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Hernando couple found dead

A neighbor describes hearing shots Sunday afternoon.

By LOGAN NEILL
Published October 30, 2006


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photo
[Times photo: M.N. Golden]
"Thank God you were gone -- it could have been you," June Weber says as she hugs her neighbor John Gabala while Deputy Stephen Kelly looks on.

Update: Couple's SUV found


MASARYKTOWN - An elderly south Hernando County couple was found slain in their home Sunday.

No one had been arrested Sunday night, as authorities tried to find the couple's missing SUV.

Family members had asked authorities to check on the couple, who lived at 333 Korbus Road, at about 2:20 p.m., said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black.

When they arrived, they found both people dead. Deputies also discovered the couple's green 2000 Kia Sportage was missing.

Hernando County property records say the home is owned by Patrick DePalma Sr., who is in his 80s, and his wife Evelyn, 79.

The Hernando Sheriff's Office gave no details on how the couple died and refused to confirm the victims' names, pending notification of kin.

A shaken neighbor described hearing shots from the couple's house between 1:15 and 2 p.m. and seeing a green SUV speeding away down the road.

About 2:30 p.m., deputies made the rounds of the neighborhood, informing people of the crime.

"It shocks me," said John Gabala, 72, who lives across the road and had helped the couple from time to time. "They were very nice people."

Gabala said he had just arrived home from a festival when he learned of the double homicide.

He said he had not seen the couple in some time, but was aware that both had health problems.

Another neighbor, June Weber, said that she and her husband, Richard, arrived home about 2:30 to find the neighborhood swarming with officers and a Sheriff's Office helicopter circling overhead.

The three-bedroom, ranch-style house where the couple had lived for decades sits on 5 acres at the end of a tree-lined dirt path, about 750 feet west Korbus Road.

Neighbors say the area, which is about a quarter-mile north of County Line Road, is generally quiet.

But Weber, who has lived there nearly 30 years, said she has noticed a lot more traffic recently.

"They had a big drug bust just down the road a couple of months ago," Weber said. "It's just gotten busier and busier with people coming and going at all hours."

News of the homicide left neighbors frightened and uneasy. The Webers vowed to keep their two dogs close to them.

Gabala said he, too, would take measures to protect himself.

"I'm going to sleep with my gun at my side," he said.

The Sheriff's Office was searching late Sunday for the couple's green Kia Sportage with the Florida tag number S837NN.

Anyone with information on the killings or the car is asked to call the Hernando County Sheriff's Office at 352 754-6830 or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 800-797-8477.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

[Last modified October 30, 2006, 00:29:49]


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