TAMPA — Till the moments earlier than his life ended there, the neighborhood lake was a peaceable sanctuary for Tony Finley.
The 47-year-old father of three usually made the quick journey from his dwelling in New Tampa’s Grand Hampton subdivision to the kidney-shaped physique of water off Hampton Lake Drive to forged a line and, on a great day, reel in a bass or two. Generally Finley took his youngsters. Different instances, he spent quiet hours alone there.
“It was his remedy,” his spouse Miriam mentioned.
One latest morning, shortly after dawn, a passerby noticed a person mendacity immobile on the lake’s dock. It was Finley. He’d been shot a number of instances. First responders arrived and pronounced him useless.
Group message boards lit up with grief, concern and confusion. Residents anxious and questioned: Who would kill a beloved neighbor and youth sports activities coach who had a repute for serving to out at any time when he might?
The reply Tampa police supplied two days later hit near dwelling.
The shooter, in line with police, was Finley’s subsequent door neighbor. Christopher John Chandler, 22, claimed to have shot Finley after an argument escalated to a struggle, information present. Investigators, nevertheless, concluded that Chandler deliberate to kill Finley.
If that is the case, Finley’s household and buddies are left to ponder a yet-unanswered query: Why?
Loving father, caring coach
Born in Indiana and raised within the Cincinnati space, Anthony Finley moved to Tampa in 2002, roughly the identical time as the lady he’d marry. He was working for Miriam’s father’s homebuilding firm when he was despatched to her dwelling to make a restore.
He was good-looking, type and beneficiant, and being useful was a bonus, Miriam Finley recalled. They married in 2012 and moved to Grand Hampton in 2017. They’ve three kids: two sons, ages 15 and 9, and a daughter, additionally 9.
Finley was an attentive, loving father and useful neighbor, mentioned Tony Capers, a pal who lives within the neighborhood.
“In case you wanted one thing and he bumped into you, even when he did not know you, he’d be like, can I enable you to?” Capers mentioned.
When Finley wasn’t on the job as a pool restore technician, he was often spending time along with his household, fishing, or teaching softball and baseball for the North Tampa Athletic Affiliation. All three of the couple’s kids performed within the league.
Individuals who knew Finley mentioned he had a present for connecting with youngsters, particularly those that hadn’t performed the game earlier than, and inspiring them to respect the sport, their coaches and themselves.
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Gwen Wilson mentioned her son, then 9, was shy, insecure and inexperienced when he got here to baseball follow the primary time, so Finley took him underneath his wing, made him really feel snug and helped him catch as much as different gamers. Wilson mentioned Finley’s classes prolonged properly past the baseball diamond and that he saved in contact along with her son, now 17, lengthy after he left the crew.
“Coach Tony taught my son to place confidence in himself, to not be afraid to attempt new issues, to work arduous at a purpose, to have enjoyable, to be a great teammate, and that everybody is worthy and might contribute even when they begin out by far the worst participant on the crew,” she mentioned.
Finley usually fished within the wee hours, when it was cooler and quieter and he might take time for himself. He texted his spouse about 12:30 am on July 14 to inform her he was heading to the lake.
About six hours later, the passerby noticed him on the dock and known as for assist.
Investigation results in home subsequent door
An arrest affidavit lays out what led investigators to arrest Chandler on July 16.
Detectives interviewed 4 witnesses who mentioned they arrived on the lake shortly earlier than 1 am and mentioned a Jeep was the one automobile there. The witnesses mentioned they noticed a person, presumed to be Finley, retrieve what they figured was fishing tools from the Jeep.
The witnesses walked to the shoreline to hang around for some time, and as they walked again up the trail towards the car parking zone, they mentioned they heard three to seven gunshots. Two of the witnesses heard a male voice softly calling for assist. They noticed a white automotive within the car parking zone that two witnesses recognized as an Audi sedan.
The witnesses then noticed a person, carrying a hoodie with the hood pulled tight round his head, strolling up the dock towards the car parking zone. He seemed to be making an attempt to cover one thing in his waistband. The witnesses mentioned they ran and hid and from their hiding spot watched the person get into the Audi and velocity away towards the group’s gate.
An post-mortem confirmed Finley was shot thrice, in line with the affidavit, and two of the pictures had been fired into his again as he was mendacity face down on the dock.
Surveillance video and a tip led investigators to a home on Heritage Level Drive, subsequent door to Finley’s, the place a white Audi A4 was parked within the driveway. The automotive was registered to Chandler’s mom, and Chandler matched the witnesses’ description. Surveillance video from a close-by home confirmed what seemed to be the Audi touring previous the home towards the lake shortly after 1 am that morning and returning about 4 am
Detectives interviewed Kristopher Chandler, who mentioned he drove to the lake and noticed Finley on the dock. Chandler claimed the 2 males started to argue — if Chandler instructed police what the argument was about, it isn’t included within the affidavit — and the argument escalated right into a bodily struggle. Chandler mentioned that through the struggle, the pistol in his waistband fell to the dock and the 2 males started to wrestle over the gun. Throughout the wrestle, Chandler mentioned, he fired the gun, hitting Finley and inflicting him to fall, the affidavit states. Chandler mentioned he then left the neighborhood within the Audi and returned about an hour later.
Chandler mentioned he carries the gun, a Glock 19, at evening however does not have a hid weapons allow. Investigators seized the gun and, after concluding the proof confirmed Chandler killed Finley “from a premediated design,” arrested him on prices of first-degree homicide and carrying a hid drug. He was being held within the Hillsborough County Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $502,000.
Chandler’s lawyer, Joe Caimano Jr., mentioned his consumer is a 2019 graduate of Wesley Chapel Excessive College with a historical past of psychological well being points that want extra scrutiny.
“He is capable of describe his model of what occurred, but it surely’s clouded by his psychological well being points and different points occurring on the time, and there is been no investigation into these points,” Caimano mentioned.
When Miriam Finley discovered of the arrest and the cost, she did not suppose it might be true. She mentioned her household and Chandler’s have all the time been on pleasant phrases, and her husband helped Kris Chandler with automotive repairs and no matter else he wanted. She does not consider Chandler is telling the reality about what occurred. If his account is true, why would he shoot her husband within the again when he was already down? And why not name for assist?
As Finley steels herself and her kids for what’s more likely to be years of courtroom proceedings, she is getting help that she known as overwhelming. A GoFundMe marketing campaign by Wednesday had raised greater than $12,000 for the funeral and different bills, and some dozen persons are delivering meals to the household.
Miriam Finley sees divine intervention within the outpouring of assist. It is God, she mentioned, “going forward and making ready the way in which for me, to have the ability to survive this.”
Returning dwelling after studying of her husband’s demise, Finley discovered his teaching jersey on the couple’s mattress. Seeing the shirt he’d by no means put on once more drove dwelling the permanence of his absence. Alongside along with her personal kids’s loss, Finley finds herself occupied with others who will miss out, too.
“All the youngsters,” she mentioned by way of tears, “who will not get to expertise him sooner or later.”