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Investigation into Seffner woman's death still open

Khadijah Dowdy stands in the living room of the home of her sister, Gwendolyn Belcher, where investigators removed a long strip of carpet she says was stained in her sister’s blood. “That’s my best friend,” Dowdy said. “She was my rock.” Dowdy scrubbed the floor clean after detectives returned the house back to the family.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Khadijah Dowdy stands in the living room of the home of her sister, Gwendolyn Belcher, where investigators removed a long strip of carpet she says was stained in her sister’s blood. “That’s my best friend,” Dowdy said. “She was my rock.” Dowdy scrubbed the floor clean after detectives returned the house back to the family.

TAMPA — When Christopher Belcher was released from Hillsborough County jail on Tuesday, the new widower went to the Seffner home he once shared with his wife, packed personal items, then left.

Among the things he didn't take: an 8-by-10, black-and-white wedding photo on the kitchen counter.

The gold frame encases a picture of a happy wife, one arm around her new husband and the other clutching a bouquet. He wears a trim white tux. It was six years ago. They were all smiles.

"She was so happy at that time," said Khadijah Dowdy, pointing to the picture of her dead sister.

In September, Hillsborough County deputies had found Gwendolyn Belcher, 43, dead and burned in her car in Thonotosassa. The Medical Examiner's Office identified her through dental records and ruled homicide as the cause of her death.

No one has been charged with her killing.

Shortly after her body was discovered, sheriff's deputies arrested Christopher Belcher, 43, on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. A judge set his bail at $1 million, and he was held in jail until Tuesday when prosecutors decided not to pursue the charge for a lack of evidence, said Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

Christopher Belcher could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Meanwhile, in the homicide investigation, deputies say they are following up on leads.

"We know the family is upset, we know they're frustrated, but we still have to follow the law and wait for the evidence," said Larry McKinnon, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives spent days in the couple's house, looking for evidence.

After detectives turned the house back over to the family, Dowdy used bleach and water to scrub what she said was blood off the floor and baseboards.

Better for her to do it than her sister's kids, she said.

For Gwendolyn Belcher's family and neighbors, it is hard to cope with the loss.

Sara Savage, 67, said she'd spent long hours trading secrets with her in lounge chairs on their front porches.

They also traded groceries and home-cooked meals. Belcher would honk her horn in a friendly hello when she'd pass the house, but she'd be too busy to stay and talk.

Savage covertly kept an eye on Belcher's 17-year-old son, Timothy, after school.

"He never knew that," she said with a laugh. "He was never doing anything wrong. He's a very respectable young man."

Belcher's two other children, Octavia and Re'Kale are 25 and 23, respectively.

"We're all going to miss her," Savage said. "You aren't going to find nobody better."

Researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at (850) 323-0353 or bdavis@tampabay.com.

Investigation into Seffner woman's death still open 10/03/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 12:59am]

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