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Clearwater detectives say homicide wasn't random; investigation continues

CLEARWATER — Vince Lee was an outgoing man with a big heart, his friends and family say. He was an athlete, an avid golfer who ran marathons, and a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division.

But most of all, they say, Lee was a loving father. The 43-year-old medical supplies salesman had one son in college, and a 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in Clearwater.

Lee's friends and family have no idea why someone would want to kill him. But between Tuesday night and Wednesday night, someone entered Lee's condominium in the Countryside area and did just that, according to Clearwater police.

Lee had just spent three weeks with family members in Greenville, N.C., helping them deal with the illness and death of his stepfather, who succumbed to lung cancer on Nov. 8. Lee flew back from North Carolina on Monday and talked to friends as late as 9 p.m. Tuesday.

He didn't return calls or text messages Wednesday, though, and co-workers and his girlfriend felt something was wrong. Lee's girlfriend, a nurse from Orlando, drove to Clearwater Wednesday night and found him dead in his apartment at 3151 Landmark Drive, in the Eagle's Glen condo complex, according to Clearwater police.

Lee's girlfriend, whose name was not released, called 911 about 8:30 Wednesday night, according to police, who did not provide a cause of death Thursday. Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts would only characterize it as "homicidal violence." Detectives were asking neighbors Wednesday night if they heard gunshots.

Police do not think the killing was a random act of violence, Watts said, and Lee may have known his attacker.

Last year Lee won a decision in a child custody case against his ex-wife, according to Pinellas County court records. Jodi Pavlica Izzo, Lee's ex-wife, wanted to move their two children with her to Kentucky, but a judge denied her request.

Izzo could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Diane Garris, Lee's sister, spoke through tears Thursday morning about her brother.

"He's the best man in the world, had the biggest heart," said Garris, 43, of Greenville, N.C. "His greatest joy was being a father."

A version of this story appears in some regional editions of the Times. Will Hobson can be reached at whobson@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Clearwater homicide victim Vince Lee won a child custody decision against his ex-wife in November 2010. A story Friday gave an incorrect date.

Clearwater detectives say homicide wasn't random; investigation continues 11/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2011 12:08pm]

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