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Kids witness murder-suicide outside Carrollwood restaurant, deputies say

TAMPA — The 7-year-old boy had just returned from a trip to South Florida with his father.

Now, because his parents were separated, it was time for him to go to his mother.

The exchange was set. One o'clock Friday afternoon in the parking lot of the Village Inn restaurant in Carrollwood.

Guillermo Garcia, 38, arrived in his pickup with the boy.

Okariny Diaz, 33, drove up in a van with two other adults and three kids.

The boy hopped out of the truck and into the van.

But instead of going home with his mother, the boy witnessed pure horror.

After a brief argument by the van, Garcia shot Diaz, then turned the gun on himself, investigators said.

The boy, though uninjured, saw everything.

In an instant, he became an orphan.

More than 20 Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies descended on the Village Inn at 8602 N Dale Mabry Highway. They roped it off with crime-scene tape and covered the bodies with white sheets.

Detectives questioned the boy and other witnesses.

Nearby, friends and relatives gathered, some crying. Spectators joined near the busy intersection.

If Diaz had been afraid of Garcia, records didn't show it. Deputies say it doesn't appear she had filed for a court injunction seeking protection from him.

But a leasing agent at a Town 'N Country apartment complex said Diaz — a beautiful woman with long, black hair — moved out last week because Garcia had found out where she lived.

She was afraid, the agent said.

On Friday, deputies said, the pair started arguing while Diaz was sitting in the driver's side of her van and Garcia was standing outside of it.

He pulled out a handgun and shot Diaz "multiple times," killing her in front of everyone, including a 10-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls who aren't related to her, deputies say.

Garcia then shot himself once in the head.

Jessica Hernandez, who lives in an apartment building adjacent to the restaurant, said she heard four gunshots and ran outside on her balcony to see what happened.

Hernandez, 22, said she saw Garcia kill himself.

"He did it in front of the kids," she said. "That's sad."

Garcia and Diaz were never married. Court records filed in South Florida show that a paternity test done in 2005 confirmed that Garcia was the father of the boy, who was born in 2004.

In 2006, a judge ordered Garcia to pay about $1,500 in retroactive child support. At that time, the documents say, Garcia and Diaz had "reconciled" and were living together.

At some point, that arrangement ended.

Deputies say Garcia is from Pembroke Pines in Broward County, though he rents a Town 'N Country home with faux yellow bricks and pavers riddled with weeds.

For hours Friday afternoon, two sheets covered the bodies as they remained in the parking lot as deputies investigated. Passers-by commented how awful it was that children had witnessed the shooting.

"That's going to be a memory the children will have for the rest of their lives," said sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski.

Lusczynski said it's common for estranged couples to meet in public places to exchange a child. Such encounters are often very emotional, and deputies encourage people to meet in neutral areas — even police or sheriff's substations.

Deputies said Friday evening that they plan to place the boy with relatives.

Records show that Garcia had been arrested only once in Florida — in 2000 on charges of inciting to riot and obstructing a highway. The case was dropped a month later.

Times news research John Martin and staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Patty Ryan contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813)226-3433.

Kids witness murder-suicide in Carrollwood


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Resources

Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence hot line: Call 1-800-500-1119 to plan a safe escape.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.save.org.

Kids witness murder-suicide outside Carrollwood restaurant, deputies say 06/15/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 12:10am]
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