tampabay.com

Struggling with senseless loss

St. Petersburg detectives have few leads. They are distributing fliers, asking the public for help.

By JACOB H. FRIES
Published July 14, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - A day after her father was gunned down when he apparently interrupted thieves, Tangela Murph-Bailey still struggled for words.

"We love him, we miss him and we want the killer caught," she said Friday, hugging the latest mourners to arrive at the family home on Lake Maggiore. "It's just senseless."

Detectives also were struggling to make sense of her father's murder. Amuel Murph, 68, was shot at close range in his driveway while taking out the trash about 5 a.m. Thursday.

Police think he may have stumbled upon a group of thieves trying to break in or steal three vehicles parked near his home at 1409 28th Ave. S.

Investigators so far have few leads. On Friday, they returned to the neighborhood, knocking on doors and distributing fliers asking for help. Police have not released descriptions of any suspects, but say a dark colored sport utility vehicle, perhaps a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was seen leaving the area just after the shooting.

"This is one of those cases we're going to have to dig up on our own," said Sgt. Mike Kovacsev, the head of the department's homicide unit. "But we're hoping someone will call in and get us a good start."

Detectives on Friday also were considering whether five unsolved robberies from last Saturday had any connection to Murph's murder. In those cases, the robbers were armed, worked as a group and stole one of their victim's cars. But unlike Murph's killers, who used an assault rifle, these men had a handgun.

Investigators have not identified the caliber of the gun used to kill Murph or said how many shots were fired.

At least four half-dollar-sized bullet holes pierced the garage and front porch of the Murph's single-story home. The shots were intended for Murph's wife, Mary, who had been drawn to the window at the sound of the first shots.

Murph was a retired Postal Service employee but continued to work as a maintenance worker. His wife founded the Tampa Bay Area Sickle Cell Disease Foundation in April 1972 and worked as a guidance counselor at Campbell Park Elementary School.

Their neighbors say Lake Maggiore Shores is a quiet area filled with retirees and well-to-do community members. Trinette Williams, who lives down the block from the Murph house, said that before Thursday, the only thing the neighbors had ever worried about were the alligators in the lake.

"It's always so quiet here that we're all still in shock," she said. "But I guess you can't say, 'If I live in a nice place, I don't have to worry about crime.' You just never know. There's no hiding."

Jacob H. Fries can be reached at jfries@sptimes.com or 727 893-8872.

 


How to help

Anyone with information about Amuel Murph's killers is asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 893-7780 or to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477.