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Man kills wife, self amid dazed shoppers

photo
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Authorities comb the parking lot outside a Winn-Dixie where a man fatally wounded his wife and shot himself dead Monday in Tampa. The gunshot knocked the man beneath his wife's car, which is at right. 

Outside a Winn-Dixie, the man shot his wife as she pushed her groceries and then shot himself.

By ANGELA MOORE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


TAMPA -- The assistant deli manager had finished her shift at Winn-Dixie and was pushing a cart full of groceries through the crowded parking lot about 4 p.m. Monday.

Suddenly her husband confronted her.

Officials said the 50-year-old man pulled out a revolver and shot his 47-year-old wife once in the head in front of stunned shoppers and commuters at Wood Lake Plaza, at the corner of Sheldon Road and Waters Avenue near Town 'N Country.

Without pausing, witnesses said, he next pointed the gun at his eye and pulled the trigger. The man fell straight back, his feet shooting underneath his wife's black Mitsubishi Mirage, the gun flying out of his hand and backward across two parking spaces.

The woman died about three hours later at St. Joseph's Hospital. The man died instantly.

Hillsborough County sheriff's officials were not releasing either victim's name Monday pending notification of relatives.

At first, witnesses said, they couldn't believe what they saw was real.

"I thought it was a joke," said 12-year-old Joe Spar, who was skateboarding with two friends at Wood Lake Plaza when the shooting happened. "It sounded like firecrackers, and the way he flopped backward, I thought somebody was playing a joke."

"I had never seen a dead body in my life," said his friend, 12-year-old Robert Toney. "It's not like in the movies. There was so much blood, and it was so fast."

Joe, Robert and friend Mack Linbertrandt, 13, thought at first that the woman was dead as well. She wasn't moving or making noise, the boys said.

After deputies arrived and marked off the crime scene about 100 feet from the Winn-Dixie entrance, a crowd began to gather in the parking lot. Rush-hour traffic slowed on Waters Avenue and Sheldon Road as commuters tried for a better look, some of them swinging their cars into the parking lot. After television helicopters beamed the news of the shooting live, more people arrived, some of them bringing their small children to the scene.

photo
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Homicide investigators for the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office place an evidence marker beside the gun officials say a man used to kill his wife and himself on Monday. 
Meanwhile, the Winn-Dixie remained open for business as usual. Store managers would not comment about the woman who was shot nor allow any other employees of the store to talk about her. Company officials at another location would only confirm that the woman was an assistant deli manager at the Wood Lake Plaza store.

At 7 p.m., the man's body still lay under a white sheet stained red with blood, his sneakers, jeans and right hand visible to the crowd. A puddle of the woman's blood lay a few feet away next to a black purse and a tiger key chain. Nearby was the woman's grocery cart with a bundle of red, white and pink carnations poking out of the top.

The crowd of onlookers grew and rumors about what happened rippled through the crowd.

Stacey Hartwell had driven by the scene with her two young daughters on their way home. After eating dinner and watching the news, Hartwell brought Kelley, 9, and Lauren, 5, back to the parking lot. The three of them stared at the sheet-covered body.

Kelley and Lauren said they weren't scared at the sight of the dead man, though both were relieved to know that the man who laid under the sheet was who deputies thought was "the bad guy."

"I brought them back here in case they had any questions about what happened," Hartwell said. "We've been talking a lot at home about guns and how dangerous they are, so I thought this might help."

Sgt. Rod Reder of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said investigators weren't sure yet what sparked the confrontation, nor did Reder know whether the couple had children. Reder studies domestic violence and said Monday's events were far too typical.

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