‘Before he kills somebody else:’ $5,000 reward offered for DeBary murder suspect

Reward offered for capture of Sammy McKnight, 31, accused of fatally shooting man

Deputies in Volusia County are asking residents to be on the lookout for a murder suspect.

DEBARY, Fla. – Deputies in Volusia County are asking residents to be on the lookout for a murder suspect and are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.

The sheriff’s office believes Sammy McKnight, Jr., 31, shot and killed a man outside of a DeBary IHOP on Friday.

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“This is a guy who will kill or shoot you as soon as he looks at you,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

McKnight is wanted on a second-degree murder charge after deputies accused him of killing James Shirley, 36, near the IHOP off Dirksen Drive.

“The victim in this case was a gentleman who had some issues, was living out of his car in the back of the Hampton Inn parking lot in DeBary. He somehow befriends this guy at the Circle K,” Chitwood said.

The sheriff said the two were seen on video speaking outside of the Circle K for about an hour and a half before a sudden confrontation.

“There’s a fight. McKnight pulls out a handgun, fires seven shots at our victim, five of which strike him. The victim then walks a block to the IHOP where he walks inside and collapses,” he said.

The sheriff said video then shows McKnight grabbing the victim’s backpack, jumping into the victim’s car and taking off. Deputies found the car the next day dumped off School Street in Daytona Beach.

“The last time he was spotted was in the small hours of Saturday morning and he was on a beach cruiser in the midtown area of Daytona Beach,” Chitwood said.

Chitwood said there were expensive, rare items in the victim’s backpack they think McKnight may have wanted.

The sheriff said McKnight is from Brevard County where he has an extensive, violent criminal history and now, they need help finding him.

“All you need to do is call us and say he’s in 123 Main Street right now and we go in and put the cuffs on him. Easiest $5,000 you could ever make. We’ve got to get him off the street before he kills somebody else,” he said.

UPDATE: Volusia County Sheriff’s Office told News 6 that the department found and arrested McKnight Tuesday evening.


About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.