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Lawyer slaying shocks many

Stacey Plummer’s family knew her husband had a temper but never suspected he was capable of killing.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published September 25, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG — She built a successful law practice, adopted three Russian orphans and still found time to sing in a local band.

Stacey Jane Plummer, 43, of Tierra Verde also struggled to make her new marriage succeed. She filed for divorce from Dermot  James Reid just eight months after her wedding, citing behavior that she called emotionally abusive, and kicked him out of the house last month.

Then she decided to give her marriage another chance.

It didn’t work. Reid, 52, shot and killed Plummer during the weekend before pointing a .38-caliber handgun at his own head and pulling the trigger, Pinellas sheriff’s officials said. He remained at Bayfront Medical Center on Monday with life-threatening injuries.

The slaying  shocked lawyers and judges at the Pinellas County Courthouse, where Plummer was a respected and popular litigator and family law attorney. It also stunned her family and friends, who didn’t suspect that Reid was capable of such violence.

“We knew he had a temper,” said Julie Plummer, 32, Stacey’s sister and a St. Petersburg lawyer. But “we never thought he could take it this far.”

***

Stacey Plummer grew up in Maine, graduated from Eckerd College and Stetson University’s College of Law and worked long hours to build her own St. Petersburg law firm.

She wasn’t overly tall, but the blond, friendly, plainspoken lawyer stood out in the Pinellas County Courthouse as a strong advocate for her clients.

“She was petite in stature, but she would stand her ground and she was not petite in action,” Judge Raymond Gross said.

She was also popular at restaurants and nightclubs as a singer for the group Legal Limit. She could belt out Janis Joplin tunes like Mercedes Benz and Me & Bobby McGee. Mike Penninger, 48, a friend and former band member, who remembers her winning the spot over about 20 others, said she had “great stage presence.”

About four years ago, Plummer decided to adopt children because she thought she could be “a good role model for them,” her sister said.

She adopted her daughters, Julia, 12, and Jane, 8, and her son, Jacob, 6, from different orphanages in Russia. Her sister said she decided to adopt older children because they needed more help than babies.

At the courthouse, she took pride in showing off photographs of the children.

“We all wondered how she was going to take on this new role,” said Judge Irene Sullivan, who admired Plummer’s work as a lawyer. “She looked very happy.”

Then, last year, she met an unemployed Irish immigrant named Dermot Reid at a restaurant, her sister said.
Reid was still married to Imelda Reid, a woman he wed in Dublin 31 years ago. He divorced her in Pinellas court Dec. 6, saying he had been separated from her since 1982.

After dating six months, he and Plummer married Dec. 9 in St. Pete Beach, in front of the Hurricane restaurant on Pass-a-Grille. She thought he would make a good father figure for the children, her sister said.

“They fell in love quickly,” Julie Plummer said.

***

They lived together as a family in a $1.9-million Tierra Verde house. While Plummer worked as a lawyer, Reid stayed home, taking care of the children and grocery shopping. He signed up for a class about motorcycles.

“He was kind of a house husband,” Julie Plummer said.

Friends thought they were a happy family. They went out to eat frequently and enjoyed going to Bucs games.

Plummer had season tickets.

But by August, the marriage was struggling, and Plummer filed for divorce.

In asking a court to remove him from her home, she described his “tremendous turmoil, psychological abuse and erratic behavior.”

She said he verbally abused her in front of the children and physically abused Molly, the beloved family Weimaraner.

“The husband has promised to stop abusing the dog in the past but has continued to do so,” she wrote in seeking his removal from the home.

On Aug. 24, a sheriff’s deputy issued a trespass warning for Reid when he got into an argument with Plummer. Reid wanted more time to move his things out of the house.

But Julie Plummer said her sister decided to give Reid another chance, and he stayed inside the house. They were going to get couple’s counseling, she said.

Then, on Sunday, her oldest daughter came home to find her mother dead and Reid critically wounded.

It was unclear what prompted the violence.

“It’s still very early in the investigation,” said Mac McMullen, a sheriff’s spokesman.

Julie Plummer said Stacey’s parents and other relatives will take care of the children. The family is still stunned by the loss, she said, like so many others who knew and admired Plummer.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said her friend Penninger. “She was too good of a person. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.