Reward increased to catch Seminole Heights killer, stands at $41,000

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A sad reminder on the calendar is happening in Seminole Heights. The historic Tampa community is now marking one month since a savage crime spree began on Oct. 9. 

On that day, the first of three innocent people was murdered by a cold-blooded killer, leaving people shocked and numb.

Everyone seemed to ask the same question – why?

Who would kill three young people?

The murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa left this close-knit community reeling, on-edge and nervous.

The investigation hasn’t stopped, not for a second. 

Detectives are still working around-the-clock, according to Tampa police. The level of interest remains high, including a new, growing reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible.

The amount now stands at $41,000.

WATCH: New video from police shows ‘person of interest’ running near first Seminole Heights murder

Investigators are hoping and neighbors are praying that this large cash reward will encourage someone to come forward with the tip that catches the killer.  For this neighborhood, it is what they have wanted all along, amidst the heartache of losing three of their own.

However, the brutal crimes committed have not broken the resolve of those who live here.

Residents and neighbors have grown closer to one another, as well as the Tampa Police Department, as the search for the Seminole Heights killer continues. One month later, the patrols are going strong – both those you see and those you don’t.

One visible group walking the streets at night is a group of retired military and law enforcement known as the Guardian Angels.

We walked with Jim La Matre from the Angels Wednesday night.

“I think if we keep taking these steps, one day it will bring us clobenser,” he told us.

“Not a minute goes by of any day that I don’t think about the families.”

The Guardian Angels want to be the extra eyes and ears for the Tampa Police Department as the neighborhood is fighting back. Still, it is a difficult time for those who live and work here after four weeks and one killer still on the loose.

“It’s not moving as fast as we would like, but it’s moving along,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan admits.

He shared with us Wednesday his thoughts on the case. He wishes the case was moving quicker, but assures neighbors that each and every tip coming in is being examined carefully and methodically.

Detectives are now waiting on “the one” – the clue that cracks this case.

“We’re fighting back, just to let people know, this won’t define our neighborhood,” said Stan Lassiter from the Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. “We’re still the best neighborhood, and we’re still a safe, walkable community.”

So, the question remains – who is behind this?

Is it the work of a gang or a serial killer?

Seminole Heights is anxious for answers – amidst strong resolve and even stronger hope.

“We will not leave this community until [the] person or persons are caught,” said Jim from the Guardian Angels.  “We’ll be out here.”

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