‘Help, I’m dying’: Man charged with third-degree murder after mail carrier finds stabbing victim in yard

Hernando County

Hernando County Sheriff’s Office

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A man is in custody for third-degree murder after deputies say he reportedly stabbed a man to death during broad daylight.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, deputies and Hernando County Fire and Emergency Services (HCFES) were dispatched to the 19000 block of Peyton Place in Brooksville around 5:20 p.m. for reports of a stabbing.

The caller, who was a mail carrier, reported turning on to Peyton Place and seeing three children looking at a man who was lying in the grass, deputies say. The mail carrier then heard screaming and a male voice say, “Help, I’m dying.”

Deputies say the mail carrier approached the victim, found him bleeding profusely, and called 911.

Once deputies arrived, they say they began searching for the suspect who was described as a white male wearing blue jean shorts and no shirt. 

Patrol deputies and K-9 teams were deployed to search the area in hopes of finding the suspect, according to deputies. Corporal Steve Miller released his partner, K-9 Justice. Shortly after being released, K-9 Justice found the suspect hiding behind a home on Sawdust Lane.

The suspect, later identified as 48-year-old James Dean Croft, was arrested and taken to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed. Croft refused to provide a statement to detectives, according to deputies.

A weapon was found on scene.

Deputies say the victim was treated on scene by HCFES before being flown to a local trauma center. The victim later died at the hospital because of his injuries.

Croft was charged with third-degree murder and remains in the Hernando County Detention Center.

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