Man charged in November slaying of man, shooting of teen

Jacksonville police say gunfire followed argument at College Park home

By Erik Avanier - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville police on Monday arrested a man on charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with a November 2017 double shooting.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday afternoon that Toby Stafford, 41, is charged in the death of 44-year-old Albert Epperson and the wounding of a 16-year-old girl. The two were shot on the porch of a home on Melanie Avenue in Jacksonville's College Park neighborhood.

Epperson (pictured) was found dead on the porch. Epperson's teenage stepdaughter, Summer Tatum, was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Detectives were told the victims got into a domestic argument before the shooting, which was reported off Lem Turner Road just north of the Trout River. 

"It was boyfriend-girlfriend stuff," JSO homicide Lt. Craig Waldrup said.

Police said Stafford went to the house in a car with three other men. A witness reported seeing Stafford shooting toward the victims, then getting back into the car with a pistol and driving away. 

According to the arrest report, Stafford told them, "I was never here," in an effort to get them to stay quiet about the incident.

Police said it took six months to bring charges because it took that long to track down and interview the witnesses to the crime.

Summer said she and the people who were in the car with Stafford identified him as the shooter

After police announced the arrest, Summer and her grandmother returned to the home where the double shooting happened with News4Jax. 

"It is such a relief to know we don't have to live in fear anymore," said Candy Gray, Summer's grandmother. 

Summer said it all started when her ex-boyfriend, along with three other men, drove to her home late at night. She said her ex-boyfriend wanted to retrieve a jacket from her, but she said she didn't have it. That’s when she said Stafford got out of the car and got in her face. 

"My stepdad came outside, and he told me to go in the house and grabbed my phone to call the cops," Summer said. 

Gray added, "I heard him say, 'You all leave Summer alone. She's only 16.'"

The situation went from bad to worse. 

“I heard gunshots," Summer said. "I was in shock."

She said she went outside and saw her stepdad fatally shot, so she ran back into the house. Her grandmother said that’s when Stafford entered the home and confronted Summer in the living room. 

“He shot her in front of the china cabinet," Gray said.

Summer suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound to the chest, but eventually pulled through.

“I didn’t know if I was going to live or not," the teen said.

Jenni Paxton said she will never forget the night when the shooting happened at her neighbor's house. 

“We heard a couple of gunshots," Paxton said. "I got five dogs, and they went crazy.”

Since the shooting, Summer has had seven surgeries and still has a small piece of shrapnel in her lungs. She eventually pulled through and now lives with her grandmother. 

Stafford is being held in the Duval County jail without bond. 

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