Published: Jun 11, 2004
TAMPA - Donna Clemons didn't need anyone to tell her the bad news as she looked at her only daughter's unrecognizable face early Thursday.
She knew right away that 16- year-old Emily Ann, lying in a hospital emergency room bed, would never be coming home again.
When Emily told her mother she was going to the mall Wednesday evening, Donna Clemons thought it was a harmless outing. But it turned out to be something much more horrific: The teenager was bashed in the head with a stainless steel pot inside a north Tampa apartment until two other teens thought she was dead, authorities said.
Then the duo - one her former boyfriend, the other his current girlfriend - wrapped her in a blanket, carried her outside into the steamy June night and tossed her mostly lifeless body into a nearby garbage bin, officials said.
More than four hours later, about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, someone heard noises coming from the large metal trash container tucked in the northeast corner of Amaretto Apartments on 22nd Street just south of Bearss Avenue.
Inside, authorities found a bloodied Emily Clemons lying among the trash. She was rushed to Tampa General Hospital, where she was in extremely critical condition Thursday night.
Clemons didn't want to talk publicly about her daughter's condition. It's too personal, she said. Any news would have to come from authorities.
"I miss her, and I think that whoever did this had so much hate and anger in them that they are not human,'' the mother said Thursday evening.
Hillsborough County sheriff's homicide detectives had the trash bin and its contents hauled away as possible evidence in a homicide investigation. Attention quickly focused on the teenager's former boyfriend, 16-year-old Rocky L. Almestica Jr., who lives in Building C, nearest the garbage bin.
Detectives charged Almestica and his girlfriend, Laisha L. Landrum, 16, with tampering with evidence.
"Obviously this is more serious than tampering,'' sheriff's Lt. Rod Reder said. "This is just a good charge for now, that we can prove right now, and we will continue our investigation.''
Those charges likely would upgrade to first-degree murder if the teenager dies, Reder said.
The last time Clemons saw her daughter, she was boarding a city bus to head to the mall between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Wednesday. They said goodbye.
Shortly thereafter, she was beaten in the apartment, authorities said. It wasn't until 4 a.m. Thursday when a sheriff's deputy knocked on her door that the mother realized something was terribly wrong.
"I feel numb, completely numb,'' said the mother, who said she still had not found the courage to enter her daughter's room at home. "But then I don't know how I'm supposed to feel, don't know how I should feel.''
Clemons said she is getting support from her fellow members of Buchanan Baptist Church and her co-workers at Atex Media Command.
Those who know the teenager spoke highly of her.
"She is a very sweet girl, very nice, very polite,'' said Anita Davis, who used to live near Brett Clemons, Emily's father, on Indian Rocks Beach. "Brett would have her there on the weekends. He bought her a Jet Ski, and they would enjoy the weekend together.''
If Emily was washing her dad's car, she would also volunteer to wash the Davis vehicle, as well. If the Davises had their grandson over, Emily would play with him or bring him ice cream.
"She is the sweetest little thing.''
Emily, who loves poetry and her dog, Moses, lives with her mother at Parkview apartments in north Tampa. She had been attending school in Pinellas County while living with her father before returning to live with her mother a few months ago.
Clemons, in an almost monotone voice choked with emotional exhaustion, said she wanted people to know that her daughter would have offered a great deal, from a desire to help troubled children to making it as a journalist who specializes in the law.
Neighbor Susan Emerson said the teen is affable, talkative and referred to Emerson as "grandma.'' She recently began a job at a Checkers, Emerson said.
Donna Clemons described Almestica as a quiet type, and said the boy and Emily had broken up about a year ago.
Almestica's mother declined to comment Thursday evening about her son, who had a baby with Landrum - whom Donna Clemons knew as "Lala'' - in January.
Authorities say Landrum was the one who beat the teenager in the head. They say both teens conspired to get rid of the body and the stainless steel pot used in the crime.
"Three 16-year-old lives were ruined today,'' Reder said.
The nature of the crime shocked those in the area that is no stranger to its share of crime.
"It's awful. It scares me because I have kids,'' said Rosa Manriquez, who lives in the same building as Almestica and said she moved from California two months ago to get away from crime. "It scares me a lot.''
Another woman, who lives in an adjacent apartment complex and declined to give her name, said she was tired of hearing gunshots and being exposed to violence all the time in the area.
"As soon as my lease is done, I'm leaving here. I have two kids and I feel very unsafe,'' she said.
"What happened is very sad. I was 16 once, also,'' she said in a quiet voice. "She was a human being, a child.''
see article: http://tampatrib.com/FloridaMetro/MGBZ9FKQBVD.html