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2 dead in shooting at Brooksville rehabilitation facility

BROOKSVILLE — John Erickson went to get his mail about 10:30 a.m. Saturday and saw his neighbor outside. The neighbor's wife had a stroke a few weeks ago and was in a hospital.

The man, George Larsson, told Erickson he was just getting back from feeding his wife.

"How's Dorothy?" Erickson said he asked.

Larsson stiffened.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Erickson said Larsson told him.

Two hours later, Larsson went back to visit his wife of more than half a century. He went into her room at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, aimed a gun, fired and killed her, authorities say.

Then he walked outside the front doors and shot himself, his body slumped against a wall a few feet from the entrance.

They were both 85. They had two sons and several grandchildren, friends said. The Larssons built their house at 7101 Myrtlewood Lane in Spring Hill in 1990, property records show. Their home was in Timber Pines, a gated golf-course community for seniors.

Erickson said they were originally from Michigan and were active in the country club community. The Larssons went out to dinner one Saturday a month with the other residents. Dorothy had lunches with the women's group. George played golf. Erickson said George Larsson, who has no criminal record in Florida, was never violent with his wife or anyone else.

He's known him for 20 years.

"They're a very nice couple," said Erickson, 84.

After the shooting, crime scene tape surrounded the parking lot of the hospital at 12440 Cortez Blvd., a busy, commercial road. No one was allowed in. People inside who needed to leave were escorted out.

Chief executive Lori Bedard said the hospital is safe and open again to families of patients. She said the hospital has deputies stationed there for the time being. Bedard said security rules are the same as they were: Visitors are required to sign in to see patients.

The hospital does not have long-term care. Bedard said the average patient stay at the 80-bed facility is 16 days. The goal is to get people well enough to go home.

Bedard read from a prepared statement Saturday night and wouldn't answer specific questions about the Larssons.

"The incident today was tragic," she read. "Our thoughts are with the family of the victim. We are working with the authorities to determine what happened here today. Until they complete their investigation, out of respect for the family, we will have nothing further to say."

Lt. Jim Powers of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office said George Larsson shot his wife once before killing himself.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "We don't know the reason why he felt it was necessary to take the life of his wife and then himself.

"We might never know."

Connie Arleo has lived next door to the Larssons since they moved in two decades ago. She has a cold and planned to visit Dorothy as soon as she felt better. She didn't want to get her friend sick. She doesn't understand what happened. George doted on his wife, said Arleo, 84.

"He loved her very much," she said.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

2 dead in shooting at Brooksville rehabilitation facility 01/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 9:41pm]
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