BROOKSVILLE — When Robert Jardin managed to avoid a jail sentence in January for stealing from a pawn shop, his former co-workers at Jewels 'n' Time Pawn held out hope that he would eventually spend time behind bars.
Jardin was a dangerous and arrogant man, they said. He was a braggart and a thief, and he sometimes joked about gunning down elderly people.
On Friday, Jardin was arrested in connection with the brutal slaying of an elderly Masaryktown couple at their home in 2006. And no one at Jewels 'n' Time was the least bit surprised.
"I wanted him to serve some time," said Jesse Rivers, who worked with Jardin for five months in 2007. "He was not a very nice guy and wasn't a very good employee."
Jardin, 33, of Brooksville, faces two counts of murder and one count of burglary of a structure. He was being held at the Hernando County jail without bond.
Jardin's arrest comes three months after Hernando detectives arrested David Alexander Bostick, 18, of Tampa, on two charges of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of Patrick and Evelyn DePalma the weekend before Halloween 2006. Bostick, a distant relative of the DePalmas, remains in custody at the jail.
According to the arrest report, investigators were working late last month on information that Jardin may have been involved in the DePalma murders when they received a tip connecting Jardin to an unrelated case. While interviewing Jardin about the other case, they brought up the murders. Jardin initially denied knowing anything about the DePalmas
But on Thursday, detectives searched the home of a Brooksville man who was allowing Jardin to live in a motor home at his property at 6498 Zagnut Lane.
While rummaging through the trailer and the motor home, authorities found several items with serial numbers confirming they had been stolen from the DePalmas' home. A further search of Jardin's 1989 Chevy pickup truck found the DePalmas' car keys and other stolen items.
Jardin finally conceded he was at the DePalmas' home on Oct. 29, 2006, during another interview with detectives, telling them he watched two other people steal items from the home. Jardin also admitted that he saw the couple lying dead in a hallway.
Investigators said Jardin provided details of the crime scene that had not been made public, including the kind of weapon used in the slayings.
Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff's Office, said she couldn't share any more information about the case because it was an ongoing investigation. Black also said she couldn't confirm there was another suspect in the case.
"But we're absolutely pleased," about the arrest of Jardin, Black said.
An ex-Marine with a 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — Jardin immediately made a bad impression on his co-workers at the pawn shop. One of them, Vernon White, recalled a time — right before he started working at the store — when Jardin threatened to shoot him for stepping behind the counter.
Rivers said Jardin was fired soon after that incident for stealing hundreds of dollars in merchandise. He was arrested in September on a grand theft charge, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in January to three years of probation. Jardin has been arrested previously on charges of larceny and failure to appear in court.
The employees at the store often worried that Jardin would return to exact revenge.
Dawn Helm-Jardin, Jardin's ex-wife and mother of his three children who lives in New Port Richey, painted a very different portrait of a man she called her "best friend." She called him a good father, reliable worker and genuinely nice guy.
Helms-Jardin had been trying to reach him Friday after he told her he was going to the Sheriff's Office to answer some questions. She had no clue those questions dealt with a murder investigation.
"I'm just shell-shocked," Helms-Jardin said. "This is very frustrating."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or 754-6120.