Friday, May 25, 2018
Public safety

Burned remains found in Thonotosassa identified as Seffner mother

TAMPA — Sara Savage called Gwendolyn Belcher's cell phone Sunday as frantic family members asked if she had seen her next-door neighbor. The call went straight to voice mail.

"I knew something was wrong," said Savage, 67, of Seffner. "She always answers or it at least rings a while before the machine picks up."

That night, deputies found Belcher's car and a burned body at Taylor and Pruett roads. On Thursday, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's office confirmed the skeletal remains belonged to Gwendolyn Belcher.

"I lost a dear friend," Savage sobbed Thursday. "She was as good to me as a good daughter would have been to her own mother. She took care of me. And I lost my best friend."

A family member reported Belcher, 43, missing Sunday. Detectives went to her home at 3913 Pine St. and interviewed relatives. During the interviews, they learned that Belcher and her husband, Christopher Belcher, had returned home from a birthday party Saturday night. The couple got into an argument and Christopher Belcher struck his wife, deputies said. He was arrested Monday on a domestic violence charge. He remained in the Hillsborough County jail on $1 million bail.

Gwendolyn Belcher loved Jamaican food and often came to her house for curry goat or rice and peas, Savage said.

Affectionately called "Tissy," Belcher loved her three children, two adult daughters and a son in his teens, Savage said.

Belcher lost her own mother long ago, and treated Savage as her own. When Savage fell in her home and hurt her hand, she called Belcher at work.

"She sent over her son, who came in and helped me and said "Miss Sara, Mama said to take you up to the clinic,' " Savage recalled.

Thomas Hill, Belcher's brother, said that's the kind of person his sister was. "Gwen was a wonderful person," he said.

The Medical Examiner's Office identified Belcher's body through dental records, deputies said. A cause of death is pending.

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel and Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Comments
Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

On a Wednesday morning, a mother and her little girl, not quite 2, went for a stroll along one of Tampa’s prettiest streets.It was nearly lunchtime when they were crossing back over Bayshore Boulevard, headed to the home nearby where they were stayin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

Bayshore race claims two lives: child dies day after mother’s death

TAMPA — Jessica Raubenolt seized on the sunshine and blue sky at midday Wednesday to take her daughter out in the stroller for a walk along scenic Bayshore Boulevard. Visiting from Ohio, the family had been cursed by rain all week.At the same time, C...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

Driver killed after colliding with dump truck in south Hillsborough

WIMAUMA — A 30-year-old man died on Thursday after his sedan crashed head-on into a dump truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 p.m. on U.S. 301 near Lightfood Road.Gerardo Yslas of Immokalee was driving a 2012...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

Police: Toddler injured in Bayshore racing incident has died

TAMPA — The 21-month-old toddler who was critically injured Wednesday when she and her mother were struck by a car racing on Bayshore Boulevard has died.The child, Lillia Raubenolt, was pronounced dead at the hospital on Thursday, police said.PREVIOU...
Updated: 9 hours ago
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — City officials announced Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother and her 21-month-old daughter were struck and fatally injured by a speeding car as they crossed the street.Starting today , city...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

DADE CITY — A 42-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night after the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said he jumped on top of a car, stabbed the driver multiple times and then kicked an officer.Roscoe James faces charges of attempted murder, two counts o...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Three men charged with street racing in Bayshore Boulevard crash are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High School

Three men charged with street racing in Bayshore Boulevard crash are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High School

TAMPA— The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg confirmed Thursday that the three men involved in the Bayshore Boulevard crash that killed an Ohio mother and critically injured her 21-month-old daughter are recent graduates of Tampa Catholic High Schoo...
Published: 05/24/18
GoFundMe page for woman killed on Bayshore has raised more than 10 times its goal

GoFundMe page for woman killed on Bayshore has raised more than 10 times its goal

TAMPA — Friends were hoping to use GoFundMe to raise $2,000 for the family of Jessica Raubenolt, who was struck and killed Wednesday while pushing her 21-month-old daughter in a stroller across Bayshore Boulevard.As of Thursday morning, more than $20...
Published: 05/24/18
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — The two cars raced each other along Bayshore Boulevard just before noon, witnesses told police. One was a black 2018 Mustang. The other a gold Nissan. They sped side-by-side, trading the lead, police said, despite the traffic and pedestrians ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

Clearwater deputy fire chief resigns as report on sick leave abuse is released

CLEARWATER — A months-long probe into abuse of sick leave within the fire department concluded this week with the resignation of a deputy chief and the release of an internal review.The city paid $93,816 in unearned or unauthorized sick time, benefit...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18