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Deputies take estranged husband into custody in Land O'Lakes woman's death

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco sheriff's deputies have taken into custody a former Tampa International Airport police officer in connection with the killing of his estranged wife, whose body was found in the back yard of the couple's quiet, lakefront home Wednesday morning.

Theodore Charles Diller, known to friends as Ted, is under involuntary mental health observation under the state's Baker Act, sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said. Diller, 67, is not under arrest, Doll said, but is considered the "sole suspect" in the death of Rhonda Sue "Nikki" Diller, 58.

Authorities would not say how Mrs. Diller was killed.

Doll said the family dynamics at 5439 Julia Lane were "well known" to neighbors.

"We knew it was going to happen," said Lily Lopresto, who lives close to the property. "We knew it."

Lopresto said the Dillers had been separated for years but still lived on the same quiet, wooded property. They slept in separate buildings and, according to neighbors, tried to avoid each other. Mrs. Diller told neighbors she only left the house at night. She was thin and shook. She was always nervous.

"What are you still doing here?" Lopresto said she asked Mrs. Diller many times. She said her friend said she didn't want to forfeit their property and money. "It's mine," Lopresto recalled Mrs. Diller saying. "Why should I have to move?"

Lopresto said she had known the couple for several years. She could not remember a time when they were happy, even before the divorce proceedings began. According to Pasco court documents, the Dillers filed for divorce in 2008, but the case was dismissed voluntarily. They filed again in 2010, and the case remains open.

A brother of Ted Diller, seen leaving the Julia Lane property Wednesday afternoon, declined to speak to the Tampa Bay Times.

Lopresto and another neighbor, Debbie Green, said Mrs. Diller fought with her husband. They remembered a time when she smashed all the glass in a greenhouse that her husband built for her on their property.

"They both battled," Green said. "There is no doubt about it."

Lopresto said Mrs. Diller was fixated on a rumor that her husband buried $160,000 in cash to keep the money from her.

"She searched for it," Lopresto said.

Lopresto and Green said Mrs. Diller made money selling antiques. Records state that Ted Diller worked as a police officer for Tampa International Airport from 1974 to 2000. The couple owned Sundial Clocks N' Tiques in Land O'Lakes, but the business is now inactive, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

Neighbors said Ted Diller closed the clock and antique store. They leased property to American Balloons at 4906 Land O'Lakes Blvd.

Green couldn't understand why, if the divorce was so bitter, one of them didn't leave.

"They should not have been on the same piece of property," Green said. "They shouldn't have been in the same town."

Neighbors heard two gunshots about 9 a.m., but gunfire from hunters is frequently heard in this wooded area. Lopresto said the Dillers' maintenance worker stopped by the property just after 11 a.m. and found Mrs. Diller's body in the back yard, steps from her car, and found Ted Diller in the house in some physical distress. The worker called 911. Lopresto heard sirens and went to the house to find out what happened. She said she saw Mrs. Diller's body.

"We all knew this was coming," Lopresto said she told the worker.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Deputies take estranged husband into custody in Land O'Lakes woman's death 02/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 3:43pm]
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