83ºF

Family asks for help finding Sanford brothers' killer: 'They are not statistics'

Joseph Smith, Roland DeLoatch were gunned down on Halloween

SANFORD, Fla. – The family of two brothers murdered in Sanford on Halloween is begging for people with information to come forward to help police find the person responsible for their deaths.

Joseph Smith and Roland DeLoatch were shot and killed in front of their mother last year during a home invasion, Sanford police said. The gunman was wearing a mask.

Standing next to a picture of their brothers, the victims’ sisters, along with Sanford police detectives, addressed the press Friday in a news conference.

“Two links were taken from our chain, and it was senseless,” the victims' oldest sister Cathy Wilson, said.

Sanford police issued a bulletin on Nov. 11 for Dante James, calling him a person of interest in the case. Police said he was likely with his girlfriend Sawbeta Seal.

Police said they arrested James, a convicted felon, and Seal the day after the murders on weapon possession charges, but they bonded out and James cut his GPS tracking anklet.

James was arrested on Nov. 22 in Georgia, and investigators have determined he is not the shooter, based on evidence. Police are still calling James a person of interest because they believe he has information on the case.

The victims' sister Kizzy Spencer said Friday that there is another person they believe has information about who killed the men: Smith's girlfriend. Spencer said she is not being helpful to investigators.

"The right thing is to step up and to speak and say something," Spencer said. 

Smith was an aspiring rapper, Wilson said. He was set to release an album two weeks after he was killed.

DeLoatch worked nonstop, his family said, and had just gotten home from work when he heard the first shot. He ran to help and was fatally shot. The masked shooter then pointed a gun at the victims' mother as she begged for her life, police said.

"For someone to walk into a house and murder two people in front of their mother and make her get on her knees and beg...that is cold," Spencer said.

Spencer and Wilson said their mother, Barbara Smith, has been having a hard time dealing with the loss of her sons and the trauma of that night.

"Each day we wake up devastated and struggling and we can't believe those two family members are gone," Spencer said. 

The hardest part for the family has been that the masked gunman could be someone they know living in their community. To the victims' sisters and mother, everyone is a suspect right now, Wilson said.

"They are not statistics," Spencer said. "We will find somebody."

Detectives have not found a motive for the murders.

"We are never going to let you think you're never going to be hunted down because we are not going to let this case rest," Wilson said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.


About the Authors: