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Suicidal man stopped, only to die soon after

The victim's adoptive father says he talked his son out of suicide, only to shoot him. The father, 60, is charged with manslaughter.

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Thomas Straight, a state prison psychologist, told detectives that he talked his adopted son out of committing suicide early Friday morning.

At Straight's urging, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said, 36-year-old David Charles Hood removed the 12-gauge shotgun from his mouth. Then he opened the gun's chamber to show it wasn't loaded and handed it to Straight, reports said.

Straight apparently wasn't convinced the gun was empty, so Hood offered a challenge: "If you don't believe me, then pull the trigger," Straight, in an interview with detectives, recalled Hood saying.

Then, in what the Sheriff's Office said was both an accident and a crime, Straight squeezed the trigger.

Hood was shot in the head and was pronounced dead at the north Zephyrhills home he shared with Straight.

Straight, 60, 37432 Northside Drive, was charged with manslaughter. He was booked into the county jail in Land O'Lakes, where he was held without bail late Friday.

Sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said Straight was charged with manslaughter because he was culpably negligent for pulling the trigger. Straight owned the gun and was familiar with how it operated, reports said.

"A good rule of thumb is to always assume that a weapon is loaded," Powers said.

Immediately after the 3 a.m. incident, Straight called 911 and reported that Hood had committed suicide, Powers said. But in interviews with detectives later Friday, he changed his story and admitted shooting Hood, Powers said.

"The guy was pretty distraught," Powers said. "The suicide thing didn't add up and then he started telling the truth."

Straight worked as a psychologist at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institute for the past five years, corrections department spokesman C.J. Drake said. Drake did not know how long Straight had been with the corrections department or whether he had ever been disciplined.

A neighbor, Alden Denslow, said Straight and Hood moved into the house on Northside Drive last summer. "He seemed like a nice fellow," Denslow said of Straight.

Hood was 14 when Straight adopted him, Denslow said. "He called him Dad."

Sheriff's Office reports indicate that Hood had attempted suicide before and talked often of the subject.

Denslow said he sensed something was wrong with Hood on Thursday night. "I got the sense he was under the influence of something," Denslow said. "He didn't seem coherent."

Denslow said Hood wanted him to hold on to a woodworking tool.

"He said, "If I don't show up in a year, keep it.' "

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