CLEARWATER — Kathryn Schroepfor was a kindhearted woman who retained a clear mind even at the age of 91, according to her neighbors. But there's one kindness she never offered to strangers: an invitation through her front door.
Yet it was that door — sealed Monday by red strips of police tape — that was discovered unlocked when Schroepfor was found dead in her home over the holiday weekend, said neighbor Bob Schutt, who learned some details of the investigation into Schroepfor's death from police.
"Kathryn always locked the door," said Schutt, who lives across the street from Schroepfor's house on Orangeview Avenue. "The front door being unlocked was unusual — like somebody came up to the door, and she knew them or thought she knew them, and she let them in."
Clearwater police remained tight-lipped Monday about Schroepfor's death, which is being investigated as a homicide. Yet some facts about the case, and about Schroepfor, emerged through interviews with neighbors who knew her as a longtime presence on their residential block just south of Drew Street.
Schutt said police officers combed the block, searching dumpsters and trash cans for what residents were told were a wallet and purse missing from the house.
Another neighbor, Charlotte Michniewicz, said authorities initially assured neighbors that Schroepfor had likely died of natural causes when they retrieved her body Saturday. After an autopsy on Sunday, however, the Clearwater Police Department announced that she was a homicide victim. Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said Monday that "no new information" was available to share about the case, and that "detectives continue to work leads in the investigation."
Neighbors said Schroepfor, a widow, has a son who lives in the Tampa Bay area and at least two daughters who live out of state. Her children could not be reached for comment Monday.
Michniewicz, who along with her husband was close to Schroepfor, remembered her neighbor for her sense of humor, her distinctive New England accent, and her impeccably correct fashion sense.
She said Schroepfor could often be seen tending to the rose garden that spread beneath yellow awnings in front of her ranch-style house.
"Her house was immaculate. Everything was in its place," Michniewicz said. "She was as sharp as a tack. I don't care how old she was. ... She was a classy lady."
Added Michniewicz, "She didn't want anyone to make a fuss over her. That's the kind of person she was."
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.