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Man indicted in stabbing death of airline employee

The Clearwater resident is accused of killing a 39-year-old American Airlines service agent in her home on Oct. 10.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published May 21, 2004

OLDSMAR - Timothy A. Permenter, the lone suspect in the October stabbing death of airline employee Karen Pannell, was indicted Wednesday by a Pinellas County grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder.

Authorities say Permenter, 37, of Clearwater, repeatedly stabbed Pannell in the chest and back in her Montego Court home on the night of Oct. 10. Permenter told Pinellas County sheriff's deputies he discovered her body the next morning. He then called 911.

But evidence linked Permenter, a felon, to Pannell's death, authorities said. Pinellas County sheriff's Lt. Steve Shipman said Permenter's DNA was found mixed in with Pannell's blood.

"There is no other profile that fits," Shipman said. "The circumstances are strong, and now the physical evidence adds to it."

Permenter is in Leon County jail awaiting sentencing on a parole violation stemming from a 1990 gunfight. He also must face parole violations in Alachua County before he is returned to Pinellas.

That's when he'll be formally charged, said Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett. If convicted, Permenter could face the death penalty.

Permenter was scheduled to appear in Circuit Court in Tallahassee on Thursday for sentencing, but those proceedings were postponed. A new date has not been set. In a February interview, Permenter maintained his innocence.

"I didn't kill her," Permenter said from the Leon County jail. "They turned on me because I am the easiest suspect."

In 1990, Permenter, who owned a small chain of escort services, was involved in a turf war with another escort business. He was sentenced in 1991 to 20 years in prison after a gunfight in Leon County. He was paroled in 2002 after serving 12 years.

Permenter said he told Pannell he had a checkered past and that she accepted it. The two had been together several months and were starting to think about their future together when she was killed, he said.

"When I first saw Karen, I thought, "Oh, my God, they are never going to believe that I didn't do this,"' he said.

Inside the home, detectives found "Roc" written in Pannell's blood on the wall. Roc is the first name of Pannell's ex-boyfriend. Deputies interviewed that man and said he was not in the area at the time and was not a suspect.

They then shifted their attention to Permenter, whose answers to deputies' questions did not match eyewitness accounts.

Witnesses told deputies they saw Permenter's BMW convertible near Pannell's home at 9:30 night of Pannell's death. Another witness saw the same car there at 2:45 a.m. Permenter originally said he left at 7:30 p.m.

Later, he told deputies he left closer to 9 p.m.

Permenter said he went to a friend's house in Pasco County. That alibi was a violation of his parole in Leon and Alachua counties.

Permenter's mother, Donna Markham, was returning from Tallahassee and declined to comment. Pannell's stepmother, Yvonne Pannell, said she was relieved to hear that Permenter was indicted.

"Whenever his trial comes up, I want to be there, but I don't want to have to see him," said Pannell, who lives in Macon, Ga.

The youngest of six children and the only girl, Karen Pannell was the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. She would have turned 40 in February, and she worked for 12 years as a customer service agent for American Airlines.

Her friends at American Airlines said Thursday they still miss Pannell's presence. Co-worker Brenda Smalle, who along with her husband, David Smalle, made pins to remember Pannell, said they want justice for her death.

Brother Randy Pannell said no result will replace his sister.

"Karen, being the only girl and the youngest, she was always very special to her brothers," Randy Pannell, 48, said. "Granted, the indictment has started to bring closure to the issue, but we have a long way to go. And it will always be hard."

- Staff reporters Alisa Ulferts and Chris Tisch contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 771-4303 or asharockman@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 21, 2004, 01:00:44]


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