The sister of a man fatally shot by his roommate said Wednesday that she believed her brother was staying with his friend — who federal investigators said was an avowed neo-Nazi — because her brother needed an inexpensive place to sleep in Florida while he was looking for work, not because he shared his views.
Alyssa Himmelman is the sister of Jeremy Himmelman, 22, whose body was found alongside Andrew Oneschuk, 18, on Friday in a Tampa apartment.
Devon Arthurs, 18, confessed to the slayings and investigators said he claimed the two victims were neo-Nazis who had disparaged his newfound Islamic faith. Arthurs told police he had once shared their racist views before converting to Islam. He faces two first-degree murder and other charges.
Also arrested was a fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, after bomb-making materials and Nazi propaganda were found in the apartment. Russell, a Florida National Guard member, told authorities he was a neo-Nazi who started a group called Atomwaffen, according to a federal complaint. He is being charged in federal court with explosives-related crimes.
The four lived in the Tampa apartment together, but Russell had just returned from guard duty when he found Himmelman’s and Onechuk’s bodies, according to court documents. Police found him in full military dress, and crying.
Alyssa Himmelman said her brother was friends with Russell and Arthurs, but she described Arthurs as acting “sick and twisted” when she met him previously.
“He was an odd character,” she said in a telephone interview, describing the time she met Arthurs when he visited her brother in Massachusetts before Jeremy moved to Florida. “He was very loud and racist. He said vulgar things.”
Arthurs told investigators that he also shot Himmelman and Onechuk to prevent a planned act of domestic terrorism, according to court documents.
But Alyssa Himmelman says her brother was only living there to try and get on his feet, and didn’t subscribe to the beliefs Arthurs is claiming her brother held. She said Russell, 21, was the one who kept a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on his dresser in a locked bedroom, and who had the military training and bomb-making knowledge he’d picked up in college.
She said her brother was just naive, and did not believe Russell and Arthurs were capable of the killing or bombing the two allegedly plotted and carried out. She said Jeremy had planned to come home soon, and that he’d fallen out with Russell and Arthurs before.
“Jeremy was just too kindhearted to think people like Devon and Brandon could do something like this,” she said. “He never saw that.”
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