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Anatomy of the Zota murders

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Police Chief Pete Cumming at the press conference. Hanna is pictured to the left.

Last week, two murders stunned Longboat Key.

In what appeared a double homicide in tandem with robbery for less than $900 at the just-opened Zota Resort, Longboaters expressed outrage, disbelief, sadness, sympathy and sorrow.

Longboaters also expressed fear — fear that the crime might go unsolved. Everyone stared quoting the adage that after 48 hours the chances diminish that a perpetrator will be caught. Soon some relief came.

On Day 5 after the murders, the Longboat Key Police Department announced that 29-year–old Darryl Hanna Jr. was under arrest. It gave a degree of closure to a community and region disturbed by a crime that brought national attention to the otherwise idyllic and peaceful island. It also ended a week of intense police work searching for the suspect.

 

The crime…

Longboat Key Police were initially called to respond to an apparent robbery that occurred at about 2:40 a.m. on August 4 and found two employees dead inside the Zota Beach Resort, located at 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

The victims were Timothy Hurley, 59, who was a Night Manager at the Zota Resort and Bradenton resident Kevin Carter, 51, who worked for Victory Security as the evening security guard at the Zota.

 

Video generates clues, tips

Following the murders, police released a surveillance video showing a man carrying a semi-automatic pistol in his left hand and in another clip exiting with a cash box. These videos that were part of the Zota security system provided critical clues.

First, the man in the pictures appeared to be left-handed. Also, the perpetrator knew that the right-hand door was locked when he is shown exiting. This led police to believe the man was familiar with the property.

Another tip came from a coworker of Hanna’s at Victory Security who said the mannerisms and movements of the man in the video resembled those of Hanna.

Detectives visited Hanna’s Facebook and his pictures showed him holding a firearm in his left hand and carrying one on his left hip, indicating he was left handed. That matched the suspect in the video carrying a gun in his left hand. He also commented that he owned a 9-mm on Facebook. Police believe that was the gun he used to shoot Hurley and Carter.

 

Piecing it together…

When police contacted the security firm, Victory Security, which employed Hanna as well as the murdered victim, Carter, they learned more.

Police were told Hanna resigned the day of the murders and that he was the only person who when news about the killings emerged, did not call to ask what happened. Instead, police were told Hanna asked how many times the victim was shot.

Police analyzed the cell phone that Hanna had use of to confirm that 12 calls were made on the morning of the murders from Longboat Key.

Then the police also used the license plate reading cameras that are located on both ends of the Key, which confirmed that a vehicle exited the Key following the murders.

 

Police Chief gives account

On the day after Hanna was arrested, Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming held a press conference in Town Hall on Longboat. He told the dozens of media outlets and members of the public on hand that the perpetrator, Hanna, had worked at Zota as a contracted security guard working for Victory Security Company in the weeks leading up to the murder. Cumming said Hanna shot and killed night manager Timothy Hurley and fellow security guard Kevin Carter and then stole $900 and fled the scene.

It turns out Hanna had numerous gripes with his pay and hours according to coworkers and had resigned just prior murders. Cumming also said that Hanna knew exactly the layout of the building and location of the cash box and safe.

“He was clearly familiar with the layout of the building and the entrances and that likely caused him to get in without being noticed,” said Police Chief Pete Cumming.

Cumming said he did not think the incident was intended to be just a robbery gone wrong.

“There is no reason to commit murder if the intent was strictly robbery,” he said.

Hanna worked as a security guard for the resort just two days prior to the slayings.

The security company asked Hanna to come to work the night of the slayings, but Hanna said he had a new job as a cook and then resigned.

“There seems to be some disgruntled nature, something that occurred,” added Cumming.

It turns out that Hanna had recently been arrested for theft and had other criminal behaviors and incidents in his background including being charged for marijuana and cocaine possession.

Hanna had worked for Victory Security for three months in a part-time capacity.  Following the arrest, Victory Security issued the following statement:

“It has come to our attention that a former employee of Victory Security Agency has been arrested for involvement in the recent murders on Longboat Key.

We will continue to cooperate with local law enforcement agencies during their investigation.  We are not aware of anything specifically related to this investigation other than any information released to the media at this point.

As the investigation continues, we will have no further comment other than what is provided by the appropriate County or State agency.”

 

Priors…

In May of this year, Hanna plead no contest to stealing items while working with a different security company. Victory Security says they had no knowledge of this charge and the state should have revoked his license if he was convicted.

Hanna was in possession of a Class D license for unarmed private security work, which requires 40 hours of training to obtain.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture said no complaints have been filed against Darryl Hanna.

Zota management said they could not comment on Hanna.

“Darryl Hanna was not an employee of the Zota resort. Since the facts and circumstances of Darryl Hanna’s employment with Victory impacts the ongoing criminal investigation [which Zota will not jeopardize] we cannot comment further,” Zota Beach Resort said in a statement.

In another statement, Zota said, “Zota Beach Resort is extremely relieved that a suspect has been quickly captured due to the diligent efforts of Longboat Key Police and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to remain with the victims’ families during this most difficult time.  Zota remains committed to supporting law enforcement in their ongoing investigation to ensure a successful prosecution of the person responsible for these crimes.”

 

Family reacts

The night manager, Timothy Hurley, was a Zota employee and by all indications a tremendous asset to the organization and his family.

Hurley’s family released a statement following the murders:

“Tim was the glue that held our family together. We feel lost and hopeless without him. He worked in the hospitality industry because he loved to serve people. He was the most selfless, loving and compassionate man that we have ever known. Our lives will never be the same without him. Please keep our family in your prayers.”

 

Police praised, investigation ongoing

Hanna was apprehended without incident at a residence in east Bradenton by members of the Longboat Key Police Department and Manatee County Homicide Investigative Unit. He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of armed robbery. He remains in Manatee County Jail without bail.

Cumming told Longboat Key News, “Longboat Key’s Sergeant Robert Bourque has done an excellent job investigating crimes for our department and he played a central role in this case. We teamed up with the Manatee County Investigative Unit and their combined skill and talent led to the apprehension of the suspect who otherwise might have gotten away with this crime.”

Longboat Key Deputy Chief Frank Rubino told Longboat Key News that the license plate recognition cameras came into play.

“The officers did a great job and residents should be comforted that the perpetrator is arrested and behind bars.”

The investigation is ongoing. Whether the charges will be upgraded to First Degree Murder or whether others were involved is to be seen. The investigative work and evidence testing will continue for months, Longboat Key News was told following the arrest.

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