Uber driver charged with evidence tampering in Jacksonville woman's killing

A Jacksonville Uber driver who sold a blood-stained sport-utility vehicle a week after his friend was shot in the head and shoved out of a moving SUV is charged with evidence tampering in her death, according to his arrest report.

Charles William Rowlands, 29, of Long Lake Drive was booked Thursday into the Duval County jail, where he remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail, jail records show.

Rowlands’ arrest marks the latest development in the shooting death of Victoria Dianne Braddock, a single mother who was found clinging to life May 15 in the middle of Cortez Road off Atlantic Boulevard. Police said they were looking for a black SUV spotted leaving the scene after Braddock was shot and dumped on the road.

Officers and paramedics answering a hit-and-run call on Cortez Road about 3 p.m. that day instead discovered Braddock suffering from a gunshot wound, police previously reported. Braddock, 28, was rushed to UF Health Jacksonville but did not survive.

Surveillance video from a nearby camera showed a black Chevrolet TrailBlazer speeding away, the arrest report said. A friend told police Braddock had been seen May 7 with a man who has a black TrailBlazer and that she had been using the man’s phone at the time. Another friend said Braddock was with an Uber driver named Charles, who goes by “Row” and drives a black SUV, when she was killed.

Detectives traced the phone number provided by Braddock’s friend to Rowlands, who had a 2005 black TrailBlazer registered in his name, according to the report. The report also noted that Braddock was with Rowlands in the SUV when he was arrested April 25 on cocaine possession and concealed firearm charges.

The day after Braddock was killed, a detective called the man’s phone number and tried to hail a ride. Police said the man who answered identified himself as “Row” but said he no longer drives for Uber, the report said.

Last week police also learned that Rowlands had sold his TrailBlazer May 23, according to the report. The buyer indicated she had purchased the SUV but hadn’t cleaned it. Inside the vehicle, police found “a large amount of blood trace evidence,” despite an apparent attempt to scrub the interior of blood stains.

Detectives interviewed Rowlands’ girlfriend, who said she noticed a lot of blood inside her boyfriend’s SUV the day Braddock was killed, according to the report. She recalled that while Rowlands was cleaning the vehicle, he disclosed that he had done “something bad.” She acknowledged he owned a short-barrel shotgun. An autopsy found that Braddock’s wound was consistent with a shotgun blast.

During an interview with police, Rowlands denied owning any guns aside from a .40-caliber handgun that was recovered by police at the time of his April 25 arrest. Rowlands was taken into custody May 25 on the evidence tampering charge as the Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation.

As Braddock was laid to rest Thursday at Greenlawn Cemetery alongside her baby girl Bailey, who died several years ago of sudden infant death syndrome, loved ones reflected on the life they said was taken too soon. She left behind a 10-year-old daughter, Nevaeh.

Friends and family described Braddock, known to friends as “Tori,” as the life of the party who could light up any room with her radiant smile and often raunchy sense of humor, and who was never afraid to speak her mind.

They joked about her quirks, like her irrational fear of tomatoes that she characterized as an allergy even though it wasn’t, or her forgetfulness that conjured comparisons to the Disney character Dory, a fish with short-term memory loss.

Amanda Cook, Braddock’s older sister, said the pair were inseparable growing up. She said they went everywhere together. It got to the point that Cook’s friends would teasingly ask if she was bringing her little sister along when they hung out.

“As a matter of fact, she got a tattoo of a butterfly with my name on it,” said Cook, gesturing to her right wrist. “She always told me I was her right hand.”

Cook couldn’t believe the news when she learned of her sister’s killing. After traveling from Ohio to Jacksonville, she went directly to the scene where Braddock was found to speak with any neighbors who may have seen what happened.

“I can’t wrap my head around it,” she said. “I just want to know the truth.”

Tristen Gay also still can’t believe Braddock is gone. The two were best friends and had dated for the better part of a decade.

“My nickname for her was ‘Diamond’ because she was hard as hell and beautiful,” Gay said. “… I don’t see how anyone could bring themselves to take her life like that.”

Florida Times-Union


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