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Felon charged in Dade City slaying

Drug dealer Garth Kelley is accused of killing a 22-year-old man Thursday morning.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 30, 2003

DADE CITY -- Aula Matthew Penix's life ended Thursday morning in a tattered Tommytown home with a single gunshot wound to the head.

The man who pulled the trigger, authorities said Friday, is a drug dealer who plied his trade from the home on Tait Avenue where the 22-year-old Penix was shot.

Garth Peter Kelley, 48, of 37145 Tait Ave. is accused of second-degree murder in connection with the Thursday morning shooting, Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said.

The former Pasco High School football player was shot in Kelley's bedroom, according to reports, although it remains unclear what Penix was doing there or why he was shot.

Upon searching the house after the shooting, detectives found 1 pound of marijuana and 2 grams, or about 0.07 of an ounce, of methamphetamine. They also found a scale and small plastic bags often used to package drugs for sale, the report said.

In addition to the gun used to kill Penix, authorities found three other guns in the white clapboard house.

Kelley was taken into custody shortly after detectives arrived at 9:43 a.m. Thursday to investigate the shooting.

They arrested him Thursday night. He faces a litany of charges, including possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

After compiling their evidence and witness accounts, authorities added the charge of second-degree murder Friday evening.

Kelley has been in and out of trouble since 1992, when he was arrested on charges of selling cocaine and carrying a concealed firearm. He went to prison for 21/2 years.

He was released in August 1994 but was periodically picked up on parole or probation violations. Then on April 18, 2002, he was arrested on a charge of possession of methamphetamine and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana.

Kelley spent the better part of a year in jail, getting out a year ago today.

The shooting Thursday of Penix, of 14627 State St., drew a small crowd of friends, family members and neighbors around the house encircled by yellow crime scene tape.

Some silently cried. Others sobbed aloud. A mother wondered if her boy was dead. A young man wondered who killed his older brother.

The dirt roads running through Tommytown had cleared by Friday, smoothed by the heavy rains that pounded Dade City the day before.

But inside the homes, friends and family members continued to grieve over a life lost so young.

-- Bridget Hall Grumet covers crime in east Pasco. She can be reached at (352) 521-5757, ext. 23 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 23. Her e-mail address is .

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