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Is shooting a sign of creeping crime?

Most Davis Islands neighbors, though horrified by the murder of a deli owner, say it does not signal a trend.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 16, 2002

The brutal murder of a local deli owner Saturday hasn't rattled one of South Tampa's safest neighborhoods.

"I don't know of anyone who sees it as a threat," said Vincent Palori, president of the Davis Islands Civic Association.

Michael Picciuto, 36, was shot in the back of the head about 10 p.m. Saturday as he was returning from a delivery at Tampa General Hospital. His girlfriend, Denise Steele, was inside preparing another order. She found him on the sidewalk, in a pool of blood. Police said nothing was stolen.

The deli is in the lobby of the One Davis Medical Building, the first building on the left when visitors come over the bridge.

Several people said the shooting was an isolated incident, not a sign of creeping crime. They pointed to news reports that said Picciuto may have had financial problems and owed people money.

"It doesn't sound like somebody would just do that," said Larry Mattson, who manages Villa de Leon apartments, 100 yards from the crime scene.

Then again, Mattson said, Davis Islands isn't as picture-perfect as some people might think, especially on the end closest to the bridges.

Sometimes, cars or bikes are stolen, and homes are burglarized.

Residents said vagrants are a fixture around the hospital and medical building.

"That's a scary area there," said Sean Love, who lives in a nearby condo.

Love doesn't look like a guy who scares easily. But the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers lineman said the murder made him uneasy. He has a child to consider.

"My goodness," Love said, gesturing to his son Bryce, who was having fun with a hose in a neighbor's yard. "Look at my little boy over here."

Aretha Ogletree, who works for Tampa General Hospital in the medical building, also mentioned the vagrants.

"My first thought was one of those bums were trying to rob him," she said.

Tampa Police Department spokesman Joe Durkin said vagrants have not been a major crime issue on Davis Islands.

Hospital spokesman John Dunn said aside from loitering, they have not been a problem. "Most of them are pretty harmless," he said.

He said the hospital's 3,000 workers are not worried about safety in the wake of the shooting.

Durkin said the police investigation is continuing.

Meanwhile, the deli remains closed.

On Tuesday, a bouquet of white carnations leaned against the door, a gesture from the staff of the Ronald McDonald House.

A note with the flowers said: "Our hearts are broken today over this senseless tragedy."

-- Writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or

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