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Veteran kills neighbor, then himself

A Vietnam veteran with mental health issues killed his neighbor Wednesday night, then turned the gun on himself, authorities say.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published December 2, 2006


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NEW PORT RICHEY - They come here to grow old in peace, to avoid barking dogs and screaming children. At New Port Colony Villas, a 55-and-over community tucked behind a strip mall off a hard-to-find street, the golden years are silent.

They were, anyway, until the old soldier showed up.

He came to Getner Street about three years ago, wearing camouflage and carrying guns, and he was known to sit in the driveway with a holster around his waist. Walter Sweschnikow, 59, was a Vietnam veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder. He made people nervous.

And when shots rattled the neighborhood about 7 p.m. Wednesday, the people looked in Sweschnikow's direction.

Authorities say Sweschnikow shot his friend Frank Jordan, 74, several times in the house, then killed himself with a bullet to the head. Jordan managed to stumble outside.

Nancy Johnston was next door watching a game show called Show Me The Money when she heard what she thought were firecrackers.

She went outside and saw Jordan in his van, leaning on the horn, bleeding from the chest.

"Help," he told her. "Call 911."

She did. Too late. A few minutes later at Community Hospital, Jordan of 9824 Pocono St., Port Richey, died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Little was known about the cause of the killings. Jordan was Sweschnikow's former landlord, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and the two had been friends for years. When Sweschnikow called Jordan on Wednesday night to say he was hungry, Jordan came to the villa at 4926 Getner St. to deliver food.

Sweschnikow shot him a few minutes later.

Jordan "was the best man you could find in the world," neighbor Miguel Rosario said. "He was a good man. Believe me."

Jordan's relatives could not be reached on Thursday to tell his life story or shed light on the slaying. But some of Sweschnikow's neighbors are convinced it was premeditated.

Sweschnikow had a fluffy white cat with one blue eye and one green. He called it Puddy-Tat, and it vexed the neighbors by roaming the streets unleashed. Puddy-Tat may have been Sweschnikow's best friend.

About two weeks ago, Sweschnikow asked one of his neighbors to take Puddy-Tat off his hands. The neighbor called Shirley Jedele, 71, who finds homes for stray animals.

Jedele went for a visit. She says Sweschnikow told her he might die soon.

"You're not going to harm yourself in any way, are you?" she asked.

"I'm sick," he said, as she remembers it. "I'm going to die."

Jedele prayed with him and told him to keep Puddy-Tat for now. She said she would find a home when the time came.

She came to Getner Street on Thursday morning, after the crime scene tape came down. She asked around. No one seemed to know where the white cat had gone.

She leaned into the bushes.

"Puddy-Tat," she called. "Puddy-Tat."

Silence.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

[Last modified December 1, 2006, 22:03:16]


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