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By KATHRYN WEXLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001
PLANT CITY -- With his children tucked in bed and his wife inside, Francisco Rosales-Flores was sitting in his van a few yards from his back door when someone fired through the passenger window Saturday night.
Two of the three bullets hit Rosales, 42, who died in the front seat of the blue Ford van that had taken years of scrimping to buy. His wife, Yolanda, heard the gunfire, ran outside and found him slumped over dead in the seat, said her niece, Norma Martinez.
"She has already passed out twice," said Martinez, 33, standing in the dim hallway of the two-story apartment building at 101 N Walker St. Sunday evening. Just one block north is Plant City's main drag, Reynolds Street.
Plant City police said one or more assailants shot Rosales about 9:45 p.m. after he returned from a quick trip to a convenience store. No one had been charged as of Sunday night, and family members said they heard of no leads in the case.
Martinez and other relatives shrugged incredulously when asked whether Rosales, a construction worker with three children -- a 10-year-old girl, and two boys, 8 and 3 -- had any enemies.
"He was funny, always smiling," said Bertha Rosales, his sister-in-law.
On Saturday evening, Francisco, or "Chico" as his family called him, had taken his children to a family birthday party, Martinez said. They got home about 9 p.m., and Rosales told his wife he would go to the store.
After about 15 minutes, Rosales' van pulled up behind the house, family members said. Rosales sat there in the dark for several minutes, Bertha Rosales said. "He sometimes sat out there, listening to music and drinking a few beers," she said.
Rosales was born in Guerrero, Mexico, and had worked as a tractor driver in California before coming to Florida 10 years ago. He was supposed to take the children to the Strawberry Festival on Sunday, she said. They kept asking when he would come home. "The kids still don't know," Martinez said.