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Ex-wife: Man in Pasco standoff, fire, likely 'snapped'

NEW PORT RICHEY — Joann Winters doesn't have shoes. She doesn't have her baby pictures or her 11-year-old daughter's brand new school clothes.

"It's gone. Everything's gone," Winters told Bay News 9 on Thursday as she surveyed the remains of her charred home on Chipmunk Drive.

"I've got nothing left," she said, her eyes welling with tears.

Authorities say her ex-husband, Stuart Michael Johnson, set the fire Wednesday evening after an hour-long standoff with deputies. The SWAT team stormed into the home, amid plumes of dark smoke, to retrieve Johnson.

Johnson, 52, suffered burn injuries and was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, where he remained Thursday. Once he recuperates, he will be booked in the Land O'Lakes jail on charges of domestic battery, aggravated assault and first-degree arson.

Winters had allowed her ex-husband to move back in a while ago, after his second wife died. But she was growing tired of him, and on Wednesday she told him it was time for him to go, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.

The report said Johnson pulled a gun and held it to Winters' head. "I am going to take everyone with me," Johnson said, according to the report.

The couple's three children — 21-year-old twins Jared and Timothy, and 11-year-old Holly — were also in the house.

Timothy and Jared tried to break up the fight. When that failed, Timothy grabbed Holly and they ran to a neighbor's house to call 911, the report said. Jared told deputies he hadn't seen his father pull the gun. But he did smell smoke.

Jared ran out of the house through a back door while his father barricaded himself inside the home at 4323 Chipmunk Drive, tucked in a neighborhood north of Old County Road 54.

Pasco deputies arrived shortly after 3:30 p.m. They surrounded the home, blocked off the street, and tried to talk to Johnson. By then, Winters and the children were all safely outside.

Once the fire was apparent outside, the special weapons and tactics deputies went in to retrieve Johnson. It took Pasco Fire Rescue between 30 and 45 minutes to extinguish the blaze. They spent the rest of Wednesday evening scooping burnt pieces of insulation and furniture out of the living room.

Officials are still investigating exactly how the fire started.

The family has had trouble at the house before. Two years ago, someone outside fired shots into the house. One of the bullets grazed the back of Timothy Johnson's head. Timothy, then 18, was treated for shrapnel in his wound and bleeding in his brain.

Winters is still trying to make sense of what happened Wednesday. She told deputies that her ex-husband hadn't seemed like himself, that he was aggravated. She had noticed a change in him.

"After his father died he's been slowly going downhill," Winters said, "and yesterday he must have snapped."

Ex-wife: Man in Pasco standoff, fire, likely 'snapped' 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 9:00pm]
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