NEW PORT RICHEY — After Richard Owen, his elderly mother and their pet chihuahua didn't venture outside their home for several days, one of their neighbors placed a call to the authorities.
People were getting worried.
"We got called out on a welfare check," said Kevin Doll, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "The neighbors hadn't seen them in a few days and they started to smell decay."
When deputies arrived at the home at 4455 Grandwood Lane Saturday night, the neighbors' worst fears were confirmed: Owen and his 87-year-old mother, Joan Owen, were both dead inside, apparently of a murder-suicide.
Preliminary information indicates Richard Owen, 62, killed his mother and the dog, and then fatally shot himself. An autopsy will determine the exact cause of death for Joan Owen.
Doll said detectives had not figured out a motive or how long the Owens had been dead. He would not comment on where the bodies were located inside the home or whether deputies had found a note.
Richard Owen and his mother lived alone in the one-story, concrete block house with peach trim, Doll and neighbors said.
On Sunday afternoon, in the well-manicured neighborhood of single-family homes about a mile from the intersection of County Road 54 and Little Road, next-door neighbor Steven Deal said he still couldn't believe what happened.
"You couldn't ask for better neighbors," Deal said. "Rich was a great guy. I just can't get over this."
Richard Owen and his mother moved into the home in 1985, according to property records. They came to New Port Richey after previously living in Clearwater, Douglas County, Ga., and Seymour, Conn.
Several attempts to reach family members on Sunday weren't immediately successful.
Deal said the Owens would regularly let their chihuahua outside to run around in the yard, and Richard Owen was always willing to lend his neighbors a tool or putter around outside the home to care for their yard.
But when Owen and his dog didn't come outside for a few days, Deal and his neighbors grew concerned.
"It had been a few days," Deal said. "But you never figure anything like this."
Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.