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Mays Family Attorney: Who Killed David Mays?

By: Julie Montanaro; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Lanetra Bennett Email

UPDATED 4/26/2012 by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee family claims the sheriff and state attorney conspired to cover up the murder of David Mays.

The businessman and former Chief Osceola was shot and killed in his home and not everyone is convinced it was an accident.

Within seconds of the gut-wrenching 911 call, David Mays was dead. Investigators concluded Mays, his girlfriend and their son were struggling over a shotgun when it went off. A grand jury later ruled it was an accident.

Attorney David Chester doesn't buy it. At a press conference Thursday morning, he pointed to a blood spattered t-shirt worn by Joyce Strano that day and a relatively clean shirt worn by her son.

"It's as if they're saying Dakotah jumped into a swimming pool and came out dry," Chester said.

He claims the state attorney never showed the grand jury the shirts or any other forensic evidence. He questioned why no fingerprint analysis or gun shot residue evidence was analyzed.

He claims the Sheriff and state attorney worked together to cover up Mays' murder.

Here's what he had to say when asked why.

"There's a financial incentive. This incentive was provided in the first 24 hours of the investigation," Chester said. He would not elaborte saying he didn't want to jeopardize an FBI investigation.

"We have done a complete and thorough investigation. It has been vetted by two separate entitites and we are confident in the findings in this case," LCSO Spokesman James McQuaig said. "Mr. Chester has been given the opportunity to speak his mind to the public. However, we will speak in a courtoom."

Both the sheriff and the state attorney admantly deny the conspiracy theories and an attorney for David Mays' son called the cover up allegations "outrageous."

"These allegations are outrageous, irresponsible and simply not true," attorney John Leace said. "It is my sincere hope that this tragic accident is left in the past and that Dakotah be allowed to continue the healing process privately," Leace said in an on camera interview late this afternoon.

Leace points out that Chester does not represent the entire Mays family.

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[UPDATE] April 26, 2012 - 10:50am

An attorney for the Mays family claims the Leon County Sheriff and the state attorney conspired to cover up the murder of David Mays.

David Chester says he just recently had a chance to look at the evidence in the case. He says that the shirt worn by Mays' girlfriend that morning is covered in blood, but his son's is not.

Chester also claims that May's girlfriend initially told deputies that the son was in the kitchen at the time of the shooting, but later claimed that his hands were on the gun during the struggle.

Chester claims the state attorney never showed the grand jury the clothes or any other physical evidence and led them to the conclusion it was an accident.

When asked why the sheriff of state attorney would want to cover up a murder, Chester said there was a "financial incentive."

A spokesman for the Leon County Sheriff's Office denied the claims. He says LCSO is comfortable with the findings of the investigation and considers the case closed.

State attorney Willie Meggs said "What would Larry Campbell and I have to gain by covering up a murder? We work night and day to solve them." He said he is "confident the investigation was done by competent investigators doing their best to deal with a very sensitive case."

The teenage son's attorney was outraged by the cover up allegations made this morning. John Leace sent this statement:

"David Chester claims to be the "Mays family attorney," however he does not represent David Mays' brother, George nor does he represent David Mays' own son. They have nothing to do with David Chester or his conspiracy theories. As Dakotah Mays' attorney, I can tell you that these allegations are outrageous, irresponsible, and simply not true. This was a tragic accident, nothing more. It is my hope that everyone will respect this child's privacy and stop this public spectacle once and for all."

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[UPDATE] April 26, 2012 - 10:35am

The Mays family holds a press conference, asking who killed David Mays. David Mays' life ended with a shotgun blast to the head in his home on Chaires Cross Road in Fall 2010

Eyewitness News has a reporter at the news conference. Stay with WCTV for updates.

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UPDATED 8.11.2011 9:15pm by Julie Montanaro

The Leon County Sheriff's Office has released a multitude of pictures, documents, and video related to the David Mays shooting death investigation. The Mays family is asking the FBI to investigate the original LCSO investigation.

More Photos can be found at the links below.

31-60
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151-180
181-End of Slide show

Video of the investigation can be found below:

An attorney for David Mays' longtime girlfriend, Joyce Strano, says he is outraged by today's claims of murder and a cover up.

Bruce Alter said "I am outraged on behalf of Joyce Strano. She was the victim of a violent attack by David Mays and now she is the victim of a media attack by Dannitte Mays (David's brother) and his attorney. All she wants to do is raise her son and get on with her life."

Alter also called it a "reckless" attack by attorney David Chester. "It's one thing to disagree with law enforcement and the state attorney, but to suggest that they are somehow obstructing justice is disturbing" for an attorney and member of the Florida Bar.

Alter says he is also outraged that the media would give Dannitte Mays and his attorney a "soap box for these baseless claims."

"The whole thing is the ranting of a disturbed individual," Alter said.

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UPDATED 8.11.2011 7pm by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee family requests an FBI investigation into a shooting that claimed the life of David Mays.

A family attorney contends deputies and the state attorney "dropped the ball" and claim the two worked together to cover up Mays's murder.

David Mays's life ended with a shotgun blast to the head in his home on Chaires Cross Road last fall.

Deputies say - and a grand jury later agreed - that it was an accident. Mays was killed, they said, as he, his girlfriend and 14 year old son struggled over a shotgun.

Ten months to the day later, the Mays' family attorney says it still doesn't add up.

"It paints a picture more of, what you would commonly hear called, an execution style murder than a suicide or accidental shooting," attorney David Chester said.

Chester says Mays's girlfriend was never considered a "suspect" in this case. He claims if her story of a life and death struggle were true, she would have had bruises or injuries to prove it. He questioned everything from blood spatter to bullet trajectory.

"The laws of physics, math, logic, those laws are what has also been broken in this case. What we want to know is why," Chester said.

Chester even went so far as to accuse the sheriff's office of working with the state attorney to cover up Mays' murder.

"It's just simply not true," said LCSO Spokesman James McQuaig. "The facts are this was a terribly tragic accident the day it happened. We investigated it thoroughly and professionally," McQuaig said.

"Bad things do happen, but if it's not an accident, we want ... justice is what we want," Chester said.

State Attorney Willie Meggs emphatically denies there was any sort of cover up.

"We did not cover up a murder. We rely on the grand jury presentment which deemed this an accidental shooting as a result of a domestic dispute," Meggs said.

The FBI will not confirm or deny whether it has a file open on the Mays case.

We are working right now to try to put the death investigation report on our web site so you can read it for yourself. We'll let you know when it's ready.

Videos of the David Mays investigation released by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office


















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[UPDATE] 8-11 Noon -

The family of a former chief Osceola is now asking the FBI to investigate his death. David Mays was shot and killed last October and today his family says the truth has yet to be told.

The family attorney says it is impossible that Mays killed himself and to suggest that is "an insult."

Attorney David Chester says the death investigation done by the Leon county sheriff's office and subsequent grand jury presentation defied the laws of physics.

"The laws of physics have been broken. What other laws have been broken?" Chester said.

Chester says the sheriff's office and state attorneys office worked together "at the highest level to cover up murder."

It points to an execution style murder, more so than a suicide or an accident, Chester said.

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[UPDATE] 8-11 10am -

A news conference was held by the Mays family earlier this morning. The family is asking for the FBI to investigate the Leon County Sheriff's Office investigation into the death of Tallahassee businessman and former Chief Osceola, David Mays.

The family of David Mays has asked the FBI to investigate his death.

The family attorney says it is impossible that Mays killed himself and to suggest that is "an insult."

Attorney David Chester says the death investigation done by the Leon county sheriff's office and subsequent grand jury presentation defied the laws of physics.

"The laws of physics have been broken. What other laws have been broken?" Chester said.

Chester says the sheriff's office and state attorneys office worked together "at the highest level to cover up murder."

It points to an execution style murder, more so than a suicide or an accident, Chester said.

The original story can be found below.

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UPDATE 12.2.2010 6:50pm by Julie Montanaro

A pair of 911 tapes are released Thursday, December 2, in the shooting death of Tallahassee businessman and former Chief Osceola David Mays.

They were released in the wake of a grand jury decision not to press charges in the deadly domestic dispute. and the recordings give a gut-wrenching glimpse into the chaos and panic inside Mays home.

The first call came in at 7:33 in the morning...no one on the line...and a hang up 12 seconds later.

The second call placed from the home of David Mays and Joyce Strano that October morning is nine gut-wrenching minutes long.

Both were placed by the couple's 14 year old son:

Operator: 911, what's your emergency?
Son: He's going crazy. he's trying to kill my mom.
Operator: Stay on the line with me, okay?
Son: Come now. Come now.
Operator: I need to know the address."
Son: (inaudible) He's got a gun. Help.
Operator: Sir, I need to know the address.
Son: (inaudible)
Operator: What is he doing to her?
Son: "He's crazy. He's trying to shoot my mom.
Operator: "Gun? He has a gun?
Son: "He has a shotgun, hurry please, come now."

Within 30 seconds, David Mays was dead.

Operator: "Signal zero with a gun ...
(inaudible)
Operator: I'm sorry?
Son: He just shot himself in the head, please ...
Operator: He just shot himself in the head? Stay on the phone with me sir, please.

The calls are the first glimpse into the terrifying moments that would ultimately land this case in front of a grand jury.

Joyce Strano told them Wednesday that the shotgun accidentally went off as she and her son tried to wrestle the gun away from David Mays.

The 911 call goes on for more than nine excruciating minutes as Strano ran outside, tried to contact family members, and comfort her crying son.

Strano: "I know. It's okay baby. Come here. It's okay. Come hold me. It's alright, baby. Okay. It's okay. It's alright. It's okay baby, I promise."

We did talk with David Mays' brother Dannitte Thursday. He didn't have much to say about the grand jury decision, but he did say most of all he hopes his 14 year old nephew can move past this, through counseling and hopes he will continue to have a close relationship with his uncles, especially George.

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UPDATED 12-2-10 6:21pm by Lanetra Bennett

Many neighbors say David Mays mostly stayed to himself.

Donald Swedmark said he never even saw him outside. Therefore, he was definitely shocked to hear what was going on inside of Mays' home.

Swedmark said, "We couldn't figure out what was going on when the police were there."

David Mays' neighbors say they can't believe what was going on back on October 11th.

Even now that authorities have released the tapes of the frantic 911 phone calls coming from Mays' home at 4040 Chaires Cross Road.

"You don't know what the neighbors are always doing." Said, Swedmark.

The tapes reveal a tussle involving 51-year-old Mays, his 14-year-old son, the son's mother, Joyce Strano--and a shotgun.

Area neighbor Jerry Spence said, "Bad. I couldn't believe it. Everything was all happy when I went over there. I didn't know anything about that. Everything was all good when I went over there."

Neighbors say the grand jury's presentment didn't provide a lot of answers either.

Authorities say Mays, who was FSU's second Chief Osceola in 1980-1981, was shot in the back of the head.

Wednesday, the grand jury decided that the shooting was accidental.

Swedmark said, "I don't see how it could be accidental. They had a shotgun in the bed with him. But, I'm, not the one to make that kind of judgment."

Neighbors say they never saw any signs of domestic violence coming from the home, despite what is heard on the 911 tapes.

They also say while there are still many questions left unanswered, they are glad the tapes were released.

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UPDATE 12.2.2010 12:30pm by Julie Montanaro

911 tapes released today paint a violent picture of the last moments of David Mays' life.

Mays's 14 year old son placed two calls that morning.

The first call lasts just seconds and there is chaos in the background, but no one speaking on the line. The second call lasts more than eight minutes as the son of David Mays and Joyce Strano describes a violent struggle between his parents.

Operator: "911 What's your emergency?"

Son: "He's going crazy. He's trying to kill my mom."

Operator: "Stay on the line with me, okay?"

Son: "Come now! Come now!"

Operator: "I need to know the address."

Son: (inaudible) "He's got a gun, help!"

Operator: "Sir, I need to know the address."

Son: (inaudible)

Operator: "What is he doing to her?"

Son: "He's crazy. He's trying to shoot my mom."

Operator: "Gun? He's got a gun?"

Son: "He has a shotgun. Hurry, please. Come now!"

Moments later, the son screams that his father has shot himself in the head. The mother Joyce Strano then takes the phone. She tells the operator she has blood all over her. She tells the operator that her son has run out of the house crying.

Strano stays on the line with the 911 operator as she tries to console her son and you can hear her calling family members on another phone, asking them to come to the house. "It's bad," she says at one point.

Strano's attorney said Wednesday that Mays was killed when the shotgun accidentally went off during a struggle over the gun. The Leon County Sheriff's Office is still redacting and printing copies of its investigative reports.

The 911 tapes were released this morning after a grand jury decided Wednesday that no criminal charges would be filed in the case.

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UPDATE 12.2.2010 9:15am by Julie Montanaro

Today the Leon County Sheriff's Office will be releasing copies of the 911 calls received from the Mays-Strano home October 11th.

Records custodians are still working to compile the investigative reports for release, said LCSO Spokesman James McQuaig.

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[UPDATE] 12-2 7:00AM --

Statement from Joyce Strano's attorney:

TALLAHASSEE, (FL) – December 1, 2010 –

A Leon County Grand Jury today found the death of David Mays to be an accident. On the morning of the October 11, 2010 shooting, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office received a frantic call from the 14-year-old son of David Mays and Joyce Strano. Deputies responded to Chaires Crossing residence to find Mr. Mays dead from an apparent shotgun wound. The LCSO conducted a thorough investigation of the incident. After all the physical evidence was analyzed, the matter was presented to the Leon County grand jury. The grand jury concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing. The grand jury was presented with the physical evidence and also heard the testimony of Strano and both of David Mays brothers, Dannette and George Mays. The grand jury’s finding of a “No True bill” was reached at the conclusion of deliberations this afternoon and exonerated both Strano and her son from any wrongdoing.

“The findings of the grand jury are perfectly consistent with what Ms. Strano has been saying all along”, said Bruce Alter, Strano’s attorney. “Contrary to earlier reports, both she and her son were interviewed a second time in detail by LCSO and provided DNA and fingerprint samples to LCSO. In addition, Ms. Strano even voluntarily took and passed a polygraph examination given by the retired chief polygraph examiner of FDLE. She and their son continue to mourn the tragic passing of David Mays.” Alter added.

The grand jurors found specifically that the incident was an accidental shooting. According to the Presentment of the grand jury:
“We find that a shotgun was introduced into a domestic dispute. There was a struggle between Mays, the mother of his child and his son over the shotgun and the shotgun was accidentally discharged during the struggle causing the death of David Mays.”

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[UPDATE] 12-1 8:00PM-- by Julie Montanaro

The shooting of a Tallahassee business man and former chief Osceola is deemed an accident.

The family and friends of David Mays have been waiting for answers for more than 6 weeks. Today a grand jury reviewed the case for more than 4 hours and decided his death was a tragedy, not a crime.

Joyce Strano described the terrifying October morning, the morning her long time boyfriend David Mays was shot and killed in their home, to a grand jury Wednesday.

She wouldn't comment on camera about what happened that day but her attorney did. Bruce Alter says "Strano her son and Mays struggled over a shotgun and it accidentally discharged."

Deputies got two frantic 911 calls from the home on Chaires Crossroad on October 11th.
What was initially dispatched as a suicide was soon be classified as a suspicious death.

Grand jurors heard testimony not only from Strano from both of Mays brothers and the medical examiner and later issued a no true bill.

State Attorney Willie Meggs commented saying, "they considered all of the evidence and the medical examiner and witness and the folks over there. And the 911 tapes is a very telling story."

The Leon County Sheriff's Office has yet to release the tapes or any details of the investigation. Friends and colleagues continues to wait for a truer picture of what happened in that home.

Bruce Alter says "Miss Strano cared and loved David Mays very deeply. And she wants to start the healing process as quickly as possible. Hopefully today will begin that process."

We are still trying to reach the Mays family, but so far they have not returned any of our calls. David's brother is still consulting with his family and attorney before doing so.

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[UPDATE] 12-1 3:40PM -- by Julie Montanaro

An attorney for Joyce Strano says the shooting death of David Mays was a tragic accident. Bruce Alter says Strano found Mays lying in bed with a shotgun and as she and her son struggled to get the gun away from Mays it accidentally went off.

The state attorney would not comment on the specifics of what happened, but said it will become clear once 911 tapes and details of the investigation are released by the sheriff's office.

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[UPDATE] 12-1 2:40PM -- by Julie Montanaro

A grand jury has just wrapped up deliberations. In the shooting death of David Mays, the jury decided there was no criminal conduct and no indictments necessary.

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[UPDATE] 12-1 11:20AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Joyce Strano is now testifying before the grand jury.

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[UPDATE] 12-1 10:40AM -- by Julie Montanaro

A Leon County grand jury is meeting behind closed doors right now, reviewing evidence in the death of David Mays. Mays was found dead in his home October 11th with a single gunshot wound to the head. Mays longtime girlfriend Joyce Strano and her teenage son were in the home at the time.

So far grand jurors have heard from lead investigator Brian Pearson, medical examiner Lisa Flanagan.

David May’s brothers, George and Danitte, are now testifying before the grand jury.
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[UPDATE] 12-1 10AM --

A Leon County grand jury meets today, 12-1, to decide if anyone will face charges in the death of David Mays. Mays was the former FSU Chief Osceola who was found dead in his home.

51-year-old David Mays was shot and killed in his home on Chaires Cross Road on October 11th, but investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened and have yet to conduct in-depth interviews with Mays' girlfriend and son, who were in the house at the time.

Stay tuned to Eyewitness News at Noon as we bring you more details on this story.

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UPDATED 10.28.2010 by Amy Long

Rain and overcast skies greeted the Mays family as they said goodbye to a longtime Tallahassee resident.

David Mays was buried next to his sister, mother, and father at the Saint John's Cemetery in Tallahassee.

Friends and family of the Tallahassee businessman and former Chief Osceola gathered one last time to remember a man they say shaped their lives.

While Mays' death is still under investigation some say the questions don't overshadow the fact that he will be missed.

Daniel Whitehurst, a longtime friend says, "He's Just a great person, like all the Mays boys are, and their mother was and I will miss him."

Doug Dickinson, a childhood friend says "The investigation is still open. It's been hard on the boys because they want to know what happened. They've hired an attorney. We know that there are some statements that have been made, so I think they are starting to get a little bit of clarity on it."

The 51-year-old was found dead in his home on Chaires Cross Road on October 11th, but investigators with the Leon County Sheriff's office are still trying to determine exactly what happened.

The case could wind up before a grand jury in December.

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UPDATED 10.26.2010 by Julie Montanaro

State Attorney Willie Meggs says he does not yet have any of the investigative materials gathered by LCSO in the David Mays case.

Meggs says when he does, he will review them and review his options, including the possibility of having a grand jury review the case.

The grand jury is not scheduled to meet again in Leon County until December 1st.

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UPDATED 10.25.2010 by Julie Montanaro

It's been two weeks since a Tallahassee business owner and former Chief Osceola was shot and killed in his home.

51 year old David Mays was shot at his home on Chaires Cross Road
on October 11th.

The sheriff says investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened in the house.

An LCSO spokesman said Monday that deputies are still working to arrange in depth interviews with Mays' girlfriend and son, who were in the house at the time, and says they are still awaiting tests on the shotgun found at the scene.

LCSO has denied our request for a copy of the 911 tape citing its ongoing investigation.

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UPDATE 10-22-2010 BY JILL CHANDLER--------

David Mays' death came as a shock to many, and the Leon County Sheriff's Office has received lots of comments from people concerned about why the case is still unsolved.

Investigators now tell us the gun used in the shooting was a shotgun.
Mays was found dead in his home with a single gunshot wound to the head on Monday, October 11th.

Many in the community have taken an interest in this investigation and it has sparked some debate about just how Mays' died.

Lt. Tim Baxter said, "The case is active and ongoing were following up on the information and evidence we have in the case. Can't put a time period on it for you, it's something we're going to look into thoroughly and were going to come to the right conclusion with it."

Attorney Bruce Alter of Coral Gables is the lawyer for May's 14-year-old son, and his son's mother Joyce Strano. He sent us a statement saying "It should be noted that the police went to the home in response to a 911 call, during which the son reported that his father was 'going crazy' and was trying to kill his mother. In the immediate aftermath, both Ms. Strano and her son were so shaken that they had to be taken to the hospital."

Alter also said deputies interviewed both Strano and her son at the hospital.

The defense attorney is confident more talks between Strano, the boy, and deputies will happen soon in hopes of bringing closure to the investigation.

To see the full statement from Attorney Bruce Alter look under our documents tab.

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UPDATE 10-18-2010 BY AMY LONG---

Hundreds of people turn out to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of a Tallahassee man. A man who was shot and killed one week ago Monday though deputies are still trying to figure out how.

Stories of David Mays echoed through Killearn United Methodist Church Monday. Somber moments were quickly followed with light hearted stories and those who knew him best and say Mays would have wanted it that way.

Childhood friend, Doug Dickinson says,"The things you will always remember about David is his smile- because he was a real character. He was absolutely bigger than life.", "I can remember being in Atlanta Georgia at 2 o clock in the morning with David one time and came out on the outside deck of a bar and everyone was clapping and cheering and everything and I looked up to the top of the flag poll and there was David waving to the crowd."

That's just one of the many memories and years of laughter 51 year old David Mays leaves behind for his friends and family. The Florida High graduate kept his roots in Tallahassee while attending Florida State University and bringing stadiums full of people to their feet as the second ever Chief Osceola.

Following a short modeling stint- Mays brought his charm back to North Florida- and opened the first Gold's Gym in Tallahassee- But those who knew him best say above all, his real talent was sharing compassion.

Jeff West, David's best friend says, "He took time for anyone. It didn't matter whether you were homeless, rich poor broke. It didn't matter. He loved people and he loved people's stories."

Friends say there's no doubt Mays' life ended before his time and while they are laughing and sharing memories of the good times, they have questions about his untimely death."This whole investigative part of David's death. It's hard."

"The family is having a tough time, I think, being able to grieve because of the situation of not knowing what happened. They want to know. That's going to be important for their closure." Dickinson says.

Mays' son, and the mother of his child were not at Monday's memorial service.

James McQuaig with the Leon County Sheriff's Office says the gun found at the scene was turned over to FDLE and it could take 6 weeks or more to return with DNA or fingerprint results.

*** UPDATE 10-17-2020 6:30 PM ***

David Mays' visitation was on Sunday, October 17th at the Culley's Meadow Wood Funeral Home.

There has been a constant flow of people coming in and out of the funeral home. The line was backed up in the front of the funeral home to speak to the family. It's hard to tell how many people came in all.

51-year-old David Mays was a long-time business man in Tallahassee. He opened the Gold's Gym here in 1986, and he attended Florida State University where he was the second Chief Osceola from 1980 to 1981.

Although no one would speak on camera Sunday, I was able to talk to family members and some of his friends who were here and they told WCTV what a great friend he was, and that he was also a great dad.

The funeral will be held at Killearn United Methodist Church on Monday, October 18th, at 1:30p.m.

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*** UPDATE 10-15-2010 5:25 PM ***

Tallahassee FL - Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell says the investigation surrounding David Mays' death has prompted a campaign to get him removed from office.
The investigation is into the suspicious death of Mays. 51, who died from a gunshot wound to the head Monday.
Mays was FSU's second Chief Osceola. The FSU graduate served as the mascot from 1980 to 1981. Mays opened Gold's Gym in 1986 and is well-known among the body-building community in north Florida.
He was working as a Realtor when he died.
Investigators say Mays died from a single gunshot wound to the head and the gun that was used is being processed for DNA and fingerprints.
Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell says, "We are fighting a tremendous number of rumors that are going through the community. I'm getting phone calls telling me how incompetent I am and how I'm and idiot, etc. etc."
Sheriff Campbell says there has even been talk about starting an online campaign on the social networking site Facebook to get him kicked out of office.

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Tallahassee, FL - The Leon County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a well known Tallahassee man.
Deputies say David Mays, 51, died Monday morning at his home on Chaires Crossroads in Leon County from a gunshot wound.
Mays was FSU's second Chief Osceola. The FSU graduate served as the mascot from 1980 to 1981.
Mays opened Gold's Gym in 1986 and was well-known among the body-building community in north Florida. He was working as a Realtor when he died.
We'll have much more on Mays and the investigation surrounding his death tonight on Eyewitness News.

WCTV has included pictures of David Mays from his days as Chief Osceola and has also provided a LCSO Press Release.

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