The cause of death is being investigated, but detectives are certain it is a homicide.
By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published September 2, 2004
[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office forensics specialists Woody Miller, far right, and Marie Milges, second from right, using an ultraviolet light, look for evidence at the scene in Clearwater of a cab driver's slaying.
CLEARWATER - Detectives are investigating the slaying of a taxicab driver found dead in an Eckerd parking lot Wednesday morning.
Pinellas County sheriff's deputies responded to an anonymous 911 call around 7:15 a.m. at the parking lot of the Eckerd Drug Store at 1605 S Missouri Ave.
There, investigators found Eric J. Stanton, 26, dead in the front seat of the cab he had been driving for about three months. Stanton of Dunedin was an independent contractor for the Yellow Cab company.
The nature of Stanton's wounds led homicide detectives to determine that his death was a homicide, according to a Sheriff's Office statement. But Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Tim Goodman said detectives still are investigating the cause of death and awaiting autopsy results from the Medical Examiner's Office.
Homicide detectives and forensic units combed the scene for clues for several hours Wednesday morning and spent the afternoon pursuing several leads, Goodman said.
No suspects had been named Wednesday, he said.
Stanton's death comes two weeks after another independent contractor for Yellow Cab was found dead in his Tarpon Springs home. Safa Gul, 50, was shot twice in the back of the head on Aug. 18, according to family members.
Lee Schissler, a spokesman for Yellow Cab in Florida, said Stanton had been working as an independent cab driver for the company since the beginning of June.
"It has been kind of a blow that there's been two deaths in the last two weeks. It's very unusual," he said. "Clearly our concern now is hoping that the authorities will be able to get the information they need and identify who's responsible and identify a motive."
Schissler said Yellow Cab is cooperating with authorities in their investigation. Detectives already have requested the dispatcher's logs to find out the details of Stanton's last dispatches, he said.
Goodman said he could not confirm or deny whether detectives were considering a possible connection between the two slayings.
Tarpon Springs police said Wednesday they still were following up leads in the Gul shooting. They have revealed little about possible motives or suspects and have not indicated whether Gul's death could be related to his work as a cab driver. Gul had been driving for Yellow Cab for two years.
Tarpon Springs investigators have been in touch regularly with Pinellas County sheriff's detectives on the Gul case, Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Jeffrey Young said.
If there's anything in the Stanton case that has a bearing on the Gul investigation, "I'm sure they'll be in touch with our detectives," Young said.
Taxi and livery drivers are 60 times more likely to be slain on the job than other workers, according to a 2000 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Thirty-seven cab drivers died on the job in 2002, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 73 percent of those fatalities were the result of assault or violent acts.
Terri Hubler, 41, of Clearwater said she still feels safe in the front seat of her Yellow Cab, which she has been driving in Pinellas County for 21/2 years.
"I've never been in a situation where anyone's threatened to harm me in any way," she said. "I don't put a lot of stock in being scared by this, because until we know about how it happened, it could have more to do with his personal life than why he was a cab driver."
Times staff writer Richard Danielson and Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at 727 771-4303 or firstname.lastname@example.org