By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
That night, he was helping out with the photo and autograph lines for Coco Montrese, a personality from RuPaul's Drag Race who was visiting. He was anxious, though, and after a while began eagerly questioning Montrese. Then a fan approached. "Can't you see I'm talking to her?" he snapped at the interloper and was promptly thrown out. Of course, that was nothing new. "Tony getting kicked out of Hamburger Mary's was a complete waste of time, because the owner of the restaurant completely loved him," says Esme, who worked there as a hostess.
After a short reconciliation with the owner, Anthony walked to the gay bar Liquid, where, according to patrons, he stood under the exit sign by the bathroom, greeting every customer who came near, before eventually heading home.
He spent Tuesday at the funeral home in director Wayne Bright's messy office. Anthony texted and glanced up every once in a while to bug the soft-spoken, preternaturally soothing man. The conversation was so mundane that Bright doesn't remember a single detail.
Eshter Badger, the assistant manager, prepared to leave around 2:30 p.m. It was raining hard. Although Anthony would normally stay inside glued to his phone, he made the uncharacteristic move of accompanying Badger out the door.
"Oh my God, if your boyfriend drives by and sees another man walking you to your car," was the last thing she heard before she shut the door to her sedan. It was the last time she'd see him.
Besides volunteering, Anthony had been attending family barbecues, letting his niece Erica try on his wigs, and offering avuncular wisdom. "Make sure you do good in school and do something with your life — and don't go chasing after little boys," recalls Erica, a bubbly community college student with long, dark hair and a Cheshire Cat grin. She took his advice and graduated from Chandler High School in May 2013.
Together they had come up with a plan for her graduation ceremony: Anthony would do her eye makeup in green and yellow, to match her cap and gown. Erica got the call from her dad during a rehearsal that Anthony had been murdered. Unable to believe it, she rushed to her computer and pulled up the Sobe Wanda fan page, where Anthony had listed his occupation as "bitch." Commenters confirmed that her uncle was dead.
So Erica did her own makeup for the ceremony, painting her eyes a dark, smoky red. "To this day I can't believe it," she says months later. "I have his picture on my wall right next to his makeup and his wigs."
One night in October 2012, Deandre Tolliver returned to his aunt's house and began throwing furniture. By the time Clara Parsons, who was 69 years old, rushed into the living room, her nephew was on the floor next to the coffee table. He was clearly high out of his mind.
Thinking the boy she called Dre was passed out cold, Parsons tried to move the coffee table back into place. Suddenly, her nephew was up and pummeling her. She covered her face and screamed for him to stop.
And just like that, he was gone.
Tolliver was a troubled kid from a troubled family. He started out breaking curfews and slinging pot but ended up involved in a drug-fueled meltdown that led to violent — and murderous — behavior.
Before he wound up in the Hillsborough County Jail awaiting trial for the slaying of Anthony Lee, he had racked up a double-digit rap sheet including charges of domestic violence, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, battery, burglary, grand theft, violation of probation, resisting an officer, and possession of cocaine, prescription drugs, and marijuana. For all of those crimes, he spent only about a year in state and county jails.
But last October was a particularly rough month for the man who also went by the nickname Smooth. Just a week before the incident with his aunt, he had beaten up his girlfriend, Karlesha Brown, as she attempted to load their infant son into a car seat, says the woman's neighbor, Linda Smith. A few days later, Tolliver was arrested for trying to steal five sewing machines worth $500 each from a Baptist church, according to an arrest report from the Lakeland Police Department.
By January, he was hanging out with Akeem Townsend, who had federal warrants out for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. In March, officers noticed Tolliver couldn't stop shaking during a routine traffic stop and pulled three grams of coke from his pants pockets.
This past May 28, Tolliver said he needed to go to Tampa to pick up items from Tiffany McKinney's house. McKinney herself was a notorious criminal with a lengthy rap sheet, including murder that sent her to jail for more than two years. In 2011, the Tampa Bay Times called McKinney's brother Sedrick a symbol of Florida's turnstile criminal justice system.
A friend agreed to drive Tolliver from Lakeland to Tampa, according to the arrest record. Along the way, they picked up a 24-year-old friend named Bernard Hamilton. The three men staked out the house because McKinney owed them money, several of Anthony's friends claim. McKinney knew she was being watched, so she began texting and calling Anthony to say she was sick and needed help cooking dinner for her children.