TARPON SPRINGS — Trouble was brewing in the Schriebman household.
Neighbors of the house on Ironworks Lane reported hearing screaming matches, one as recent as this weekend. Customers at the gun shop owned by Michael H. Schriebman said they often heard loud, profane arguments between him and his 21-year-old nephew, Louis E. Schriebman.
The volatility reached a tragic crescendo early Tuesday morning when, police said, Louis Schriebman set his uncle's gun shop ablaze before fatally shooting his uncle; his 75-year-old grandmother, Sarah Bricker Schriebman; and Michael Schriebman's live-in girlfriend, a 50-year-old woman whose identity has not been released by police.
Louis Schriebman then shot himself in the home all four shared, police said.
The murder-suicide was yet another episode of violence in this typically quiet community still reeling from three other high-profile murders this year.
Police said they had not found a suicide note and were still investigating to determine what led up to the shootings.
But Louis Schriebman's half-brother, 28-year-old Jose Valentin, said Louis had epilepsy and dealt with depression. He said he believes Louis snapped after years of tongue-lashings from family members and his recent arrest Saturday on drug and weapons charges in Pasco County.
"His grandma and his uncle, they weren't supportive," Valentin said by phone from his home in Puerto Rico. "They said 'Your life is over, you got arrested,' and all this. 'There's nothing more for you.' That this was it for him, that he was going to lose everything, and that's what made him go over the edge."
According to Tarpon Springs police, Tuesday's events unfolded this way:
About 1:30 a.m., a woman saw a thin man with curly hair leaving the area of Silver Bullet Guns at 914 S Pinellas Ave., said Tarpon Springs police Capt. Jeffrey Young. She told a nearby police officer the store was on fire.
Tarpon Springs firefighters rushed to the scene, but had to back away as ammunition inside the store exploded, sending spent shell casings flying onto the street. Before firefighters got the blaze under control, it gutted the gun shop and two other businesses in the small, one-story strip center, Lee's Hoagie House and Jewelry and Watches Galore.
At 1:38 a.m., an alarm went off at a home at 1407 Ironworks Lane, about 2 miles from the gun shop. Police discovered broken glass in the front door. Inside they saw a man — on a couch with a gun in his lap — who matched the eyewitness' description of the man running from the gun shop. When the man didn't respond, police entered the home and discovered he was dead. It was Louis Schriebman.
They found three other bodies, all dead from gunshot wounds, police said.
Louis Schriebman moved in with his grandmother after his father died in New York in 2007. Neighbor Mike Vaporis said Mrs. Schriebman was nice and her grandson Louis was polite. Though Tarpon Springs police identified Mrs. Schriebman as Louis' great-aunt, several neighbors and friends said she was his grandmother.
Sometimes Vaporis, 71, heard arguing inside the house. Vaporis said Louis was mannerly and soft-spoken, unlike his uncle Mike, who often argued and swore at his mother. "That used to tick me off, talking to his mother like that," Vaporis said.
Vaporis described Mike as "weird." Another neighbor agreed, saying Sarah Schriebman was a "sweetheart," but that her son behaved strangely.
"All I know is that he was not a very nice person," said neighbor Terri St. John, 43. "He just looked scary, like the type of person that you didn't want to mess with. He was a rough one."
Michael Schriebman, 53, was arrested four times, according to court records. In 1981 he was charged with burglary and battery on a law enforcement officer, and adjudication was withheld. He was convicted in 1981 and 1984 of possessing marijuana. He was acquitted of a 1989 larceny charge.
The shootings happened three days after Louis Schriebman was arrested by Pasco sheriff's deputies. According to reports, they received a call about 9:13 p.m. Saturday about an erratic driver nearly striking other vehicles.
A deputy pulled over Louis Schriebman's Chevrolet Blazer at 2909 U.S. 19. They found him with a firearm strapped to his right ankle. Deputies said he didn't have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Deputies also found a glass pipe in the vehicle that tested positive for marijuana and a bottle of Clonazepam, an antiseizure drug, without a prescription.
Louis Schriebman was taken to the Land O'Lakes Detention Center, where deputies found a bullet inside his left pocket. During a routine strip search, deputies located a plastic bag inside his buttocks containing six morphine pills. Jail records show he was released Sunday on $14,150 bail.
On Tuesday several people said Michael Schriebman was known to be gruff and erratic, but his mother was kind and well-liked.
Art Steullet, principal of Sunset Hills Elementary in Tarpon Springs, said Sarah Schriebman volunteered at the school for several years. She would visit a few times each week, helping kindergarten students with reading and helping teachers prepare classroom supplies.
Steullet called Schriebman "just a real nice lady." He said she stopped volunteering about three years ago when her health began to decline.
Investigators with Tarpon Springs fire and police, the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the State Fire Marshal's Office were still on scene Tuesday afternoon combing through the rubble. Investigators removed hundreds of guns and laid them in the parking lot.
Nearby, 59-year-old Lou Messinger surveyed the damage at his jewelry store. With his business right next door, Messinger had a front-row seat to the constant arguing between Michael Schriebman and his nephew. "The language they used was not appropriate in a gun shop," Messinger said. "It was not appropriate in a bar."
Times staff writers Keyonna Summers and Ileana Morales and Times researchers Natalie Watson and Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.