SHARPES, Fla. - The investigation into five grisly student deaths in Gainesville spread to include Florida's Atlantic Coast yesterday as police questioned an 18-year-old student whom they tracked to Brevard County from the university city the night before.
The student, Edward Lewis Humphrey, was arrested and charged with assaulting his grandmother at her home near Indialantic after he arrived there early yesterday from Gainesville. He was being held on $10,250 bond at the Brevard County jail late last night.
Brevard officials referred all queries about Humphrey to the Alachua County authorities.
Police last night also staked out Humphrey's apartment in Gainesville, apparently preventing anyone from entering.
Humphrey was one of several suspects being questioned last night in connection with the slayings. Detectives in Polk County questioned a Lakeland man about the Gainesville slayings, but he was not considered a serious suspect, said Lynn Breidenbach, a Polk County sheriff's spokesman. Investigators also were questioning suspects in three or four other areas of Central Florida.
The Gainesville Sun reported today that authorities were eager to find a man identified as Warren Virgil Tinch, wanted for the stabbing death and mutilation of Phyllis Elam, a 52-year-old woman from Middletown, Ohio.
Elam's body was found in woods near her home.
Witnesses allegedly spotted Tinch, 58, of Franklin, Ohio, in
Gainesville and nearby Ocala about a week before the murders, the newspaper reported. He allegedly stole vehicles from car dealerships in the towns on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17.
The potential break in the case involving Humphrey came four days after police discovered the mutilated bodies of two women students of the University of Florida on Sunday. The next day, the body of an 18-year-old woman who was a Santa Fe Community College student was discovered about 2 miles away. Then on Tuesday, the bodies of a UF prelaw student and her roommate, a man enrolled at the Santa Fe college, were found at the Gatorwood apartment complex. They had been stabbed to death.
Sources close to the investigation said they considered Humphrey a prime suspect in the slayings as early as Tuesday. He is a first-year UF student who lived in Gainesville over the summer, at least some of the time in the Gatorwood complex, sources said. Neighbors and investigators also said he suffered from emotional and physical problems.
Investigators said they began tracking Humphrey in the panic-stricken college town after his name came up in a canvass of neighborhoods near the crime scenes.
Late yesterday, they watched him from a Florida Department of Law Enforcement airplane as he drove his 1978 black Cadillac the 180 miles from Gainesville to south Brevard County.
Humphrey arrived at his grandmother's home near Indialantic about 1 a.m., sources said. The grandmother, Elna Hlavaty, called 911 after Humphrey assaulted her at about 2:20 a.m., according to a Brevard County Sheriff's arrest report.
The grandmother said Humphrey rushed into the living room of the home, pulled her out of a chair and began punching her in the face.
Investigators, who requested anonymity, said Humphrey has a history of mental and physical problems.
Neighbors in the upper middle class Indialantic subdivision said police have gone to the Hlavaty home several times in the last two months to break up family fights.
Meanwhile, law-enforcement officials in Gainesville would say only that they had several suspects. At a press conference yesterday, authorities said they had no ``hot suspects.''
Authorities said members of a multiagency task force assigned to the case had been dispatched to ``three or four'' areas of Central Florida to investigate suspects. They insisted at the press conference, however, that investigation had not narrowed to a single suspect, and they said an arrest was not imminent.
But three sources close to the investigation said Humphrey is considered the top suspect in the case because he lived in the Gatorwood complex and was familiar with the area.
Sources also said he had been evicted from that complex sometime during the summer, and detectives are looking into whether that action might be linked to a motive for any of the killings. Humphrey had a brother who also lived in Gainesville, sources said.
Hlavaty's neighbors said they remembered several instances in which Humphrey and his grandmother got into shouting matches in the front yard.
Humphrey has lived with Hlavaty on and off since childhood, and has lived there for most of the last 10 years, said next-door neighbor Lee Webster.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.