LAKE WALES (FOX 13) - He was brutally beaten with a baseball bat until he was dead. The 15-year-old victim’s family is heartbroken, and the 16-year-old suspect is in the custody of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Giovanni Diaz was in the 8th grade at Frostproof Middle School. His mother tells FOX 13 News Giovanni is her oldest son, saying the 15-year-old was incredibly smart, already taking college courses, and planning to graduate early.
But those dreams were shattered Monday afternoon. Polk County sheriff’s officials say after the middle-schooler got off the bus, he went into a wooded area with Dillen Murray. Both the teen boys live in Caloosa Lake Village in Lake Wales.
“Once they were in the woods, Dillen viciously beat and killed Giovanni with a baseball bat,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
After the brutal attack, Judd says the 16-year-old calmly walked out of the woods. A neighbor happened to be nearby and Dillen told the witness he hit his friend with a bat. That witness told Dillen to call authorities, then ran into the woods and saw the crime scene.
“The suspect went home, dialed 911, and I’m paraphrasing because we have not heard the 911 tape yet, and said that he had hit his friend with a baseball bat and he thought he was dead,” Judd said.
When deputies got on scene they found Giovanni and the bat in the woods. The teen had been hit multiple times, and Dillen admitted to investigators he whaled on him.
“Giovanni could not have survived the injuries that was thrust upon him by Dillen,” said Judd.
According to Dillen, the pair were friends. However, Giovanni’s family calls Dillen the neighborhood bully. In fact, two years ago, the 16-year-old was charged for punching Giovanni in the face.
“Our suspect apparently has three earlier charges of battery, two of which were against our victim about two years ago, and one of those charges last year against his father,” Judd said.
The Polk County School District said Tuesday morning, the middle school principal and staff are "focused on helping the students and each other."
Jacqueline Byrd, the superintendent, released the following statement:
Giovanni Diaz was a true joy to teach. He was happy and fun-loving, intelligent and analytical. He and his principal used to play a game at lunchtime. Giovanni had a Rubik’s Cube, and Principal Windham would mix up the colors and watch as Giovanni once again solved the puzzle. Giovanni had a very bright future ahead of him that ended brutally, senselessly, and much too soon. The Diaz family is in our hearts and prayers.
On Tuesday morning, deputies announced Dillen was charged with murder and possession of drugs. He’s being held at the Juvenile Assessment Center. The suspect’s family told FOX 13 they didn’t have any comment.