DUNEDIN — Tina Marie Foster needed to unburden herself.
She had just moved into the Windemere complex with her 10-year-old daughter and husband six months ago when she confided her troubles to neighbor Kim Travis.
Foster said she had lost her job and her home. Her family had gone from a three-bedroom house to the small apartment. Foster was looking for work and some glimmer of hope.
"She just seemed like she needed a friend," Travis said, "and I listened."
But there was never any hint, Travis and other neighbors said, of what was to come.
Foster shot her daughter, 10-year-old Kassidie Rae McMillin, in the head with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol on Thursday night, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, then turned the gun on herself.
The mother died that night, on the eve of what would have been her 40th birthday. Her daughter died Saturday morning. Kassidie was pronounced dead between 9 and 9:30 a.m. after her family took her off life support at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, according to deputies.
Sheriff's detectives have said only that the mother was having personal and financial difficulties when she died. According to court records, she was arrested within the past year on drug and fraud charges.
The Sheriff's Office revealed Saturday that there "were several notes around the house that were pertinent to this incident," said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.
Family members returned to the apartment Saturday to collect personal belongings and framed pictures. They declined to comment.
The agency would not discuss the contents of those notes, nor identify who owned the gun or how it was obtained. But relatives told Bay News 9 that they were told one of Tina Foster's final messages was that she could not bear to leave her daughter behind.
Mother and daughter were found Thursday night by 42-year-old William Foster, who married Tina Foster in 2009. He returned home to their apartment at 1763 Main St. around 10:30 p.m. and called 911.
The Dunedin murder-suicide took place more than three months after a Tampa mother, Julie Schenecker, was charged with murder, accused of executing her two children, Calyx and Beau.
The Fosters were known in the apartment complex as quiet but sociable neighbors who were always sitting outside, ready to strike up a conversation.
Neighbors said the mother never let Kassidie, a fourth-grader at San Jose Elementary School, wander far.
"She kept a very close eye on her daughter, a very short leash," said Travis, 49. "She would ride her scooter to the stop sign and back, and her mother watched her the whole time.
"She never played outside without her mother watching her."
Tina Foster was arrested in October by Pinellas deputies on a charge of trafficking in hydrocodone. Then in January, deputies arrested her again, this time on charges of scheme to defraud and fraudulent use of a credit card. She was accused of embezzling about $27,000 from a former employer, Temperature Services Inc., an air conditioning and heating business in Largo.
Foster used the company credit card for personal purchases and transferred funds from a company checking account to her own credit card or debit card accounts, according to an arrest report.
But after her arrest, she told a deputy she was relieved she had been caught and would pay back what she had taken.
Despite her troubles, neighbors said, Foster never seemed depressed. In fact, they said, she seemed resolved to turn things around and find work.
"I can't imagine life being so hard that you decide you don't want to go through it anymore," Travis said, "but you don't want to go alone either."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.