Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Two die, one escapes in triple shooting in Citrus Park

TAMPA — Two women were killed and third escaped with injuries in a shooting Sunday morning at their Citrus Park home, authorities said.

Investigators said they weren't sure what led to the shooting — although they do not think it was random — and hadn't publicly identified any suspects.

All three of the women lived at the beige, single story rental house at 7420 Manhattan Drive just east of the Westfield Citrus Park mall.

Killed were Fern Giddings, 56, and Nell Mason, who would have turned 53 today. A third woman, Christina Soto, 35, was found bleeding on a bike trail that parallels Gunn Highway near the home after apparently fleeing her attacker.

The triple shooting was reported at 11:12 a.m. Sunday by someone who had stopped by for a visit. The person who discovered the victims ran across Gunn Highway to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office district headquarters to report the attack.

Giddings was found dead inside the house and Mason was bleeding but alive, according to sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski. Mason was transported to a hospital where she later died.

Soto was found about a block away. She was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital where she was reported Sunday night as stable.

Brittany Kursch-Mellon, who lives a block from the crime scene on Mount Vernon Drive, said she was sitting at a picnic table in her back yard when she heard three loud pops.

She attributed the sound to a BB gun and didn't think anything of it. Then a few minutes later, she saw a woman drenched in blood walking along the bike trail that runs past her house.

"She was pretty much naked except for her underwear and she was covered in blood," Kursch-Mellon said. "Her whole chest was in blood and she was walking very sluggish, holding her neck."

A bicyclist who also saw the woman stopped and used his shirt to try to stop the bleeding, Kursch-Mellon said.

Emergency workers arrived moments later. Deputies cordoned off the neighborhood and asked residents to stay inside while they looked for a suspect. Helicopters droned overhead. Yellow tape was pulled across Manhattan at Gunn.

Neighbors described the home as a rental that changed tenants often. A call to the owner listed in Hillsborough property records went unanswered Sunday.

Several times in recent months deputies have been called to the home and to another rental property next door to handle disturbances, neighbors said.

Investigators said they were interviewing three individuals Sunday evening in connection with the shooting. So far, none has been labeled as a suspect.

Clayton Jobe of Tarpon Springs said he learned of the death of his older sister, Giddings, from a deputy who called his home in the early afternoon.

Giddings had three children, two of whom lived out of state, and four grandchildren, he said. She worked as a phlebotomist and previously lived in the neighborhood before moving into the house with the other women only a few weeks ago.

She was born in Georgia and grew up in San Antonio, Texas, he said. Her Facebook page says she had attended high school in Greencastle, Penn., and was widowed.

"She was a wonderful woman and would do anything for her children. She had a bright smile. She just lit up the room," he said. "I don't know who would have done this to her or why. This is heartbreaking."

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