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Police: Man slain in home of neighbor

Another neighbor says robbers barged in after a woman asked to use the phone. The home's occupant was beaten.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- A 39-year-old man was fatally shot Wednesday during a home invasion and robbery at a neighbor's residence.

Dwight S. Fleming happened upon three armed and masked men at 11:43 p.m. when he visited the home of Leo J. Dempsey Jr., 26, at 2411 33rd St. S, police said.

The men severely beat Dempsey and shot Fleming after a confrontation and struggle, said police Sgt. Mike Puetz.

Dempsey was treated and released from Bayfront Medical Center. No arrests have been made, and police have no suspects.

Fleming's mother, Leola M. Fleming, said her son worked in landscaping and was trying to live a good life after being released from prison three months ago.

"He would give his last to anybody," said Mrs. Fleming, 69. "He was just beginning to have a life."

Other than saying the masked men demanded valuables, police released few details about the circumstances surrounding the city's 16th killing of the year.

Fleming returned home from work at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday after clearing flower beds, his mother said. He drank four beers, made out a grocery list with his mother and watched the speeches of Vice President Al Gore and president-elect George W. Bush.

His mother called out to him when she heard him leaving the house at 11:25 p.m.

"He said, "I got the key. I'll be right back,' " his mother said.

Dempsey's next-door neighbor, Rebecca Johnson, talked with Dempsey on Thursday.

Johnson said Dempsey told her a woman knocked on Dempsey's back door and asked to use his telephone. Dempsey let her inside. She left the door cracked open.

"Right after that, some guys rushed the door," Johnson said.

The men and woman fled on foot after beating Dempsey and shooting Fleming.

Johnson, 69, was shaken. Her children grew up with Fleming and Dempsey, she said. Losing Fleming is like losing one of her own children, she added.

"We've always had a quiet, good neighborhood," she said. "It really frightens me."

A KFC sits at the rear of Dempsey's house, and a surveillance camera at the business was running and pointed at his back door.

"The Police Department has seized the tape and is reviewing it," said Officer Dan Bates, police spokesman.

Both Dempsey and Fleming have had brushes with the law.

Dempsey has been arrested on charges of battery, trafficking cocaine and possession of cocaine and marijuana. State prosecutors dropped those charges.

Fleming had a history of misdemeanor arrests dating to 1979. He was arrested in 1997 and 1998 on charges of lewd and lascivious acts. He pleaded no contest in both cases.

Last year, Fleming earned a high school equivalency certificate.

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