DUNEDIN — Michael Jones said his wife, Glenna, was to blame for him driving her to a remote Hernando County forest and shooting her execution-style before killing himself.
In a rambling suicide note, Michael said it was Glenna who had forced him to liquidate their estate when he couldn't find work. Glenna, he claimed, was having an affair with at least two men. Glenna, he said, wasn't the same sweet, caring woman he had married decades ago.
However, their daughter says that six-page note is all lies.
She says it conveniently leaves out the 46 years of verbal and emotional abuse Michael heaped on his wife.
It doesn't mention that in the days before the May 19 shootings, Michael carved Glenna's face out of family photos and left the framed pictures hanging on the walls, she says.
Or that he destroyed Glenna's beloved garden and removed every Mother's Day gift the couple's two children had ever given her from their home on Dinnerbell Lane in Dunedin.
While police reports quote the couple's son as saying Michael was likely delusional, their daughter, Julie Welch, contends that he was instead a mean-spirited narcissist mimicking the abuse he had seen his own father inflict on his mother.
"It's a suicide note that really glorifies the murderer because he wanted the notoriety that he didn't get in life," said Welch, 43, who lives in Virginia. "His hope was that everyone was going to see what a great man he was and his achievements, and how she brought him down."
In an exclusive interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Welch said the deaths of her parents, both 66, represent a classic example of domestic abuse. She hopes sharing their story will help other victims as well as their neighbors and friends.
"If (my mother) was sitting here reading this about someone else," Welch said, "she may have been more inclined to leave."
While cleaning their parents' home days after their deaths, Welch and her brother found Glenna's journal: a brown spiral notebook with a palm tree on the cover, a will on the first page and — hidden in the middle — a series of hastily written entries outlining Michael's daily accusations since October.
• April 8: "I am praying for his brain to be fixed so that this is the last time we go through this."
• April 17: "I can't leave . . . He would only follow me more. And that would be admitting guilt . . . What can I do? Admit to something I haven't done just to shut him up?"
• May 9: "I knew I could never leave. He is sick and you/I can't walk out on someone who is sick."
• May 13: "He showed me a bullet he had in his pocket that he had written my name on."
• • •
Welch said her parents' story starts in Asheville, N.C., where the couple married in 1967. Glenna's Southern Baptist upbringing instilled "a strong moral fiber in her that once you get married, that's it. 'Til death do you part,' " Welch said.
Glenna had grown up watching her own father's alcohol-fueled violence toward her mother and was disappointed to find an even worse situation when she moved in with her new husband's family.
According to Welch, Michael's father — a former military man who drank heavily and kept guns — convinced himself that his wife was using her job to cover up affairs.
It all came to a head the day Michael's father pulled a knife on Michael's mother. When Michael's younger brother, tired of the abuse, confronted his father with a gun, Michael stepped in at the last moment to defend his dad — diverting four shots into the ceiling.
"He was so committed to his father and listened to those stories so long that he began to believe them," Welch said. "He wanted to be just like his dad."
Months later, Michael and Glenna moved out and, according to Welch, the abuse began within their own relationship.
Michael — who, like Glenna, had a poor upbringing but, unlike his wife, was ashamed of it — had earned a two-year information technology certificate from a technical school. He moved the family to South Carolina and eventually Atlanta, where he had landed an IT director gig.
Welch believes the moves, including the couple's relocation to Florida in the early 1990s, were partly aimed at isolating Glenna from loved ones.
Welch was a "daddy's girl" who loved wrapping her arms around his waist and smelling his cologne. But by age 10, Welch started noticing the yelling and other problems. One day, she said, Michael announced he was leaving the family.
Looking back, Welch believes her father's month-and-a-half absence stemmed from his jealousy of his co-workers who were free to move through life without wives and children.
As Michael's drinking increased, so did his tirades, Welch said. She began planting herself between her 6-foot-2, 220-pound father and her 5-foot-4, 110-pound mother while he yelled that Glenna was stupid or a bad mother.
Welch won't say what made her father so angry that he kicked her out at age 14. When she was 18, Welch says, Glenna persuaded Michael to let her return home to cut down on college costs. But Welch and her father remained estranged, barely exchanging hellos for the next several decades.
• • •
Michael, who admitted in the suicide note that he squandered the family's savings over the years, also referenced recordings he said proved that his wife, a medical office receptionist, was cheating. He said he planted listening devices in her purse and car. He detailed how he considered shooting a neighbor he believed was Glenna's lover.
But Welch says the tapes left on her father's desk contain nothing but static. And she says police told her they visited the unsuspecting neighbor, who said he'd never even met the couple.
Michael previously had attempted suicide, and Welch said she was told he was diagnosed in the 1980s as a manic depressive. He apparently was jobless for four years, but Glenna somehow didn't know that until days before their deaths, Welch said.
According to the journal entries, Michael and Glenna reconciled in the days before the killings. And on May 18, hours before she died, Glenna wrote that Michael said what she'd been longing to hear: that the two would be "civil" until he had a mental evaluation in 12 days.
But the suicide note shows Michael had been contemplating their deaths for weeks.
Sometime before midnight, he bound Glenna's wrists behind her back with black zip ties, loaded her into their tan PT Cruiser and drove 90 minutes north to the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in Hernando County, calling their son on the way to say goodbye.
He fired a single bullet into Glenna's forehead. Then, he put the gun in his mouth, pulled the trigger and fell beside her.
Welch said her only comfort is that the coroner said Glenna died instantly and didn't suffer.
Fittingly, Welch said, her father did.
• • •
Experts say stories like Glenna's are not rare.
The Associated Press recently reported on a World Health Organization study that found 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner, and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.
For 12 years or so, Neva Stanbrough, 66, was a neighbor and friend to Glenna. They bonded, she said, by walking their dogs through the neighborhood each Saturday and Sunday.
However, the women never grew very close. Right away, Glenna turned down several invitations for dinner, presumably because their husbands had different interests. Glenna never spoke ill of Michael and he was always pleasant toward Stanbrough. She says she once saw bruises on Glenna's face and knee and wondered about abuse, but she thought Glenna would have spoken up.
Stuart Berger, development director at the Community Action Stops Abuse domestic violence shelter in St. Petersburg, said it's typical for older victims to refuse help because of their strong views on lifelong commitment. Others are reluctant to leave or confide in others because of embarrassment, fear they won't be believed, finances or other reasons.
In 70 percent of cases, neighbors, co-workers or relatives knew or sensed trouble but declined to get involved.
"It's hard for women to leave," Berger said. "It takes six or seven times before they actually do leave. And it's a very dangerous time when they finally do leave. Because it's all about power and control, and when they leave, the perpetrators feel they've lost power. And that's why a lot of these murders occur."
CASA has a peacemakers program that teaches children about healthy relationships.
"Many people think domestic violence happens to other people. It's someone else's problem," Berger said. "But it's a societal problem . . . something that affects all of us."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]