Police are investigating the death of a Tampa man as a homicide.
Anthony J. Lee, 49, was killed Tuesday evening at a friend’s home on the 3900 block of E. Genessee.
Police say Lee was gunned down by at least two suspects and that he just happened to be staying at the house, one of several houses he would stay at when he came to town to perform in drag shows. Police say the house was targeted.
Lee’s stage name was South Beach Wanda and she was very well known in the drag queen circuit across the state, including in Ybor City.
“We just want justice to be done,” said Power Infiniti, another entertainer who had a professional relationship with Lee that dated back decades.
Power Inifiti remembers how they first met in Miami Beach years ago.
“We’d been friends for, like I said, 17 years and we actually go to know each other when I was first starting out as a club kid in South Beach,” he recalls.
The two would work the party circuit for years and it was just Sunday that the two hung out together in Ybor City.
“The next thing I hear is that he is dead was a shock to say the least,” he said, when he heard the news after he and Lee had just exchanged text messages just hours before.
“He was very strong,” Power Infiniti said. “He told it like it was and he was very forthright. If he loved you, he loved you fiercely and he was an amazing friend.”
Each had a certain stage presence and for Wanda, his artistry was always a huge draw.
"She was very funny, hanging from the rafters and swinging, having fun, she impersonated Whitney Houston, wore balloons instead of a bra. When she was in the show, it was a show of her own,” said Kirk King, Hamburger Mary's owner.
Police believe his friend was the intended target, but they aren’t sure why. A neighbor heard the scream and ran to help, but Lee's injuries were too grave.
"I (saw) him fighting for his breath. I was trying to help him breathe before the police came,” said Jeremy Judkins.
Lee’s sister told Bay News 9 over the phone that, “I had no idea of the magnitude that my brother touched so many lives. He was a loving person. He will be missed by many. I want to thank everybody for all their prayers.”
It is an extremely tough time for the family since they lost Lee’s godmother just three weeks ago. Now they have to plan for another funeral as Tampa police continue their investigation.
The family will be hosting a fundraiser to raise money for the burial. It will be held at Hamburger Mary’s in Ybor City at 8:30 next Thursday night.