ST. PETERSBURG — Eula Powless, 70, was often seen on her front porch, tending to her plants, sweeping or just sitting in the shade.
"She's a sweet old lady," said Lance Adams, 49, who lives next to Powell in a cluster of small brown cottages and duplexes at 2595 50th Ave. N.
He and other neighbors are at a loss to explain why anyone — much less her grandson — would want to hurt her.
Around 12 a.m. Monday, deputies said Powless's 23-year old grandson, Joseph R. Levan, stabbed her multiple times with a steak knife in the upper chest and neck. Levan then called 911 to report the stabbing, deputies said.
Powless was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, and Levan was arrested on a charge of attempted first-degree murder.
In a meeting with detectives, deputies said Levan told them he "stabbed her repeatedly" and was "attempting to murder her," according to his arrest report. He said he had been planning the attack for several days. Detectives did not disclose a motive.
"This is crazy, this is crazy," one woman repeated from her porch after hearing about the attack Monday afternoon.
Powless seemed to be one of community's quietest residents. Her hellos were short, she didn't play loud music and everyone knew her as "sweet."
"I'm really shocked," Adams said. "I've never heard them even raise their voices at all."
Levan lived with Powless, though it's unclear for how long. Court records show that Powless petitioned Levan's parents for child support in 2003.
Adams said he thought that Levan may have moved in recently to help his grandmother around the house. Over the last several weeks she'd been sweeping and watering less and he hadn't seen her sitting outside in a few days.
David Thrower took out Powless' trash for her on Sunday afternoon. He lives a few cottages down from her, and knows her only in passing, he said.
"You can't get much from a three word conversation," said Thrower, 61.
He asked her if he could carry the bag with his own, he said, and she thanked him.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Reach Claire Wiseman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8804.