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Elderly Pasco County man accused of shooting and killing neighbor, 29, whose pit bull killed his goats

SHADY HILLS — The man was shirtless, belly to the sun, near a patch of purple wildflowers. He laid where he fell, splayed, just before 1 p.m. Saturday, between the road and his neighbor's chain-link fence.

Seth Sigmon, 29, lived on the dead-end side of Connie Court in Shady Hills. Neighbors say he has a son and that his wife was getting out of the shower when he was slain.

Authorities say his next-door neighbor, 81-year-old John Croft, shot Sigmon multiple times with a .22 revolver.

"The old man didn't seem the type to go off the handle," said Doyle Young, 68, who lives down the road. None of the neighbors referred to Croft by his name, just as "the old man."

"But when you get mad, in those first few seconds, people can make some terrible decisions," Young said.

Young said he heard they were arguing about some neighborhood children; playing, maybe running a bit wild and loud. He said Croft's wife is disabled, "basically an invalid." Young saw Croft about 30 minutes before the shooting. They were up at the corner of U.S. 41 and Bowman Road, on a grassy area that residents use for a communal yard sale.

Young was at the intersection selling "some junk" when Croft stopped by, but minutes later he said he had to go home to take care of his wife.

Young packed up and came home to a bustling crime scene.

"For the old man to shoot someone," Young said, "he must have gone off the deep end."

Julie Mathis, 66, said she knew Croft had a quick temper but never foresaw something like this.

"I just can't believe it," said Mathis, who has lived in this northern Pasco County neighborhood for more than two decades.

She said trouble has been brewing for some time. She said Sigmon's pit bull got loose one day, went into Croft's yard and killed his three pet goats.

"It was terrible," she said.

Both men's homes are set back from the road and surrounded by fences. Croft's home is white with a lattice front porch and an American flag swaying from the roof. Sigmon's home is owned by his parents, according to property records. A group of people who said they were colleagues of Sigmon's hovered near the crime scene tape, but declined to comment for this story.

Neither man had much of a criminal record in Florida before Saturday. Sigmon was arrested in Tampa in 2001 for driving under the influence with property damage and then in 2002, for violating his probation.

Croft's only arrest was in Hills­borough County in 1984 for disorderly conduct.

Croft is a registered Republican. Sigmon is a Democrat.

As the afternoon wore on, Croft sat handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, waiting to be taken to the Land O'Lakes jail. He is charged with manslaughter.

With the patrol car parked in Sigmon's driveway, Croft — balding with a white wispy fringe — could see his neighbor's body, covered and uncovered with a white sheet, as a forensic team took photos.

The old man put his hands over his face.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com.

Elderly Pasco County man accused of shooting and killing neighbor, 29, whose pit bull killed his goats 04/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:21pm]
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