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    Robbers kill man, steal tax refund

    Detectives figure the bandits must have known the father of six was carrying a lot of cash. Police have no suspects.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001


    LARGO -- The way investigators see it, someone had to know Marco Waters' wallet was fat with cash.

    The 23-year-old was visiting his girlfriend and two young children at their High Point duplex Monday night. He had just collected a large chunk of money that detectives were told came from a tax refund. His sister said he had $5,000 in $100 and $50 bills stuffed in his wallet.

    Waters sat on a white, plastic chair outside his girlfriend's duplex about 10 p.m. Monday. His girlfriend, Maria Alomar, 21, sat on his lap as he ate cabbage and rice. His children slept inside the duplex at 5401 Colfax St.

    Suddenly, two men barged around the north corner. One wore a dark mask, the other a white bandana over his face. One held a silver 9mm handgun. They demanded Waters' wallet. The armed man held the gun to Alomar's head.

    Waters refused and struggled with the robbers. They wrestled on the ground. One of the robbers pulled Waters' wallet from his pants during the fracas. The robbers got up and started to run away.

    Waters stood up and yelled an expletive at his assailants. Then the robber armed with the handgun stopped and turned around. He pointed the gun at Waters' chest and fired.

    Waters fell to the ground, a small wound in his upper right chest leaking blood. The bullet came out Waters' back.

    He stopped breathing. Alomar started CPR.

    Minutes later, Waters was on a stretcher. Paramedics pumped on his chest and tried to get him to breathe. He died in the ambulance before he arrived at Largo Medical Center.

    Detectives launched a search for his killers that lasted into Tuesday. The investigators huddled at noon and reported receiving some leads, but nothing solid, said Detective Lt. Steve Shipman.

    Shipman said he thinks the robbers are from the area and learned Waters had a large wad of cash.

    "It suggests they knew something about him," he said. "I would think he was targeted because someone knew he was carrying money."

    "That's naturally a cause for concern because they're still out there and everybody's wondering who's next," Shipman said. "We're hoping there is no one next. I have every confidence that we'll solve it."

    Waters' sister, Takethia Barthelle, who also lives in the duplex, was sleeping when the arguing awoke her. She ran outside in time to see the struggle. Next door, Phillipp Cuny, 15, was in his bedroom watching television when he heard muffled arguing. Then he heard the shot.

    "All I heard was lots of yelling and about 10 seconds later, a gunshot," he said. "Then there was a whole lot of screaming."

    Cuny and his stepfather, James Bylsma, 48, saw the two men burst through a thatch of trees. Both darted behind their home, one hopping aboard a bicycle. They whistled by Bylsma just as he opened his door.

    "If I had known a split second earlier, I could have reached out and grabbed them," he said.

    Barthelle's three young children and another child of Alomar's all slept inside the duplex with Waters' two children. None was injured or saw the shooting.

    Barthelle said Waters was a father of six children, four of them with a woman other than Alomar. The ages of his children range from 3 months to 4 years, Barthelle said.

    She said it is difficult thinking about those children growing up without a father. "They're all small," she said.

    Barthelle said Waters was born in Americus, Ga., but grew up in Pinellas County. He had worked at a manufacturer in Safety Harbor, but moved back to Americus several weeks ago because he wanted a change, his sister said.

    He came back about a week ago to visit, but was planning to return to Georgia on Monday night. His bags were packed when he was shot, said Xavier Brown, Barthelle's fiance.

    "He was a good person," Brown said. "He was a good dude."

    Shipman said investigators initially thought the shooting may have been drug-related, but that theory has dissolved.

    "We can't entirely rule it out, but it doesn't look that way to me," he said. "Right now, it looks like it was a straight-up robbery."

    Neighbors said the area where the shooting occurred has had some problems with drugs and kids loitering, though Waters was not part of that problem, they said.

    "He was a good, clean guy," said Cuny.

    Waters has what detectives described as a minor criminal history in Pinellas County.

    He was arrested in 1995 on charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana, then of marijuana possession and resisting arrest three years later. He was arrested again last year for violating his probation.

    If you have information

    Anyone with information about the slaying of Marco Waters may call Detective Kevin Bennett at 582-6782.

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