HUDSON — Linda Roma and her daughter went to TJ Maxx on Wednesday night to buy hand towels, a vase and shower curtains for the home Jennifer Roma recently bought to be 1.7 miles away from her mother.
The two joked around as they walked out of the Hudson store at 8:53 p.m. That's when Jennifer noticed a suspicious man just beyond the outer doors.
The man walked past Jennifer and lunged toward Linda, 62, and grabbed her purse. The two struggled, and Linda fell to the ground, hitting her head.
Linda Roma died the next day at Tampa General Hospital after suffering bleeding in her brain, according to Jennifer's fiance, Damon Michau.
"I lost a piece of my life that may never be replaced," said Jennifer, 33, sobbing during a news conference Friday afternoon. "My mother was my rock."
Pasco authorities are searching for the man and a female accomplice who drove him away in a pearl or gray '90s Buick Regal.
Pasco authorities are investigating the case as a homicide.
"Do I think that this guy went (to TJ Maxx) with this intention? No," said Detective Lisa Schoneman. "But this is murder."
A man in the Point Plaza shopping center just north of State Road 52 heard Linda screaming during the struggle. He followed the Buick onto U.S. 19, but eventually lost the car.
An hour later, at the Wal-Mart Supercenter a mile away on U.S. 19, the suspect was seen on a surveillance video with the female driver and an unidentified man. The suspect tried to use Linda's credit card to buy something at the jewelry counter, but the card was declined, authorities said.
Linda's purse was found sometime later at the Winn-Dixie at U.S. 19 and Hudson Avenue, Schoneman said. Her credit cards were gone.
"We know there's people out there who know the suspect," Schoneman said. "We need them to come forward."
Linda and Jennifer Roma were frequent shoppers at that TJ Maxx.
On Wednesday, Jennifer, a private school teacher in Pinellas County, left work early to go to her mother's house in the Barrington Woods subdivision off Hudson Avenue. The two then headed to TJ Maxx.
In addition to items for Jennifer's home, they also bought washcloths for Linda's home and a baby bib for one of Jennifer's friends.
Jennifer said her mother loved animals, "prided herself on being a lady" and doted on her family. Her son, Glenn Roma, 30, is a researcher at the University of South Florida.
Linda was a retired nurse and full-time caretaker for her husband, Ralph, 78, who has diabetes and heart failure, Jennifer said.
The two celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary Nov. 4, Michau said.
Jennifer said she and her mother often bonded while chatting on the porch of her home.
"I looked forward to us talking, and our shopping trips," Jennifer said Friday. "Now, it's gone … I'm angry. Very angry. I'm never going to get her life back."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.