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Mysterious shots unnerve couple in Embassy Hills

Maurice Spencer and his fiancee, Raven Distefano, look at their son, Jiovanni Spencer, on the changing table in his bedroom. A bullet whizzed through the window to the right on Friday night as Jiovanni slept in his crib. The shooting is being investigated.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Maurice Spencer and his fiancee, Raven Distefano, look at their son, Jiovanni Spencer, on the changing table in his bedroom. A bullet whizzed through the window to the right on Friday night as Jiovanni slept in his crib. The shooting is being investigated.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Jiovanni Spencer sleeps in a honey-colored crib attached to a changing table that sits underneath a window looking out on Rockwood Drive.

On Friday night, while 13-month-old Jiovanni slept, a car cruised past the house as someone fired round after round from a gun. A few bullets struck Jiovanni's house, and one of them tore through the windowpane in his room, sailed inches above his changing table and lodged into the opposite wall, next to his table lamp decorated with baseballs and bats.

"He slept through it," said his father.

"Thank God," said his mother.

Three days later, the Sheriff's Office said virtually nothing about the incident — only that three houses on Rockwood, in Embassy Hills, were shot at 30 times and no one was injured. Just three pages of investigators' nine-page incident report were released Monday, with much of it redacted. There is no information about motive, or target, or bullet caliber or suspects.

In Jiovanni's house, there are stickers where investigators marked the path of the bullets. There is spackle on the walls and tape on the broken window.

And there are two frightened parents.

Maurice Spencer, a mail carrier, was watching television in bed about 9:45 that night. His fiancee, Raven Distefano, was sleeping beside him. He heard the first shot and thought it was a firecracker. She woke up when the next one hit the garage.

"We looked at each other," Spencer, 30, said. "The first thing we thought of was the baby."

More shots were ringing out down the street, so they waited a moment. Then they ran across the house to Jiovanni's room.

"I wasn't breathing," Spencer said. "I grabbed him and checked and realized he was fine."

A neighbor from across the street walked over to check on them, and as they all stood talking at the front door, they saw the headlights again. Here came the car, this time from the west.

Spencer took his family to a back bedroom. The neighbor fled, and more gunfire tore through the night.

Spencer and Distefano, who works in a doctor's office, moved into the house about a year and a half ago, just before the baby came. It's a small, one-story home, like thousands of others in the sprawling subdivision.

They don't believe they were being targeted. Nonetheless, they're thinking now that they want to move.

That night, Distefano took Jiovanni to her mother's house to sleep. She came back home the next day but has been jumpy ever since.

"I kept waking up," said Distefano, 25. "The littlest noise — I'm up."

On Sunday night — early Monday morning, actually — she came home from watching the Tampa Bay Rays clinch a historic victory over the Boston Red Sox.

She pulled into her driveway and looked around in the dark and had to scrape together the courage to walk to the front door.

"I shouldn't have to live like that," she said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Mysterious shots unnerve couple in Embassy Hills 10/20/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 4:25pm]
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