HUDSON — On Tuesday night, David Cutshaw was found dead by the fire pit outside his home in the woods, where he lived simply, making his coffee on the fire and drinking his beer warm, as he had a refrigerator but no electricity. The 66-year-old man whose middle name was "Pleasant" was described by those who knew him as quiet and tender-hearted.
On Thursday, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said its investigation, which had been classified as a suspicious death, had changed to homicide.
Cutshaw was murdered, authorities say. The Sheriff's Office is being tight-lipped as detectives investigate the case. Spokesman Kevin Doll would only say Cutshaw died by "homicidal violence." The woman who found him said he had a massive head wound.
Cutshaw grew up in Greene County, Tenn., as one of six children. His sister-in-law, Helen Cutshaw, said he and two of his brothers fought in the Vietnam War. One brother, Billy Cutshaw, was killed in combat.
David Cutshaw was broken by what he saw during the war. He spoke once of another soldier blown up by a grenade. The man had been standing next to him, bits of his body spraying on his.
"He drank to forget," Helen Cutshaw said Thursday by phone from her Greeneville, Tenn., home.
She said Cutshaw came back to Tennessee after being honorably discharged and worked as a logger, as his father had done. He got married, had children and moved to Florida in 1981.
On Nov. 7, 1986, his 12-year-old son — David "Davey" Paul Cutshaw — was hit by a car while trying to skateboard across Little Road during rush hour traffic. His death certificate said he died within "seconds." This loss ripped his father apart. He drank and withdrew from people, Helen Cutshaw said.
But he still tried to fight his demons. He was featured in a Jan. 12, 1997 article in the Tampa Tribune about a rehab center in Zephyrhills. Cutshaw, who worked in construction at the time, said he hit rock bottom when he was taken to the emergency room on Oct. 7, 1996, with a 0.44 blood alcohol level — nearly six times the level needed for a DUI — and almost died. He had been living at the center since his hospital trip. He was sober.
"This place is altogether different from other rehab places I've been in," Cutshaw was quoted in the article. "They help you find yourself in your own way. If you want to make it, you can. If you don't, you won't anyway, regardless of what program you're in."
It is not known how long he lived in that shell of a house in the Hudson woods off Hicks Road — no front door, no plumbing, no heat.
His neighbors said he did odd jobs for cigarettes and beer. At the time of his death, he had three daughters and one son, Helen Cutshaw said. She said the family is "reeling."
"I never thought another human being would be that cruel to do that to someone," Helen Cutshaw said.
"May God have mercy on them."
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.