Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Neighbors frequently worried about Dunedin house where home invasions occurred

DUNEDIN — When Marian Davis moved to Chicago Avenue 60 years ago, she had almost no neighbors. Davis and her husband moved into the second house built amid orange and grapefruit trees less than half a mile from Dunedin's shoreline.

"We were pioneers," she said.

Over the decades, houses replaced the groves. Now Davis has many neighbors. And with some of them has come trouble.

Standing on her front porch Monday morning, Davis surveyed a scene at odds with Chicago Avenue's pastoral history: police cruisers, crime-scene tape, and detectives trudging in and out of a house across the street, their shoes sheathed in white boot covers to protect their feet from blood.

At about 5:30 a.m., the house's residents, Robert and Paula Babcock, were attacked inside by multiple suspects, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Robert Babcock, 66, was stabbed, and Paula, 63, was pistol-whipped, deputies said. There was no sign of forced entry to the home.

The Babcocks were taken to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg with wounds that police said were not life-threatening. Hospital officials said both were in good condition late Monday afternoon.

Police were searching for suspects.

The latest outbreak of violence didn't appear random, police said. The house has a history of problems, some of them drug-related. At least three other serious crimes have been reported there in the past two years.

Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. David DiSano said there was a home invasion in May 2011 and a burglary in December. There was no sign of forced entry in the earlier home invasion, during which two suspects brandished a gun, causing Paula Babcock to flee her house, DiSano said.

During the burglary, oxycodone pills were stolen, he said. Detectives are still trying to determine whether anything was stolen Monday.

An aggravated assault with a deadly weapon also took place at the Babcocks' residence in August 2010, according to sheriff's office records. The perpetrator, a 24-year-old transient named Gabriel Pace, pleaded guilty and is currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

Neither of the Babcocks was the victim in that assault case. In September 2010, however, Paula Babcock obtained an injunction to keep Pace away, citing the need for protection against repeated violence, Pinellas court records show.

While disturbing, the Babcocks' troubles this week didn't come as a total surprise to some neighbors. They said that the couple, known for backyard parties and an abrasive attitude toward others on the block, have increasingly provoked concerns.

"It's really upsetting," Davis said. "We just never had anything happen like that. Never!" Before the Babcocks' arrival about 12 years ago, she said, the neighborhood was "just quiet."

Dawn Benduhn, who lives next door to the Babcocks, said the couple used to be friendly. But Paula Babcock had become aggressive in recent years, Benduhn said, erratically scolding kids who played in the street in front of her house — including Benduhn's 11-year-old son — and picking rows with neighbors.

Benduhn said the couple also had a rotating cast of guests, most of them much younger than the Babcocks, leading to concerns about potentially dangerous strangers in the neighborhood. The violent events at the house in recent years seemed to confirm those fears.

"It's horrible," Benduhn said. "For us, it's scary, is what it is."

When her son wants to play outside, Benduhn said, she only lets him out in the back yard.

Davis, originally from Georgia, said her home's surroundings now are quite different from her "pioneer" days. The last grapefruit tree from the original grove was torn out two years ago. And it took a while, but her expectations of Dunedin when she moved here more than half a century ago have been confounded.

Recalled Davis, "I thought, 'Leave Atlanta and come down here? I'll die of boredom.'"

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157. Staff writer Marissa Lang and news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

Comments
Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

A prominent Hillsborough County developer who died last month in North Carolina was strangled and police are investigating his death as suspicious, court records show. William "Bill" Bishop died in a hospital three days after his 16-year-old son repo...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

TAMPA— A mother was killed Wednesday when she was struck by a vehicle while pushing a stroller on Bayshore Boulevard, according to the Tampa Police Department.The mother and 2-year-old girl were struck by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. near W Kni...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Woman, 87, killed in collision while driving wrong way near Brooksville, FHP says

Woman, 87, killed in collision while driving wrong way near Brooksville, FHP says

BROOKSVILLE— An 87-year-old motorist died Tuesday night after she collided with a pickup truck while driving on the wrong side of the road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash occurred about 8:50 p.m. as Patricia Green Marlette of Brook...
Updated: 7 hours ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

In a scene repeated at public buildings across the country, the American flag in front of the library outside my office window was lowered to half-staff this week.This time for 10 dead in Texas.In February, the American flag was similarly half-staff ...
Published: 05/23/18
Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

Largo man broke into jewelry store, cut himself on glass and bled all over everything, police say

A Largo man was arrested Monday after police said he broke into the front door of a jewelry store and stole $10,000 in jewelry, but cut himself in the process and left blood all over the store.Police arrested Jaime Williams, 31, on a charge of burgla...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

Police: St. Pete man who pried a safe out of the wall in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a 25-year-old man to break into a restaurant, pry a safe out of the wall, drag it through the back and then wrestle it into his car, according to police.That was last week. Michael Murphy was arrested Tu...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Published: 05/22/18
Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

A Bradenton Bayshore High School student faces charges after he brought a gun on campus on Tuesday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.Around 11:45 a.m., school resource officers were alerted by school staff that the student, a 10th-gra...
Published: 05/22/18
Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Multiple law enforcement agencies have surrounded a Panama City apartment building where an active shooter is barricaded inside.City spokeswoman Caitlyn Lawrence says it’s still an active situation. The suspect has been firing on ...
Published: 05/22/18