Middle school vice principal, sixth-grade teacher victims in Brandon double murder/suicide shoot-out

Published February 25 2017
Updated February 26 2017

BRANDON — Lisa Fuillerat and Samara Routenberg thought they had prepared for the violence that came their way early Friday morning.

The couple equipped Routenberg's home on Hickory Creek Drive with security cameras. They each had a handgun, and they were prepared to defend themselves. But it wasn't enough to stop Fuillerat's violent, estranged husband.

He was prepared, too.

While Fuillerat and Routenberg were likely getting ready for a Friday with their students at Lake Gibson Middle School in Lakeland, Vincente Fuillerat pulled up to their picturesque house in east Hillsborough County armed with a shotgun and wearing a bullet-resistant vest.

Video surveillance shows the 53-year-old breaking into the home through a sliding glass door in the back at 6:30 a.m. The women apparently grabbed their guns, but he killed both of them during a shoot-out and then killed himself. He carried many extra shells as well as a stun gun.

"He came here with the intent to murder both of these victims," Sheriff's Office Col. Donna Lusczynski said. "They were overpowered by him and his rounds."

Lisa Fuillerat, 51, was a sixth-grade math teacher. Routenberg, 39, was an assistant principal. Both women were shot several times. Vincente Fuillerat had multiple wounds, too, but none were fatal. One bullet pierced his vest.

Deputies found a note pinned to his body. Officials declined to detail what it said, but it was clear he planned to murder the couple and ensure their deaths before turning his shotgun on himself.

Polk County superintendent Jacqueline M. Byrd described the women as dedicated educators and positive role models.

"We are shocked and heartbroken today by this tragic news," she said in a prepared statement. "The loss that we feel is very difficult to put into words."

Friday afternoon was supposed to bring Lisa Fuillerat closer to the divorce she'd been fighting for since October 2015. When she and her husband failed to show up for their scheduled court hearing, her attorney called deputies and requested that they check her home.

They discovered the gruesome scene around 2 p.m. Neighbors didn't report hearing gunshots, but they already knew the kind of trouble Vincente Fuillerat could bring. On Oct. 2, 2015, he came to Routenberg's home and attacked her, deputies said. Lisa DuMond, a neighbor, remembers when the deputies' cars came and said Routenberg was beaten with a stick or a pole. Vincente Fuillerat was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and burglary. He was sentenced to 36 months' probation.

Three days after the attack, Routenberg petitioned Hillsborough County Court for protection from repeat violence from Vincente Fuillerat. Lisa Fuillerat filed a claim he was stalking her.

Later that month, she filed for a divorce in Polk County Court. But Routenberg's repeat violence petition was dismissed.

For months, the divorce proceedings dragged as the women started to build a life together. They kept an immaculate yard. On Saturday, a flag that said "life is good" flew in their front yard.

Routenberg posted photos to Facebook posing with her nephew, all smiles. Lisa, who would have been married to Vincente for 28 years this year, is survived by two adult children.

The elder child is 26-year-old Amanda "Mandy" Fuillerat, a tutor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She last saw her mother about a month ago.

"She visited me here in St. Petersburg, just to get together. We hadn't seen each other since December . . . since my birthday," she said.

"My parents separated a few years ago and because of certain events, there has been a lot of strain and tension, but she cared about me and my brother. . . . Before they separated I was close with both of them. . . . After a time I became closer to my dad."

Of her mother, she added: "She was a kind individual. She was a middle school teacher and changed a lot of students' lives for the better, kids that really didn't have anyone to turn to."

The younger child is a son, Vincent Michael, 24, a student at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

At Lake Gibson Middle, the teachers' second family — their colleagues — are devastated. Principal Alain Douge said Routenberg oversaw the school's guidance department and described Lisa Fuillerat as a dedicated math teacher known for helping struggling students break down complex math problems.

DuMond, their neighbor, remembered both women as quiet and private.

"If you were trying to avoid your ex-husband finding where you were, that would probably be your behavior," she said.

Domestic violence ends in death more than people realize, said Mo Venouziou, spokesman for Community Action Stops Abuse, a domestic violence center serving southern Pinellas County.

"The number of women murdered every day by a current or former partner is three every single day on average," Venouziou said. "Between 2001 and 2012, if you count all the service members who gave their lives for their country, more women were killed by a current or former partner right here in America, at the same time."

On Dec. 12, 2015, Routenberg posted a review to a private investigator and digital forensic group's Facebook page, saying she found it "because of a bad situation." She said it helped her feel safe.

DuMond watched the scene as deputies worked well into Saturday morning.

"We could have done more to protect her," she said of her neighborhood. "Someone could have gotten the man's description. We could have at least known it was him trolling around, to kind of stalk her . . . but nobody did anything."

Lisa Fuillerat had tried to escape her estranged husband.

"When someone is trying to leave, that can be some of the most dangerous times for them, when things can escalate," said Venouziou, the CASA spokesman. "Domestic violence at its heart is really about one person trying to exert power and control over another and when they feel they are losing that control, it makes them angrier and makes them more dangerous. I would encourage men and women who are survivors of domestic violence to call a domestic violence center well before it gets to this point."

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or 727-893-8862. Follow her on Twitter at @sara_dinatale. Senior news researcher John Martin and staff writer Anastasia Dawson contributed to this report.