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Neighbors "shocked" at accused I-4 gunman Jerome Hayes arrest

7:23 AM, Jul 2, 2013   |    comments
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Jerome Edward Hayes has been arrested and reportedly charged with first degree murder for the weekend shooting death of Fred Turner on Interstate 4.
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BRANDON, Florida - 48-year-old Jerome Hayes is the accused I-4 gunman who turned himself in Monday morning around 11 a.m. Hayes faces a first degree murder charge in the shooting death of 47-year-old Fred William Turner Jr., who was shot to death on Saturday afternoon.

In the tight-knit community of Brandon Forest, Debbie Smith says she's stunned by the arrest. "I just can't believe it's him."

Smith remembers Hayes long before his booking video was released and his mug shot hit the airwaves because, at one point, he was her neighbor.

Smith says, "He was a very good dad. He seemed to be a very good husband. He was a good neighbor. I can't say anything negative about him, you know, what I knew of him living here. He was just an awesome guy and we were sad when they moved." 

But the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is painting a much different picture of Hayes. Investigators say it started at Tampa Gold Club at 6222 Adamo Drive Saturday afternoon when Hayes and a friend got into a fight with another man at the strip club.

Hayes and his friend were booted from the club, and detectives say they waited for the man they'd fought with to leave, but he knew they were outside and didn't budge.

Turner Jr. happened to be leaving the adult business Tres Equis behind the strip club, and Hayes and his friend followed him thinking he was the same person they'd been in a brawl with, but they were wrong.

In the area of 50th and Columbus, Turner called 911 to say someone was following him. While on the phone with dispatchers, Turner maneuvered onto I-4 heading toward Orlando when he said the car following him pulled up beside him and Hayes, according to detectives, started shooting his semi-automatic weapon.

Deputies found Turner dead on the side of the road at the I-4/I-75 interchange. He'd been shot three times in his Ford Mustang.

Surveillance cameras helped investigators track Hayes down to his home in St. Cloud, where he lives with his girlfriend. Neighbors there say the man they knew would never have fired a gun in the way he's accused of firing one.

Ray Philips says, "We've had good dealings with them. We never heard them argue. They were always pleasant." 

Hayes works as a manager at a recycling company, but back in 2007 he was arrested for dealing in stolen property at a recycling company he owned. Those charges were later dropped.

Meanwhile, Hayes will make his first appearance in front of a judge on Tuesday. 

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