was found dead.
During a news conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Dillen Murray, 16, was angry and jealous that Diaz had a relationship with a girl he liked.
Murray had texted Diaz, asking him to meet him at “the rocks” to smoke marijuana, Judd said.
Judd said Murray hit Diaz with a bat one time, knocking him back, and that Murray then continued to hit Diaz at least nine times in the face and on the head.
Judd said Murray ran into a witness after the beating and asked, “I just hit my friend with a baseball bat. What do I do?”
The witness told him to call 911.
Murray called 911 and told the dispatcher he had killed his friend.
“He tried to attack me and then me and him got into a fight but I had a baseball bat,” he said.
During the call, Murray can be heard telling his father he acted in self-defense.
“Help me. Gio tried to kill me and I think I killed him. I’m not playing, Dad. He attacked me in the woods,” he said.
However, when homicide detectives confronted Murray with evidence and witnesses, he changed his story.
"This child was brutally murdered by a 16-year-old with a baseball bat," Sheriff Grady Judd said in an emailed statement. "There is no reasonable excuse for this. Zero. None. It should never have happened."
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Judd said two days before Diaz was killed, Murray had told Diaz, “I wonder what it feels like to kill somebody.”
Investigators said they found disturbing photos on Murray's Facebook page, such as a murderous clown and The Joker smeared in blood.
Judd said that in 2016, Murray was charged with two counts of battery: one against Diaz and another against a female. He was charged with a third count of domestic battery against his father, Paul Murray, in March 2017.
Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd released this statement: “Giovanni Diaz was a true joy to teach. He was happy and fun-loving, intelligent and analytical. He and his principal used to play a game at lunchtime. Giovanni had a Rubik’s Cube, and Principal Windham would mix up the colors and watch as Giovanni once again solved the puzzle. Giovanni had a very bright future ahead of him that ended brutally, senselessly, and much too soon. The Diaz family is in our hearts and prayers."
Murray was booked into the Juvenile Assessment Center on charges of first-degree murder, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Cox Media Group