The family of a St. Augustine man mysteriously murdered in a World Golf Village condo is desperate for answers and turned to the News4JAX I-TEAM for help. It’s a case with ties to a high-profile St. Johns County case that has received national attention over the years.
Eli Washtock was 38 years old and a father of two. He was shot and killed inside the Laterra Condos in January 2019, and his case is still open and unsolved. Washtock’s sister, Jessica Tiffany, is hoping someone knows something.
“I just I want if there’s anyone who knows anything, please, if you could please just tell somebody even anonymously,” Tiffany told the I-TEAM.
Detectives say they have hardly received any tips over the past three years, and now the I-TEAM has obtained crime scene photos and spoke with a private investigator who independently investigated the killing to find out more about the murder that detectives say was likely personal and not random.
Photos from the crime scene show a blood-soaked carpet and bullet holes in the walls and in a bathroom mirror.
Washtock was found by his son, who was 15 years old at the time. He called 911.
Washtock’s son: “He’s currently laying on the floor with blood around his head.”
911 dispatcher: “Do you have any idea when this might have happened?”
Washtock’s son: “Um, no but it appears to have been here for a little bit.”
“The first thing I did was I called my brother’s cellphone. My voicemail is still on his cellphone, begging it not to be him,” Tiffany said about the moment she found out.
Since that day three years ago, no arrests have been made and no suspects have been named.
“It’s devastating. Because now, you know, the case is cold,” said Tiffany.
While this happened in St. Johns County, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office quickly turned over the case to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office after learning Washtock had been doing his own private research into the Michelle O’Connell case.
O’Connell’s 2010 death was ruled a suicide, but family members believe she was murdered by her boyfriend — a deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators found the bullet used in O’Connell’s death came from the deputy’s service weapon.
Over the years, two special prosecutors investigated O’Connell’s death, but neither found evidence to support it was a homicide.
The I-TEAM spoke with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office’s lead homicide detective, Klayton Usina.
“Was there any evidence at all that the fact that he was looking into the Michelle O’Connell case — that his death had something to do with his research?” we asked Detective Usina.
“No, not that we could find. Matter of fact, his research was really the case files that were already out there of other work that people had done. He certainly didn’t have any breakthroughs in the case or anything,” he answered.
During the 911 call to report Washtock’s killing, his son was asked about what he was seeing.
911 dispatcher: “Do you think he did this intentionally?”
Washtock’s son: “He did not do it intentionally.”
Washtock’s son: “Because there is a lot of gunfire.”
911 dispatcher: “There was a lot of gunfire? He was shot more than once?”
Washtock’s son: “I don’t know but there are shots going through the wall.”
“We certainly didn’t find anything foreign, like any kind of foreign DNA or fingerprints that would suggest anybody that wouldn’t have access or be around him coming in,” Detective Usina told the I-TEAM.
“So all the DNA that was found was people that were familiar with the condo?” we asked.
“Yes, people that he would know,” he answered. “It looked like there might have been some staging, but it didn’t look like some stranger randomly committed this crime.”
Washtock’s gun was found at the scene.
911 dispatcher: “What kind of weapon was it?”
Washtock’s son: “It was just a (inaudible) 9 mm.”
911 dispatcher: “It was his own gun?”
Washtock’s son: “Yes, it was.”
Clu Wright, a private investigator who had previously looked into O’Connell’s case, sent the I-TEAM crime scene photos from Washtock’s condo. Wright believes the shooting was personal.
“How did they get into his apartment? You know, I mean you got to have, you know, just to get into that place is a security nightmare,” said Wright.
The I-TEAM checked and found there is security at the entrance of Laterra Condos. Security guards check driver’s licenses, and you do need a security code to access the property. A special key is also required to get inside the buildings.
According to Tiffany, her brother had been concerned about his safety, telling us that the night before his death he put his son in a different condo for his safety.
“He felt like people were watching him. He felt like they could see him, and he was in process of trying to provide more security for his home,” she said. “So, he was worried about, you know, my nephew’s safety being in his own home.”
Detective Usina says investigators didn’t find evidence to prove someone was watching Washtock. He says detectives interviewed family members, neighbors and friends, but there have been very few tips.
“We get people calling in their suspicions of what they think could have happened or just some kind of out-there stuff, some hypothesis, I guess, but no one with any definitive leads, you know. There’s been, like I said, no witnesses to come forward, no friends or family that has additional information,” the detective explained.
Tiffany hopes the killer is found before her family goes another year without justice.
“If there’s anyone who knows anything, please, if you could please just tell somebody even anonymously. Our mother, my brother and I’s mother, is just desperate for answers,” she said.
If you have a tip regarding the murder of Eli Washtock, you can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477_. Or you can submit an anonymous tip online or through the Crime Stoppers mobile app.