COPS: 14-year-old arrested for strangling a St. Pete College student

9:14 PM, Oct 3, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Christine Mayers is smiling.  

The mother-of-four who teaches first grade at Bay Vista Fundamental says her happiness, however, is truly bittersweet.

She is thrilled that an arrest was made in the savage beating and murder of her 20-year-old son, Jeremy, who was a student at St. Petersburg College. He was killed this summer.

Sadly, she knows that arrest will never bring her precious son back, the son that used to surprise her at school and call her "Mommy."

What she is surprised about is the age of the young man arrested for Jeremy's murder: a 14-year-old boy named Franco Harris Thomas.

Franco Thomas, police say, has been on the run since July after he allegedly was part of a teenage trio that murdered Jeremy Mayers.

"My heart is broken," said Christine Mayers. "Our lives are forever changed. I can't sleep at night. I can't eat. I expect to see my son Jeremy's big, beautiful face coming through the door. It's like a dream. No, it's like a nightmare."

Christine speaks lovingly of Jeremy, the third oldest of four sons. "We just celebrated his birthday," she said. "He will always be with me. I will always have four sons. Now, he is a resident of Heaven."

She added, "By trusting people, he is not with me anymore."

Police say, on July 8, Christine's son met his demise after going to see 16-year-old Brittany Detwiler, a young woman the family says he met on Facebook.

Jeremy had no way of knowing that the young woman lured him to a St. Petersburg home under the most dangerous of circumstances, according to police.

According to arrest reports, Brittany was waiting with 14-year-old Franco Thomas and another teen, 16-year-old Scionti Hill. St. Pete Police tell reporters that the teens beat Jeremy with a shotgun, strangled him, and stole his cell phone, his wallet, and his car.

Both Brittany Detwiler and Scionti Hill were arrested, but their 14-year-old friend was missing for weeks. Police say Franco's parents agreed to turn him in after the indictment.

However, that never happened. Instead, detectives say family members helped to hide the teen. Relatives could face charges themselves in this murder case.

Finally, on Tuesday night, U.S. marshals stormed a home in Tallahassee and found the 14-year-old at a family member's home playing cards, witnesses say. He tried to run, but agents got him and arrested him on charges of first degree murder. He will be extradited back to Florida within 48 hours, say police.

"I will tell kids out there, what you do affects others," said Jeremy's mother. "Our family circle is broken. We have our faith, but we will never have our son. He is gone. Think about what you do. Your actions affect a lot of people."

All three teens are being charged as adults.

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