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Wife: Shooter was a good dad

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000


TAMPA -- The estranged wife of a man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in Ybor City remembered him Sunday as a devoted father who had been depressed and couldn't face being alone.

Jairo Cifuentes, 40, died Saturday evening at Tampa General Hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Police say he shot himself Friday after killing 19-year-old Natasha Smart at the offices of Alfonso Architects, where she worked as a receptionist.

Latrice Cifuentes said her husband was a quiet man who kept his feelings to himself. He sounded depressed when they last spoke on Thursday, but he wouldn't elaborate, she said. She suspected he was upset about Smart ending their relationship about two weeks ago.

Latrice and Jairo Cifuentes had been married for 14 years as of Sunday but had been separated for the past three. They had no immediate plans to divorce, she said, but both had moved on with their lives.

"I saw that he was happy with her," she said. "He was a good man, an excellent father and provider."

Cifuentes, 32, doesn't condone her husband's actions but says he was powerless to accept the young woman's rejection.

"What he did was wrong, and I feel sorry for her parents," she said. "Some people are strong, and some people are weak. He was one of the weak ones."

He worked two jobs -- at the Tampa Tribune and at a sign company -- but stayed dedicated to his sons, ages 7 and 9. He helped with homework, played sports with them and took them on vacations.

Jairo Cifuentes died shortly after his family visited him at the hospital. Latrice Cifuentes thinks he wanted to be with them one last time.

She wouldn't go into details about why they had separated, except to say they argued a lot about things he had done in the past.

Cifuentes had a criminal history, according to law enforcement records. Offenses ranged from domestic violence to drug possession. In 1999, he was charged with violating a domestic violence injunction.

Recent coverage

Couple have lunch, then he kills her, police say (December 16, 2000)

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