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Murder-suicide in Largo preceded by months of conflict, family says

LARGO — Trouble had been brewing for months at 7983 Shadow Run Drive.

There were screaming matches that drew the attention of neighbors. There were accusations of theft and destruction of property followed by death threats and a flurry of restraining orders, say court records and family members.

It all came to an end Monday when Pinellas County sheriff's deputies discovered a grisly scene at the house: three people dead and one woman seriously wounded.

Deputies said Michael Roberts, 57, shot Sherry Lynn Hice, 46, and killed her son, Tyler Newman, 21, and his girlfriend, Taylor Reiterman, 16.

Roberts also killed his beloved black lab, Onyx. Then he turned the gun on himself.

Hice, the only survivor, was in critical condition Monday night at Bayfront Medical Center.

• • •

Michael Roberts and Sherry Lynn Hice once got along well enough to share Roberts' home. But the relationship started to sour several months ago. Roberts asked Hice, her son and his girlfriend to leave his home, his daughters said. They refused to go, the women said.

In the past week and a half, Roberts and Hice each filed restraining orders against each other, alleging death threats.

In court documents, Hice said Roberts was her ex-boyfriend. But Roberts' daughters said the two never dated.

Instead, they said, Roberts let Hice, a breast cancer survivor, and her son move into his home a year ago because they were nearly homeless and he felt sorry for them. Roberts' younger daughter, Carolyn Roberts, 21, and Newman were friends.

"My dad was lonely," she said. "And he was always trying to help people."

But the new roommates didn't pay rent and began inviting people over, upsetting Roberts, his daughters said. And then Newman's teenage girlfriend moved in, angering Roberts even more.

Pinellas County records say Reiterman married Steven Arthur Cavanaugh, 20, of St. Petersburg, on Jan. 16 in Pinellas Park.

On March 19, Roberts tried to evict Hice and the others himself, his daughters said. A handwritten eviction notice on the door was ignored, they said.

On March 27, an attorney for Roberts filed an eviction complaint with the court.

"He owned the house, but he had no rights," said daughter Lindsay Van Es, 25.

Evicting unwanted house­guests can be difficult, as a Safety Harbor man found out in June, when he invited a mother and daughter to live with him.

His mistake was giving them permission to stay, Tampa lawyer John McMillan, said at the time. Police "leave it up to a judge to decide. It's a civil matter," he said.

Those women were finally evicted in January.

• • •

Court records show that Hice and her son, Newman, both filed restraining orders against Roberts on March 18.

Roberts gathered some belongings and left his home that night, deputies said.

In her petition, Hice said she and Roberts had lived together since February 2008. She said Roberts pulled a gun on her during an altercation on March 16.

"After it was all done, he told me he will make my life living hell for the next 30 to 60 days until I get out and to watch my back," Hice wrote.

She said she locked herself in her room as much as possible. "But it don't help. I still get the mental abuse from him and I am afraid when he pulls his gun next he'll shoot."

Newman said Roberts pulled a gun on him, too.

Judge Karl Grube dismissed the injunctions Thursday.

Roberts moved back home Saturday, his daughters said.

• • •

Roberts said he was the victim.

He told his daughters that he felt tormented in his own home, locking himself in his bedroom while Hice, Newman and others in the house blared loud music and taunted him. They had also sold almost all of his belongings, the daughters said.

On Thursday — the day the injunction requests by Hice and Newman were dismissed — Roberts filed his own petition for a restraining order. In it, he said Hice threatened to "come into my room while I'm sleeping and stab me to death."

After Thursday's hearing, Hice told him, "You're really going to die now," Roberts wrote.

In the document, Roberts said he faced foreclosure and risked being laid off from his job at Catalina Yachts in Seminole. "I have no money right now," he said.

A judge was set to hear Robert's motion against Hice on Thursday.

• • •

Sheriff's deputies responded to the home on Shadow Run Drive about 6 a.m. when they learned of a person threatening suicide, said Sgt. Jim Bordner. They found Hice seriously injured and the bodies spread throughout the house.

Roberts' daughters said deputies told them everyone had been shot. Deputies would only confirm Hice had been shot, citing the ongoing investigation.

Neighbors recalled past trouble at the house.

"We all know of them," said neighbor Sandra Vecchio. "Police have been here before."

Sheriff's deputies responded to calls at the home three times in the last month, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.

The last call came at 10:21 p.m. Sunday. Hice accused Roberts of removing furniture from her bedroom. Deputies determined the complaint was an ongoing civil matter and left, Barreda said.

Later Sunday night, Carolyn Roberts got a phone call from her father. He told her, "I love you. Goodbye," in a voice mail just before midnight.

Roberts' daughters first heard what happened at their dad's house Monday morning on a television news broadcast.

• • •

Hice was shot twice in the back, her son, Corey Newman, 19, said Monday afternoon.

"She was talking, but when she tried to talk, her heartbeat went up and they had to give her medicine to paralyze her so she wouldn't talk and move."

He said his mother did not know yet that her other son had died. "She was asking me about him, but I didn't want to get her blood pressure up."

Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Stephanie Hayes and Drew Harwell contributed to this report. Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452 and Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Murder-suicide in Largo preceded by months of conflict, family says 03/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:00pm]
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