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"I just don't know why anybody would want to do this to her,'' the victim's sister says.
By DEBORAH O'NEIL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 13, 2001
CLEARWATER -- At age 20, Aimee Farrell was on track to fulfill a dream of becoming a police officer so she could touch people's lives for the better. There were even signs she was developing a sixth sense about danger.
The hardworking young woman majored in criminal justice at Florida Metropolitan University and recently had been recruited to work at a local security firm. In a few months, she was to undergo training to become an armed security officer.
Those aspirations ended Tuesday morning in a bizarre and savage murder when Clearwater police say a man who had not seen Farrell in months stabbed her to death in her beach apartment. After stabbing Farrell, police say, Todd Edwin Wadatz then sexually assaulted her.
On Wednesday, a preliminary autopsy indicated Farrell had more than 30 wounds on her body, her throat had been cut and she bled to death, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor.
"This is just sick," said Shelor, who added that it is not yet clear whether Farrell was dead when she was raped.
The killing has left her family in a whirlwind of grief and questions, just as the family was beginning to recover from the death of Farrell's father two years ago. Her younger sister was visibly shaking Wednesday as she described her sister with such words as caring, motivated and sweet.
"I just don't know why anybody would want to do this to her," said Cathleen Farrell, 16. "She was getting on her feet, building a career and a life for herself."
Clearwater police charged Wadatz, 24, of Largo with first-degree murder Tuesday night after authorities say he admitted to the killing. Police recovered the knife used in the killing after Wadatz led them to the point on the Belleair Causeway where he had discarded the weapon among a stand of mangroves.
On Wednesday, police continued working on the case trying to unravel why Wadatz, a married man, attacked Farrell. The two knew each other through Wadatz's wife, Christen, 25, who at one time had worked with Farrell at the front desk of a Clearwater Beach hotel.
Wadatz had not seen Farell for months. Police say Wadatz, his wife and their two young daughters -- one is Wadatz's stepdaughter -- had visited Farrell's apartment at 880 Mandalay this summer to go swimming.
"She'd met him just a couple of times," said Clearwater Detective Jim Kleinsorge, the lead investigator in the case.
Around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, investigators say, Wadatz called Farrell and asked if he could come over to talk about his "eroding relationship with his wife." Farrell agreed because she was worried something might be wrong with his children, according to those who knew her.
But the request made her uneasy enough to call her mother in Dunedin. Her instincts were right on.
"She was nervous about him then," said Major John Arceneaux, her supervisor at Critical Intervention Services of Clearwater. "I only wish she'd been nervous enough to call one of our officers to come over."
Farrell's mother offered to intervene, police say.
"At first her mom said, "Do you want me to come over?' " Kleinsorge said. When Aimee Farrell said that wasn't necessary, "Her mother told her she was going to check back with her," Kleinsorge said.
And that's exactly what Elizabeth Farrell did a short while later. She talked to her daughter while Wadatz was there. Then, she called back again and this time, there was no answer.
Alarmed, Mrs. Farrell summoned Aimee's younger sister out of bed and the two headed to her apartment where they found her dead around 5:30 a.m.