Mural honors memories of Seminole Heights murder victims

The work of art is part of the neighborhood's efforts to get past a string of murders.

TAMPA, Fla. — A mural now hangs in Seminole Heights in memory of the three victims killed in a string of unsolved murders last month.

The tribute, which is on the side of a business at the corner of Nebraska and Osborne Avenues, was unveiled Sunday.

TIMELINE: 3 murders in Tampa neighborhood, killer at large

It features the names and pictures of the three victims killed during a 10-day period in October, within blocks of each other, in southeast Seminole Heights.

The victims, 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, and 20-year-old Anthony Naiboa, were all shot at random while they were alone in the neighborhood. Investigators have been unable to find any link between the three victims, but they remain convinced the murders are somehow connected.

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People passing by the mural on Sunday during the Taste of the Heights festival, the first big event in the neighborhood since the murders, stopped to take pictures or leave personal messages for the victims’ families.

“It’s heartbreaking and tragic,” said Emily Heil, a nine-year resident of the neighborhood who stopped to write a message on the mural.

“I feel for the families and their friends,” she said as she trailed off, her voice beginning to quiver.

The Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association is selling 'We are Seminole Heights' t-shirts with proceeds being donated to the families of the three victims. Many people at Sunday's Taste of the Heights festival wore the shirts which proclaimed the community is 'Strong. Resilient. United.'

"That’s the vibe that I’d like to think is stronger than all the negative stuff that happens," said longtime resident Stephanie Roberts.

“There is a climate of fear, but we’re a strong neighborhood," she said.

The mural and festival were just blocks away from where police say a 51-year-old man was randomly shot earlier Sunday morning. Police said the man was grazed in the head when he was shot near North Nebraska and East Giddens Avenues by someone in a vehicle who he reported had been following him. He's expected to recover.

Police were quick to say they did not believe the incident was related to the October murders.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at I-800-873-TIPS.

Meanwhile, a $35,000 reward is still being offered by Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay and the ATF for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the October killings.

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© 2017 WTSP-TV


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