New charge filed against Town Center nightclub murder suspect

Toray Ricketts threatened witnesses from behind bars, investigators say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A charge of tampering with a witness has been filed against the man accused of shooting and killing a 24-year-old outside a Southside nightclub. 

Toray Ricketts has been awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge in the March shooting death of Sina Sharifai outside Suite nightclub at the Markets at Town Center, which is adjacent to the St. Johns Town Center.

The trial was to have started late last month, but it was delayed because of an investigation into witness tampering by Ricketts, which led to the new charge. 

According to the arrest report, Ricketts threatened violence toward at least one witness while in jail. 

Investigators said Ricketts sent a third-party to contact a witness in his murder case and tell the witness not to testify against him. 

But investigators said he went further. 

According to the report, Ricketts used another jail inmate’s number to take a call from his girlfriend, and during that conversation, discussed how and where the witness could be intimidated and threatened.

The arrest report also states Ricketts was telling other jail inmates to contact that witness when they were released from jail. 

"They are very fortunate they were able to catch this and stop him because he may have hurt someone else in the process," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. 

Smith called it good police work that investigators potentially prevented another crime.

"This is a very serious charge," he said. "Because, as we've seen before, these types of threats are sometimes carried out or they will do harm to a witness or even go as far as to kill the witness."

The new charge comes on the heels of two other cases in which police said a jailed defendant has orchestrated the murder of a witness to keep the witness from testifying. 

According to police, Jecorian McCray ordered his half-brother Dakarai Maxwell to kill Joe Brenton to keep Brenton from testifying against McCray in his burglary case. They are awaiting trial in the murder case.

Quintae Hudson ordered Hercules Bowers and Aaron Gregory to kill Michael Michael Wright, to prevent him from testifying against Hudson in an assault case, according to investigators. 

Hudson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Bowers and Gregory are awaiting trial.  

The state attorney’s office calls these kinds of cases “an affront to justice.” McCray, Bowers and Gregory could all be sentenced to death, if convicted. 

In Rickett's case, Smith said, recorded conversations could mean additional evidence for prosecutors. 

"Depending on what he said -- they have the phone conversations -- what kind of threats he made, but also what he may have said about the crime. He may have admitted to being involved in the crime," Smith said. "So they have all the tapes to see exactly what he said."

As for any witnesses in the case, Smith said, police will be taking additional steps to protect them. 

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

On Tuesday, a new trial date was set for April 2.