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Employee shot leaving work

A bullet is lodged in the brain of the victim, who is described as being well-liked by her tanning salon clients.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- With two of her children in tow, Claudia Eanes was locking up the tanning salon where she worked Wednesday night when a co-worker turned and saw her fall to the ground.

She had been shot in the head.

Other than a bullet hole in the glass door, no one saw anything suspicious outside Tanny-Fanny, 6480 Central Ave., after the 9:30 p.m. shooting, said police Detective Cindy Leedy.

Thursday, while homicide detectives interviewed friends and family, Eanes, 34, clung to life in Bayfront Medical Center, a bullet lodged in her brain.

"Somebody's got to have had it in for her," said Terry Beatty, 35, who lived next door to Eanes when she lived in Gulfport.

Police have no suspects and are not ruling out the possibility that someone with a rifle shot Eanes from a distance.

A mother of three, Eanes is well-liked by her clients. She is described as having a "heart of gold," but she has had troubles with her relationships.

She recently gained custody of her son from her first marriage. She and her second husband had financial difficulties. She moved to Kentucky to live with another man for several months last year, then came back to St. Petersburg, where she has been living at Sunshine City Mobile Home Park.

Eanes usually brought her kids to Tanny-Fanny, where she worked for 10 months. The store closed at 9 p.m., and she was walking out with her daughter, 5, and son, 11. A co-worker with them heard a noise and turned around. She saw Eanes falling to the ground near the front door. Police did not release the co-worker's name.

"Hopefully, if anybody was driving by and saw something odd, they might call," Leedy said. Anyone with information may call (727) 893-7613.

Leedy could not say for certain that Eanes was the intended victim. "We can't rule out any possibility," she said. Eanes resembles the owner of Tanny-Fanny, Suzann Rogers, friends said.

"If you see her and Suzann side by side across the street, you couldn't tell them apart," said James Ahern, Rogers' fiance and a gas station owner.

Rogers said she didn't know whether she could have been the target.

"I have no idea. It's all what they call speculation." She asked for the community to pray for Eanes.

"Whoever thought of this sick thing, it needs to be taken care of," said Rogers, 44, of St. Pete Beach. "If anybody has a clue, please call police. Please help her."

Rogers was not the only person speaking out Thursday.

Eanes' husband, Eric Eanes, came to the salon Thursday morning.

"My wife was shot here last night," Mr. Eanes, 41, a tow truck driver, told WTVT-Ch. 13. "If anybody knows anything, please come forward because the man that shot her is just an animal."

Mr. Eanes and his wife married in 1996. Two years later, he was charged with domestic-related simple battery. Gulfport police said he slashed his wife's tires with a pocket knife. Prosecutors dropped the charge after witnesses said his wife was the aggressor, records show.

Beatty said Eanes and his wife had a relationship that was "on one minute, off the next," but that he would not hurt her.

"This man idolized her," said Beatty, a nurse at Palms of Pasadena Hospital.

The couple had financial problems, and in 1999, lost their Gulfport house to foreclosure, records show.

Claudia Eanes started seeing a man from Hawesville, Ky., John Brockway, Beatty said. He came to Gulfport, packed up Eanes and her children and moved them to Kentucky with him, though she remained married to Eric Eanes.

"She thought getting away from here would be the answer," Beatty said.

But "she was right back," Beatty said.

Beatty said Eanes told her Brockway would not let her use the telephone and left on hunting trips for a week at a time, leaving Eanes by herself in a trailer on Squirrel Tail Hollow Road.

Eanes called her husband, who went to Kentucky and brought her back to St. Petersburg with the children, Beatty said. Mr. Eanes told Beatty on Thursday morning that Brockway called his wife twice on her cellular phone Wednesday while she was working at the salon, Beatty said.

A woman who answered the telephone at Brockway's house Thursday said she did not know of Brockway's whereabouts and hung up.

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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