A man's angry life comes to a violent endBy CANDACE RONDEAUX and MAUREEN BYRNE AHERN
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002
To his wife and teenage daughter, William Seegert was a loving family man and a brilliant and talented artist.
To his neighbors, Seegert was eccentric, ornery and often difficult to deal with.
Police say that on Aug. 6 Seegert's angry side emerged when he hopped into a white Oldsmobile and ran down his next-door neighbor, Richard Jones, on the street where they lived in Seminole. By the time an ambulance arrived to rush a bloodied and battered Jones to the hospital, Seegert had fled.
Since then, investigators have had few clues as to the whereabouts of the 51-year-old Seegert, a onetime civil engineer. He was being sought on a fugitive warrant alleging attempted second-degree murder.
"There were not a lot of leads to go by," said Pinellas County sheriff's Detective Michael Holbrook. "He was under the radar for a long time."
On Wednesday, police in Pittsburg, Calif., near Oakland, knocked on the door of a small hotel. When no one answered, they forced their way inside.
The two-month pursuit of William Seegert was about to come to a quick and violent end.
By all appearances, the Holiday Highlands subdivision where Seegert lived with his wife and daughter is a quiet, friendly neighborhood.
But residents say tensions between Seegert and his neighbors had been bubbling beneath the surface for many years.
William and Christina Seegert had moved from Milwaukee to 93rd Avenue in 1980. He was an engineer with a degree from Virginia Military Institute. She became a teacher at Lakewood High School. They had a young daughter.
Christina Seegert said her husband went to work for a local engineering firm but was fired after he blew the whistle on some colleagues. She said he did some consulting work now and then but had trouble finding a job. Still, his wife said, they were a happy family.
That is, until a business deal started to go bad. His wife said he invested $50,000 in a real estate deal that went sour. It was tied up in the courts for years, she said, with Seegert eventually losing half his money.
"That really put him over the edge," she said.
Neighbors accused Seegert of trespassing, littering and vandalism. They say he threw trash into their yards and peered into their windows in the middle of the night. They accused him of burying boards with spikes in a wide grassy easement behind their homes to keep people from driving there.
Soon after moving into the neighborhood three years ago, Richard and Sharon Jones said neighbors alerted them to stay clear of the man who lived next door, William Seegert.
Within a year, Seegert and Richard Jones were feuding over a fence in Jones' back yard.
The dispute came to a head on Aug. 6 when Seegert donned a blond wig and a big pair of sunglasses and got behind the wheel of a rented Oldsmobile Alero.
Jones, 51, saw the car facing him as he walked his dog on 93rd Avenue.
The driver of the car revved the engine, then headed toward Jones. As the car jumped the curb, Jones tried unsuccessfully to jump out of the way.
The impact propelled him onto the windshield and splattered his blood on the side of the house, only feet away. The car hit a corner of the house before it sped off. A police report said Jones had surgery for a broken left ankle and suffered deep cuts to the right forearm and head. Bruises covered his body.
Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies found the damaged rental car abandoned in a parking lot at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. The right rear tail lamp was shattered, and skin tissue was embedded in a broken windshield.
Some say Seegert had begun acting erratically a few years ago after he came into a large inheritance, and that he often carried large amounts of cash.
"We're talking thousands of dollars here," said Lt. Steve Shipman of the Pinellas Sheriff's Office.
Several guns were recently confiscated from Seegert's home after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms launched an investigation into a handgun he acquired through a third party earlier this year, said Holbrook, the other Pinellas investigator on the case.
Searching for leads, detectives relied on these and other details to try to piece together the puzzle behind Seegert's behavior and disappearance.
The trail had gone cold until investigators discovered that on Aug. 13 Seegert had sent a packet of postcards to his wife and other family members.
The cards, postmarked from Jackson, Tenn., had been sent to cousins living near Boston who were asked to send them to other addresses, thus concealing Seegert's whereabouts.
His wife, Christina Seegert, said the postcards she received from her husband showed a softer side of the man she married 25 years ago: the type of emotion he seldom displayed.
He even had drawn hearts on the postcards, she said.
Holbrook, the investigator, chose to read between the lines. Some of the cards contained instructions that resembled a will, he said. "He was basically preparing for his exit."
It was 8 p.m. Wednesday when officers with the Pittsburg Police Department, checking cars in a hotel parking lot, noticed a stolen Arizona license plate on a 1995 Chrysler Concord.
Hotel staff members led officers to a room. They knocked, but no one responded.
Officers let themselves into the room and noticed a man partly hidden in a corner. He was holding a gun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Officers ordered the man to drop the weapon, but he fired instead. Officers returned the fire and shot the man dead, according to police reports.
A subsequent check of the Chrysler's vehicle identification number revealed a Pinellas County warrant seeking Seegert on an attempted murder charge.
Pittsburg Police Department officers also found several fake IDs and a large wad of cash.
Seegert's family and neighbors say they may never know what caused his anger, what made him run, what pushed him over the edge.
"Everyone's a loser," said Sharon Jones, the next-door neighbor, who had had to nurse her husband back to health.
"No one," she said, "comes out a winner in a situation like this."
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