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Grandson charged in Tarpon Springs in deaths of grandparents

George Stephen Georgiou, 22, makes his appearance in court Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder and arson.

Special to the Times

George Stephen Georgiou, 22, makes his appearance in court Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder and arson.

TARPON SPRINGS — George Stephen Georgiou joined the mourners at his grandparents' funeral after they had been found slain and their home set afire.

He joined residents last week as they met with police to air their worries about the unsolved killings of the elderly couple on their street.

And on Tuesday afternoon Georgiou, 22, and his parents sat at the police station after officers invited them to come by to talk about the case.

But while Georgiou was at the police station, law enforcement officers were searching every inch of the Chesapeake Drive home he shared with his parents, just down the street from his grandparents' fire-damaged home.

And at 9:10 p.m. Tuesday, with officers still at his home digging up the yard with borrowed shovels, Georgiou was arrested in connection with the murders of his grandparents, Steve Georgiou, 83, and Flora Georgiou, 78. He is charged with first-degree murder and arson.

The arrest followed extensive questioning of Georgiou Tuesday night, when he allegedly told investigators he "thought it would be cool to kill someone," an arrest affidavit stated.

When police asked whether he killed his grandparents, Georgiou twice said he didn't remember, according to the affidavit.

But by the end of the session, the affidavit states, Georgiou had begun to cry and, looking at a photograph of his grandmother, had apologized for hurting her. He also told police that he went to his grandparents' home to force them to pay his father, George M. Georgiou, 57, money they owed him, because the family was having financial trouble.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane B. Covert ordered Georgiou held without bail Wednesday after Stephanie Georgiou, who is Georgiou's aunt and the daughter of the victims, urged the judge to keep him in jail for the sake of the community and the family. Georgiou said he could not afford a lawyer, so a public defender was appointed. He had no prior arrests in the state, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Steve and Flora Georgiou were killed about 6 a.m. on Jan. 4. Steve Georgiou was shot twice in the head, once in the left side of his chest and once in the center of his back. Flora Georgiou was shot in the forehead, in her right cheek, the left side of her chest and the right side of her back, according to an affidavit.

The affidavit said Georgiou told investigators that he was a National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor and that he told his students to shoot "center of mass and head to ensure a kill."

According to the detailed affidavit, Georgiou told police his grandfather had not paid his father, a business partner, in months. The house at 764 Chesapeake Drive where he lived with his parents was in foreclosure.

Steve and Flora Georgiou owned Anclote Marine Ways, a boat repair company, and Miss Milwaukee Fishing Co., a deep-sea fishing party boat at the Sponge Docks.

Georgiou told police he had planned to wear a mask and threaten his grandfather into giving him the money he said his father was owed.

"I'm not considering anything he said as a confession," Tarpon Springs police Chief Robert Kochen said Wednesday. "I believe it's information that will assist us in working with the State Attorney's Office."

A burned match helped investigators make progress on the case. Police said Georgiou used matches and a petroleum-based accelerant to start several fires at the house at 504 Chesapeake Drive to cover up evidence. A burned match found behind the couch matched Georgiou's DNA, according to forensic analysis.

Since January, police have been reluctant to share details of the killings with the public. On Wednesday, one of the reasons became clear.

Police said there was a witness on the night the Georgious were killed — a man in wheelchair smoking on the porch of a nursing home across the street. During their interview with Georgiou Tuesday, they said he mentioned the man in the wheelchair.

"He gave the exact description of this witness that only the police knew about," Kochen said.

The witness told police that he saw a man running from the home that morning and toward the home of the Georgious' grandson as the fire spread.

Kochen would not say what was recovered during Tuesday's search at 764 Chesapeake Drive or whether the murder weapon has been found.

Matina Volochti, 82, has lived on Chesapeake Drive for 43 years. She said Tuesday's arrest finally has put everyone at ease.

"I was scared," she said as she stood under her carport. "I was very afraid and I'm so glad they got him. The neighborhood is more relaxed.

"They (Steve and Flora Georgiou) were very excellent people. I might go put flowers at their door now."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com.

Grandson charged in Tarpon Springs in deaths of grandparents 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:18pm]

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