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Ex-boyfriend sought in woman's slaying

TAMPA — Neighbors knew there was trouble between Iris Hernandez-Morales and her ex-boyfriend.

They sometimes saw police cars outside the West Tampa house. They knew she had court protection against him. One man says he recently saw the ex-boyfriend peering inside the windows.

Police have named the boyfriend, Jose Torres-Rodriguez, 55, as a person of interest in his ex-girlfriend's murder.

Family members worried after Hernandez-Morales, 35, didn't show up at a court hearing for her domestic violence injunction against Torres-Rodriguez. Just before midnight Tuesday, a relative checked on the house at 2509 N Walnut St. When no one answered, the relative called 911.

Inside, police found the body of Hernandez-Morales. They declined to say how she died.

Police are searching for Torres-Rodriguez, who is believed to be in the Tampa Bay area, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Torres-Rodriguez drives a beige 2002 Dodge pickup with a Florida license plate tag of V478JV. The truck has blue tape around a window.

His last known address was 3105 N Armenia Ave., Apt. 7.

Wednesday afternoon, neighbor Charlotte Wilbur, 19, noticed a reporter at the small house and walked over from her apartment across the street. She said her neighbor had an easygoing personality and seemed friendly.

She often saw Hernandez-Morales in the yard watching over her two children, Louis Rodriguez-Perez, 11, and Yaidiz Rodriguez-Perez, 10. Police say the children were with their grandmother at the time of the slaying.

The killing stunned Wilbur.

"It was just crazy," she said. "You never would have thought it would come to that."

The couple had a history of domestic problems. Last July 8, police arrested Torres-Rodriguez, accusing him of slapping and choking Hernandez-Morales. That month, a judge ordered him to steer clear of her.

On May 22, police again arrested Torres-Rodriguez, accusing him of violating the injunction by going into Hernandez-Morales' back yard.

Since July, police have been dispatched five times for calls of domestic violence in connection with the couple.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3373.

Ex-boyfriend sought in woman's slaying 06/18/08 [Last modified: Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:06pm]

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