By Kevin Deutsch
The men sat undiscovered in the SUV for five or six days, slain by 9-millimeter bullets in the parking lot of a Tamarac apartment complex, their killer gaining a seemingly insurmountable head start on homicide detectives.
Still, the Broward Sheriff’s Office investigators were undaunted. They began with little to go on: two decomposed bodies discovered the day after Christmas, and a gold 2006 Jeep Cherokee Laredo doubling as a gruesome crime scene at the Golf Villas apartments.
Yet within hours, the sleuths were hot on the trail of a calculating killer.
Court records filed in the double homicide case paint an intricate portrait of the detectives’ hunt for accused gunman Quincy James, 29, who allegedly chose to murder the two men rather than pay them for the cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and pills he had ordered via text message and arranged for them to deliver.
The documents also tell the story of how homicide detectives put on a veritable master class in murder investigation, using every tool at their disposal to methodically obtain clues—from phone tracking and forensics to firearm ballistics and block-by-block canvassing—and ensnare James following a nine-hour standoff at his North Lauderdale home.
Captain Jeff Cirminiello, who leads BSO’s Tamarac District, called the case “just one example of the dedication and professionalism of this great unit.”
“Most people do not realize the dedication that these detectives have,” Cirminiello told Tamarac Talk. “Some cases have them working up to three days straight following leads. These detectives are constantly called out missing holidays, vacations, and family events, but they understand that and give these cases their complete attention and time.”
To catch James, detectives had to work backward from the moment the dead men disappeared.
Days before they were found, the murder victims—whose names are being withheld from the public under Marsy’s Law—were reported missing by family.
One of their worried relatives worked with the missing man’s cellphone carrier to learn the last location of his phone. The trace showed the device was in the area of 5900 N.W. 46th Ave., the Golf Villas Apartments, on Dec. 21, according to court records.
The female relative went to the property and found the gold Jeep parked with the dead men inside. She called 911.
To scrutinize the crime scene with the time and care required for a double-killing committed in an SUV, detectives had Westway Towing tow the Jeep from Tamarac to the medical examiner’s office in Fort Lauderdale.
There, homicide investigators scrutinized the positions of the bodies: One victim had his legs on the front passenger seat, his torso wedged between the driver’s and passenger seats. Detectives spotted a small bullet hole on the right side of his head.
The second victim was sitting in the right backseat, leaning on the seat to his left. Detectives found a bullet wound on his left upper chest and a corresponding hole in his back, consistent with entry and exit wounds, according to the court records.
The Jeep was sealed and sent to the BSO crime lab for forensic testing and evidence extraction. Search warrant in hand, investigators further combed the SUV for clues.
Experts tested for fingerprints and DNA evidence, getting a hit for an unidentified DNA profile. Testing is still underway to determine who left the genetic material behind.
Next, detectives carefully retrieved two spent 9-millimeter shell casings from inside the Jeep, plus a bullet they found lodged in the right rear passenger seat.
Then the sleuths made a key discovery: Both victims’ wallets and one of their paychecks were missing. So was one of their phones, a black iPhone 7.
Now, the investigators knew money had played a role in the killer’s motive and that the iPhone 7s various locations could be tracked thanks to GPS technology.
The missing phone marked their first major break in the case, a lead that would soon seal James’ fate.
Starting around Dec. 4, the murder victims began exchanging phone calls and texts with a cell number detectives traced back to James. The men had multiple phone exchanges with James the day of their killings, records show, including their last communications before dying.
On Dec. 21, the day they went missing, the mens’ phones pinged to Golf Villas Apartments. James lived just north of the property, detectives learned.
Piecing various pieces of evidence together, investigators now honed in on the point where James and the dead men’s cellphones met: a stretch of State Road 7 and Prospect Road where, during a street canvas, they spotted MegaSex Adult Emporium.
The break detectives needed was staring back at them in the form of the store’s security cameras.
The manager of the business gave his security footage to BSO Homicide Detectives Louis Bonhomme and Kevin Nitsch. Reviewing the video, they spotted the gold Jeep driving around the area, then compared the footage’s timestamps to James’ and the victims’ cellphone records.
According to the affidavit, the comparison confirmed the men had all traveled in the Jeep together in the lead up to the murders.
Next, detectives spoke with a relative of one of the victims. The man told them he and the victim had spoken the day of the killings. The deceased had told him he was going to North Lauderdale to sell a “large amount” of drugs, possibly pills.
That fit with text messages the BSO Digital Forensics Unit downloaded from one of the victims’ phones, in which James asked him about the quality of the “beans,” or illicit pills.
James later texted him a large order for drugs, records show.
“Yo, I got an order to put in,” James allegedly wrote, asking for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and 30 pills.
He also allegedly gave the men a location for the drug buy: Golf Villas Apartments.
After their rendezvous in Tamarac, he never tried texting or calling either man again, detectives said.
Damning evidence in their possession, detectives now turned their full attention to James.
They learned that the day after the murders, James called 911 and told a dispatcher he “might be having a mental breakdown” and was “seeing lights,” but did not have a mental illness, according to an arrest affidavit.
James hung up before providing an address. When the dispatcher called him back, he said he “was having a bad dream and that he had gotten scared” and no longer needed help from law enforcement.
Detectives later reached James by phone, trying to learn his location. The suspect told them he was homeless, records show. But a trace on James’ phone helped BSO’s Viper Unit track him to his North Lauderdale home.
It was time to move in.
When deputies arrived in force, James barricaded himself in a bedroom. SWAT Team members saw him walking around the house at 6412 S.W. 18th Court with a gun in his waistband, records show.
During a nine-hour standoff, SWAT members used a BearCat loudspeaker to ask James to come out. Negotiators also tried to coax his exit.
Next, SWAT fired tear gas canisters through several windows to force his surrender, BSO said in a press release issued Friday.
After James’ mother arrived and spoke with him by phone, he, at last, came out.
Investigators said they found the murder weapon inside the house, a black 9-millimeter Hi-Point pistol, containing a bullet of the same kind found in the gold Jeep.
The BSO Crime Lab confirmed James’ gun was the same one used to kill the men at Golf Villas Apartments, records show.
James is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bond at the Broward Main Jail.
Records show he has not entered a plea.
Cirminiello said detectives’ work in the case is more evidence BSO has “one of the best homicide units in the country.”
“We are really proud,” the captain said.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.