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Vigil remembers murdered homeless men

The community gathers to remember two men who were killed.

By CASEY CORA
Published January 22, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Jeff Shultz and David Heath were remembered Monday evening as good men, quick to say thanks and "God bless you" to those who helped them try to stay on their feet.

Shultz, 43, and Heath, 53, were gunned down last week, victims of an apparent double murder that shook St. Petersburg's homeless community.

The Rev. Bruce Wright and Pastor Phillip Miller-Evans presided over a memorial service for the two men Monday evening at the American Baptist Church of the Beatitudes in St. Petersburg.

Miller-Evans called for grace in the presence of death, while Wright asked the congregation of about 50 to recognize the fear and uncertainty of homeless life.

The slayings, Wright said, were "tragic because they were preventable."

Wright, a longtime advocate for the homeless, said the service was "a time for us to reflect on what kind of role we can play and see that it doesn't happen again."

During the service, church volunteers passed around golden collection plates, which were quickly stuffed with fives and ones. One woman offered Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus passes.

Shultz was a hardworking man who toiled at various jobs, including boat engine repairs, said Kenneth Schweinberg, 39, a tent city roommate. The two worried together about where they would go next.

Wright described Heath as a pleasant man who would aid him on missions to deliver sandwiches and coffee to those on the streets.

He was saving up for an apartment, Wright said.

Police think Shultz was shot and killed about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Heath was likely killed less than an hour later.

The bodies were found less than a mile from each other. No arrests had been made.

"These deaths don't have to end in tragedy," Wright said. "They're us. If we miss that, we miss the whole thing we can learn from this."

Casey Cora can be reached at 727 580-1542 or ccora@sptimes.com.