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Shooting was act of frustration, investigators say

Details emerge that portray the murder suspect as a woman angry with her ex-husband and his wife.

By AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2000


TAMPA -- Kathie Freeman drove to her ex-husband's home Monday night with a loaded 9mm handgun she kept for protection, investigators said, then emptied the gun into Grover Freeman, shooting him 14 times.

Hit in the chest and mortally wounded, Grover Freeman managed to dial 911 before dying.

Wednesday, in the aftermath of the killing, details emerged that portray Kathie Freeman as an angry woman increasingly frustrated with her ex-husband, his current wife and differing views on how to raise Grover and Kathie Freeman's teenage daughter.

Naomia Swain, a housekeeper for three years for Grover Freeman, a successful Tampa attorney, and his wife, Connie, said Kathie Freeman appeared upset by her ex-husband's marriage.

"I think it really bothered her to see them together," Swain said.

After killing her ex-husband and striking his wife with the empty gun, police said, Kathie Freeman attempted suicide by jumping off the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Somehow, she survived.

She remains in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg but is expected to survive the internal injuries and broken bones she suffered.

As she drifted in and out of consciousness Wednesday, making requests to see her daughter, investigators searched her home and garage at 2815 Linthicum Place in Carrollwood. The 41-year-old homemaker and former stockbroker faces first-degree murder, armed burglary and aggravated battery charges.

Friends said Tuesday they were shocked by the violence and that the divorced couple had never shown any signs of friction. They had split amicably, continued to live near each other and shared in the raising of their daughter.

But Swain, the housekeeper, said she thinks Kathie Freeman was upset by recent developments in her ex-husband's current marriage. Grover and Connie Freeman had recently talked through some of their differences and pledged to stay together. Swain said the couple had spent the weekend as an inseparable pair, planting an herb garden and dining out on sushi.

That closeness, she said, may have angered Kathie Freeman.

"I guess it's true what they say about the fine line between love and hate," Swain said.

She described Connie Freeman, 50, as "classy, educated and kind," and said she did not interfere in the raising of Kathie and Grover Freeman's daughter. "She wasn't the evil stepmother," Swain said.

Beaten and bloody, Connie Freeman escaped Monday night by running first to one neighbor's home, and then another before finding shelter. She sought solace with friends Wednesday, said her husband's law partner, Howard Hunter of Freeman, Hunter and Malloy.

Hunter said Connie Freeman has planned her husband's memorial service, set for Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa.

"She has an inner strength that I have been marveling at," Hunter said.

Friends said there were other sources of tension between Grover Freeman, 54, and his ex-wife.

While Kathie Freeman wanted the couple's daughter to attend a prestigious private school next year, friends say, Grover Freeman wanted her to go to a public school, in part to avoid what he feared would be a superficial crowd concerned with status.

"His concern was that she would then be around people more concerned with what they were wearing and what they were driving" than more valid issues, said Kurt Rhodaback, whose daughter is a friend of Freeman's daughter.

Whatever enraged Kathie Freeman, Swain said, was enough to make her break down the front doors to Grover Freeman's two-story, lakefront home at 3113 Mossvale Lane in Carrollwood on Monday night.

Wednesday afternoon, the frame of the two wooden doors remained splintered.

-- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3474 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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