A 16-year-old boy is in custody and his 15-year-old friend is dead after officials say he was beaten with a baseball bat.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of 15-year-old Giovanni Diaz. On Tuesday, Sheriff Grady Judd called the incident premeditated murder.
According to Judd, Diaz was invited over in a text message to meet 16-year-old Dillen Murray in the woods to smoke marijuana. But what happened in the woods near Caloosa Boulevard and Lake Boulevard in Lake Wales is far different.
Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters in a news conference Monday evening that while the boys were in the woods, Murray beat Diaz with a baseball bat, killing the 15-year-old Frostproof Middle-Senior High School student.
“Gio had never been in any trouble,” Judd said in a news conference Tuesday, describing Diaz as a good student.
A witness saw Murray come out from the woods, and he told the witness he hit his friend with a baseball bat. That person told Murray to go home and call 911, then went into the area and found Diaz dead.
The teen called 911 and deputies arrived around 3 p.m. Monday, according to Judd. In a conversation with deputies, Murray said he “whaled on” him and called Diaz a “friend.” On Tuesday, Judd said the teen told the 911 operator that he swung the bat in self defense, but once he was confronted by detectives, his story changed.
Judd said Murray got upset after finding out that Diaz previously had “relations” with a girl with whom the teen was “in love.” Murray invited Diaz to go smoke and talk in the woods where Diaz’s comments “infuriated” Murray, and he pointed the bat at Diaz.
“And Gio says, ‘What are you going to do, hit me with that bat?’ And that’s when Dillen started to hit Gio with the bat,” Judd said.
Murray admitted to hitting Diaz, knocking him down, and then hitting him several more times in the face and head, according to Judd. Then, Murray threw down the bat and left the woods.
Though he initially said he hit Diaz in self-defense, Murray later told detectives he was the only one that hit anyone in the incident.
Two days before the attack, Judd said Murray told someone that he wondered what it was like to kill someone.
Murray was charged with first-degree murder and possession of marijuana. The investigation is ongoing, but Judd said Tuesday he believes the teenager should be tried as an adult.
“This child was brutally murdered by a 16-year-old with a baseball bat,” Judd said. “There is no reasonable excuse for this. Zero. None. It should never have happened.”
Murray has previously been charged with battery, and in two of the three charges Diaz was the victim, according to Judd.
Judd said Diaz’s mother was “absolutely, totally crushed” over the loss of her son.