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Scolding of child preceded shooting in Pasco neighborhood in 2009

John Croft, 84, listens during his trial Wednesday. His attorneys say he shot Seth Sigmon, 29, in self-defense in 2009. Sigmon’s girlfriend said she saw Croft pull a gun during a discussion.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

John Croft, 84, listens during his trial Wednesday. His attorneys say he shot Seth Sigmon, 29, in self-defense in 2009. Sigmon’s girlfriend said she saw Croft pull a gun during a discussion.

NEW PORT RICHEY — A scolding of a child may have led to the death of a man.

Stacy Grimsley told jurors on Wednesday about the afternoon of April 25, 2009, when a neighbor had cross words for her son, Anthony. The 9-year-old boy ran home in tears.

"He said the old man had yelled at him," said Stacy Grimsley, who said she was in a back room working on the computer when Anthony came inside and mentioned the exchange with the neighbor, then-81-year-old John Croft. She said her boyfriend, Seth Sigmon, who was in the living room, put on his shoes.

"His reaction was to go out and talk to him," she said.

Grimsley said she looked out a window of her Shady Hills home and saw her boyfriend arguing with Croft near a Dumpster. They were standing at arm's length, she said, far enough apart that she could see the space between them.

She said she saw Sigmon waving his hands while he talked, but she couldn't hear what they were saying.

"I saw Mr. Croft pull out his pistol. After he pulled out his pistol I ran and grabbed the phone. I heard pops. It was about two or three."

By the time she returned to the window, the 29-year-old man she described as "the love of my life" lay face down on the ground. Croft stood over him. He was holding the gun, she said.

Exactly what caused the shooting death of Sigmon that day on Connie Court in Shady Hills had been a mystery. Soon after the killing, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said the men had been involved in a series of ongoing disputes that included Croft's pet goats possibly being killed by Sigmon's pit bull.

But Sigmon's family members and prosecutors said that while Croft's goats were killed, Sigmon's dog wasn't responsible, and that incident was a long time before the shooting.

During opening statements in Croft's manslaughter trial, which began Tuesday, prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence of bad blood. Croft's attorneys maintain that he acted in self-defense when Sigmon nudged him. He told sheriff's deputies after his arrest that he was "angry and scared." He is expected to testify today. He is not relying on the controversial "stand your ground" law that is being used in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Sheriff's deputies who have testified for the state said they saw no evidence of any injuries on Croft.

What was suggested Wednesday was that Croft scolded Anthony for playing on top of the Dumpster.

Grimsley said she didn't discuss too many details of the day with her son when the defense asked whether the boy had mentioned the Dumpster that day.

However, Pasco sheriff's detective Lisa Schoneman, who questioned Anthony after the shooting and was called by the defense, said he recalled being on the Dumpster and that Croft had yelled at him.

Also testifying for the defense were neighbors Kenneth Johnson and Deanna Jo Sawin.

"Did Mr. Croft have a good reputation for peacefulness?" defense attorney Nick Michailos asked.

"Yes," Johnson said.

Sawin, whose husband and daughter had been called earlier to testify for the state, said Croft shot Sigmon three times. The last two shots were fired as he was backing away from Sigmon.

Describing Croft's face, she said, "He looked like he was scared."

The jury is expected to get the case today.

Scolding of child preceded shooting in Pasco neighborhood in 2009 05/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 8:52pm]
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