Thursday, April 19, 2018
Public safety

Sheriff's Office: All four found dead in torched Avila mansion had been shot

TAMPA — All four people found dead this week in a burning mansion north of Tampa were shot, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday evening.

Investigators also found a gun registered to Darrin Campbell, the 49-year-old man who leased the house with his family, and discovered Campbell had bought gas cans and what one official called an "exceedingly large" number of fireworks in the days before the blaze.

Many questions remained unanswered on the second full day after the bodies were discovered in the charred ruin of a five-bedroom home in the upscale Avila community. Law enforcement officials have stopped short of elucidating Darrin Campbell's potential role in the crime, and have refused even to publicly identify the victims.

But multiple signs pointed to a tragedy involving Campbell; his wife, Kimberly Campbell; and their teenage children, Colin and Megan. In addition to Thursday's revelations, the Sheriff's Office had earlier stated that the fire at 16223 Sierra de Avila was an act of arson. Fireworks were found throughout the house.

Kimberly Campbell's father, Gordon Lambie of Michigan, said he was grieving the deaths of what he described as a close-knit group of family members.

"I've lost my entire family," he said. "It's very tough right now because I'm 1,500 miles away."

At a media briefing Thursday evening, Hillsborough sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski declined to describe the victims' gunshot wounds, or discuss any working theories of the crime. She said other residents of Avila should not consider themselves in danger and the Sheriff's Office is not looking for suspects.

She said the Sheriff's Office was awaiting the results of autopsies on the four bodies. "We're not going to get into theories right now," Lusczynski said.

Those who know the Campbells said they are struggling to come to terms with news of the fire, which engulfed the 5,856-square-foot home early Wednesday.

"We know nothing of any problems," said a former neighbor, George Connley. "The kids were outstanding children. This is very difficult to put our arms around."

The Campbells were leasing the million-dollar home from retired tennis pro James Blake, who lives in Connecticut.

Publicly available records offer no obvious clues to financial problems, signs of marital distress or arrests involving the family. The Sheriff's Office had not been called out to the home before Wednesday.

VASTEC Inc., a digital records company in Tampa's Channel District, said in a statement that Campbell was currently employed as an executive of the firm. A spokesman said Campbell had been with the company for about six months.

"On behalf of all in our organization we are greatly saddened to learn the news regarding our Chief Operating Officer, Darrin Campbell, and the Campbell family," the statement said. "This is a difficult time for all involved and we are trying to cope with this news. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to friends and family members during this time of grief."

The family moved to Westchase in 2000 from Texas, where Darrin Campbell was an executive with Pabst Brewing Co, the large beer maker. In Tampa, he took a job at Anchor Glass Container Corp., then the third largest manufacturer of glass containers in the United States.

Campbell worked for other companies before his most recent employer. He also volunteered as treasurer at his children's private school for the past nine years.

"He was my baby," Darrin Campbell's mother, Mary Campbell, told the New York Daily News from her home in Arizona. "I have seven kids and he was the youngest. He called me every single day. I'm out in Tucson, and he wanted to make sure I was taken care of."

His wife was a stay-at-home mom, said her father.

The couple sold their Westchase home for $750,000 — a profit — in August 2012. They wanted to live in a place close to their children's school, so they signed a two-year lease for Blake's home, the father said.

Kimberly Campbell, 51, grew up in Michigan and met Darrin when they both worked as aides in the Michigan Legislature. Her adopted mother, Lois Sanford Lambie, lived in Sun City Center until she died in 2011. Her brother, David, lives in Florida.

Teenage son Colin Campbell was a Carrollwood Day School senior known for his baseball prowess.

The Campbells' teen daughter, Megan, also attended the private school and took dance classes at Tampa's All American Dance Factory for the past three years.

"We know this news will be devastating to our students that danced with Megan as it is to us," owner Terri Howell wrote in an email to parents. "We hope that you will have a conversation with your child about this tragedy, especially if they danced with Megan."

Carrollwood Day School officials reached out to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which provided grief counseling to students and employees, the organization said in a statement.

Darrin Campbell had purchased fireworks on Sunday morning at the Phantom Fireworks on Fowler Avenue, said William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks.

Weimer said surveillance footage showed Campbell bought six packages of small firecrackers and seven packs of aerial fireworks, totaling $610 before tax.

"There was nothing about the transaction itself or the products he purchased that would be out of the ordinary," Weimer said. "You'd probably purchase more to shoot off on the Fourth of July."

It is unclear whether Campbell also bought fireworks from other stores. Lusczynski of the Sheriff's Office characterized the amount of fireworks he had purchased as "exceedingly large."

Campbell also bought "several" gasoline cans at a local home improvement store, Lusczynski said.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

   
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