Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trial of Dunedin man accused of killing roommate begins

LARGO — In 2004, Neils C. Larsen III was accused of beating his roommate with a frying pan and stabbing him over an argument about the proper movement of rooks in chess.

He later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and received probation.

On Tuesday, Larsen went on trial over the attack of another roommate in 2008.

This time, the charge is second-degree murder.

Prosecutors said in court that Larsen killed his roommate, 61-year-old Barbara Hebert, in September 2008, then left her body to decompose on the kitchen floor of the home they shared at 1222 Orange Ave. in Dunedin.

Hebert suffered 13 fractured ribs and a broken sternum and died of blunt force trauma, said Assistant State Attorney Ryan Lossius.

Larsen, now 57, never reported Hebert's death to authorities.

She was discovered after one of Larsen's friends, who was concerned about his welfare, asked Pinellas deputies to check on him on Sept. 12, 2008. When deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrived, Larsen refused to come out of the home, beginning an 8-hour standoff that ended after a SWAT team deployed a gas into the home to flush him out.

It's unclear exactly when Hebert died, but her decomposing body was found on the floor, covered by five blankets. Her hands, feet and mouth were bound by duct tape, deputies and prosecutors said.

Larsen's public defenders said he acted in self-defense.

Public defender Greg Williams said the two were arguing because Larsen wanted her to move out of the house.

Larsen pushed or pulled Hebert onto the floor after she hit him with her cane and she fell into the stove or cabinets, Williams said.

"Barbara Hebert wasn't murdered. She died because of broken ribs she sustained when she fell," he said. "His actions were justifiable and excusable."

But a neighbor said Hebert, whom she last saw about a week before her death, had been on crutches for some time.

Tammy Koross, who worked with Hebert at a telemarketing company, scoffed at the notion that Hebert was the aggressor.

At the time of his arrest, Larsen weighed 400 pounds.

Hebert, on the other hand, was "a tiny thing, tall but very thin," Koross said.

She was on crutches recovering from a broken foot and had trouble getting around, Koross said.

Koross said that Hebert told her she was afraid of Larsen, because she had awoken to find him standing over her and he had previously threatened her.

"He told her he would kill her and get away with it, that nobody would ever find her body," she said. "And (Hebert) told me that."

Hebert was "quiet and friendly" and a huge animal lover who had once been a veterinary technician, said Koross, 43.

Koross said Hebert was born in Milwaukee and had no immediate family.

Despite that, she was memorialized twice. Once by Koross and other co-workers, and again by caring neighbors.

Larsen has a criminal record in Florida dating back to 1974, including charges of DUI, drug possession and battery on a police officer. Pinellas court records show he was sentenced to five months in jail in 2003 after a conviction on charges including drug possession and leaving the scene of a crash involving property damage.

His trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Hebert had only lived with Larsen for two months.

She had already made plans to move out of Larsen's home before she died, Koross said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Trial of Dunedin man accused of killing roommate begins 04/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 7:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  3. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  4. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  5. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]