Small Things Remind Family of Anthony Curtis' Murder
January 4, 2008
More than six years later, even the smallest thing can bring up memories of that night.
A song on the radio, driving past Grandma’s house, a license plate with the letters AC or a Batman symbol.
They see them and Curtis family members are jolted back to that unforgettable night.
The tiniest details are crystal clear. No matter how hard they try to remember something else, something happier, it’s always the first thing that comes back.
January 4, 2008: the day the Curtis family lost a brother, a son, an uncle, a best friend.
“Most people can’t remember what they did last month, last week, yesterday, but events like that, you can remember details because that’s your last moment of that person’s life. And it floods your memory,” James Curtis said.
“People always tell you to remember the good things, but when you try to you have that big spot right there that takes you back.”
It was a Friday, just after 8:30 p.m., and 23-year-old Anthony Curtis was at home in the faded white house off Channing Road in Lakeland that he shared with his grandmother.
He had a lot of friends, but didn’t get out much, his sister Tricia Yarbrough said. He never had a driver’s license, never wanted one, Yarbrough said.
“He was more of a homebody. He didn’t go out a lot, but he would have friends over to hang out and stuff,” she said.
He was staying in an apartment in the back of the house to help look after his grandmother.
She dialed 911 that night.
When Yarbrough, now 32, got the call she thought something had happened with Grandma.
“They said, ‘Somebody’s dead in there,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean somebody’s dead in there?’ And then she came out and told me and I just couldn’t believe it. That’s just something you see on TV. I see it on TV all the time. It’s not something that happens to you. It’s something that shouldn’t happen to anyone,” she said.
Curtis was found shot to death inside the house, according to Lakeland police.
On the night of the shooting, neighbors told The Ledger they had heard talk that it happened during an argument between two young men. But more than six years later, police said they still can’t confirm what exactly led to the shooting.
‘THE RIGHT PHONE CALL’
Detective Scott Kercher, the original detective assigned to the case, has recently started taking a fresh look at it. He said the Lakeland Police Department has received a few tips during the years, but nothing concrete to solve the case.
And he desperately needs the community’s help.
“I think all it’s going to take is the right phone call,” Kercher said. “Somebody talked to somebody about what they did or they feel guilty and want to call. That’s all it’s going to take.”
Anthony Curtis wasn’t just a brother to his six siblings, Yarbrough said, he was a best friend.
“You could talk to him about anything. We could sit there and talk about God and religion and politics all day long. And he was just so funny. He made people laugh a lot; he was hilarious,” she said.
Curtis was a graduate of Lakeland High School, where Yarbrough said he made friends with people from every social circle.
He knew everyone, she said, and even though she was a few years older than him, people always knew her as “Tony’s sister.” Still to this day, she said, she and younger brother James Curtis, 28, will see people in the community who call them, “Tony’s sister” or “Tony’s brother.”
No one has forgotten him.
He was passionate about the things he loved, including video games and Batman, James Curtis said. His family called him “the mediator” because he always knew how to calm people down.
“You couldn’t be sad around him. He just had this aura, like you just couldn’t be. He wouldn’t allow it,” James Curtis said. “You could talk to him and after your conversation everything was in perspective. Life was no longer hard; the troubles you were going through were no longer a big deal. He was just one of the most down-to-earth kind of people you could ever meet.”
That’s why it came as such a shock to the community when Curtis was killed.
Hundreds of people came to his funeral, Yarbrough said. There were friends Curtis’ family didn’t even know he had, but they were all people who loved him.
“It definitely puts a hole in your spirit,” Yarbrough said. “I’ve had people tell me to just get over it. You don’t get over that. It took me a long time to even accept that it really happened. He did not deserve that, not at all. It’s still hard for me to believe that something like that could happen to him. He was such a good person and anybody who knew him, any of his friends would say the same. He’d give anything for anybody.”
Lakeland police said they don’t have a lot of leads for Curtis’ case. But Kercher said it’s one he’s personally carried with him for years and he’s determined to bring justice for Curtis’ family.
“He was just a typical 23-year-old,” Kercher said. “He had a full-time job working at ICT here in (Lakeland).”
Yarbrough said solving her brother’s case would help bring closure to their family.
She said until the case is solved, they’ll always wonder why? Why did someone kill the funny, passionate man who had more friends than he could count? Why did someone take away the life of a loving brother, son and uncle?
And why hasn’t that someone come forward to take responsibility for their actions that night — a night that the Curtises will never forget.
“The things we struggle with on a day-to-day basis, paying bills, fixing your car, etc., all that stuff when you look back, none of that matters,” James Curtis said. “None of that matters because you could be lying in a box in the ground.
“The reality of life is it’s going to go on. It’s going to get better. But with that situation, it’s done. It’s final. There’s no getting better. You can’t pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, Anthony, I need to talk to you.’ You can’t drive to his house and say, ‘Hey, man, I need to talk.’ But like other things, you can fix and repair and go on with your life, but with that situation you can’t. You’re stuck.”
TO OFFER INFORMATION
Anyone with information can contact Detective Kercher at 863-834-8979 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at 800-226-8477. Callers can remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward.
Information can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie Allen can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7550.