TEMPLE TERRACE — The first recent sign of movement in the case of Sandra Prince surfaced in court Wednesday, weeks after police offered a $100,000 reward for information about her death.
At a news conference last month, where Temple Terrace police officially classified the 2006 case a homicide, detectives said they were following new leads.
One recent lead appears to come from an interview police had this week with Prince's gardener, David Jarrett.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, the gardener told police that about six months before her Jan. 3, 2006, disappearance, Prince had a "falling out" with Patrick Pippin, the son of her boyfriend, Earl Pippin III.
Patrick Pippin wanted to stay in one of Prince's Lake Panasoffkee homes rent-free, Jarrett told police, according to the affidavit. The gardener urged Prince to charge him rent. After that, Patrick Pippin and Prince had a falling out, Jarrett told police.
That interview appears to be the reason for the police's court filing. Investigators needed a judge's permission to open a letter that Prince had sent Patrick Pippin. It was postmarked Dec. 17, 2005, about two weeks before the likely date of her death.
The letter appears to never have reached Pippin. The U.S. Post Office returned it to Prince with the stamping of "no mail receptacle."
Police took the letter from her house in January 2006, when the case was still classified as a missing-person case. At the time, they did not think it would contain anything useful or important, said Temple Terrace city spokesman Michael Dunn. So they did not immediately file a search warrant affidavit.
Police did not disclose the letter's contents Wednesday.
Pippin's father, Earl Pippin III, has been classified a "person of interest" in the case since 2007.
But Patrick Pippin is not, and investigators do not even know for sure if there was any falling out between Prince and the younger Pippin.
"It's something they're looking into," Dunn said.
Earl Pippin III had been Prince's boyfriend of five years and was the sole beneficiary of her $3.6 million estate.
Times staff writer Stephanie Bolling contributed to this report.