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Amid feud between Tampa neighbors, a dog falls

TAMPA — The neighbors' feud had been building for years. Anyone driving by could see. Signs in one man's yard disparage the other. Mediation in 2008 didn't work.

The tension exploded last week with three bullets and the death of a dog named Jada.

No one saw Ellis "Rex" Curry IV pull a revolver from his fanny pack and shoot his neighbor's American bulldog.

Tampa police say Curry told them he did it in self-defense. His neighbor, John William LeBron, doesn't buy that.

LeBron, 31, says Curry has harassed him and his wife since 2007 because Curry hates their dogs' barking.

Curry, 49, hasn't responded to calls or e-mails from the St. Petersburg Times, but in a statement to police after the Jan. 9 shooting he said LeBron is a felon who lets his "vicious drug dogs" out to terrorize Curry.

He said he shot LeBron's dog because it attacked him and his own dog.

Officers asked to view recordings from a surveillance camera, kept in a birdhouse in Curry's front yard. Curry told them it hadn't been on for days and wouldn't let them onto his property, police said.

The officers found no evidence that Jada had attacked Curry or his dog, Mazel, but they also found no evidence that he committed a crime, according to the police report.

Curry was not charged.

Jada survived for two hours, then died at a veterinary hospital.

The LeBrons say they're moving.

• • •

Curry grew up in Plant City and earned his law degree from Florida State University in 1984. He ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 2002.

He may be best known for his libertarian letters to the editor, but he also takes aim at favorite causes on his Web pages.

He has been married to his wife, Susan Curry, for 23 years, county records show.

The Currys bought their home on River Grove Drive, just east of Old Seminole Heights, in 2000. He teaches online criminal justice classes for Hillsborough Community College, according to school officials.

He has a concealed weapons permit, police say.

John LeBron and his wife, Trisha LeBron, moved next door in 2006. John LeBron invests in real estate and used to be an agent. He and his wife have two sons, ages 3 and 4, and they live with a 31-year-old roommate, John's longtime friend.

The LeBrons chatted with Susan Curry a few times when they first arrived. They say they never met Rex Curry but soon noticed what they believe to be his handiwork:

Floodlights on a newly built post in Curry's yard glared into their window. A speaker facing their yard played music or a loud whistle sound, at times. A leaf blower would sit by the fence, running for hours.

Several signs posted in Curry's yard carried pointed messages: Stop barking dogs (and the cowards/criminals who hide them).

Stop being a convicted DRUGGIE John W. LeBron.

A wood sign cut in the shape of an arm featured a raised middle finger.

Hillsborough County Animal Services has received at least eight complaint calls between the two men, said spokeswoman Marti Ryan.

"These are obviously two people who don't get along," she said.

• • •

Meanwhile, Curry also started collecting dirt on John LeBron.

In 2005, LeBron was charged with possession with intent to sell GHB, an illegal steroid with strong sedative properties. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation.

LeBron says the charge was a catalyst for getting his life together. But he says he never got a chance to tell Curry that.

In 2007, Curry contacted the Florida Real Estate Commission to report John LeBron's arrest, so the Department of Business and Professional Regulation launched an investigation, said spokeswoman Sandi Copes.

LeBron lost his license in 2009 as a result, state records show.

Curry also reported LeBron to the Florida Bar for practicing law without a license, according to a Bar official. At the top of loan applications, LeBron had written his name next to the phrase "prepared by."

The Florida Bar sent him a cease-and-desist affidavit. LeBron estimates he spent about $10,000 in attorney fees.

• • •

John LeBron never expected the feud would end with bullets.

The day after the dog was killed, the LeBrons and their roommate sought and obtained temporary protective injunctions against Curry.

"He seems to be full of hate and acts erratic and unpredictable," John LeBron wrote in his application.

They plan to move by the end of the month, but the neighbors may have to see each other again.

Both John LeBron and Curry face civil citations from Animal Services: Curry for cruelty in the shooting and LeBron for having a "dog at large" and a vicious dog.

The court date for both is March 11.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Amid feud between Tampa neighbors, a dog falls 01/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 11:39pm]
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