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Neighbors shocked at couple's death

PALM HARBOR — On Tuesday afternoon, neighbors saw 67-year-old retiree Don Campbell working around his yard.

A few miles away, his wife, Joanna, was answering phones as a volunteer at the First United Methodist Church of Tarpon Springs.

Nothing, it appeared, was out of the ordinary.

A day later, both were dead.

On Thursday, Pinellas County sheriff's investigators said they believe the two died in a murder-suicide, and that it was Don who pulled the trigger.

"There were no warning signs," said Doug Zipperer, senior pastor at the couple's Tarpon Springs church.

But there was a note found near their bodies, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said. However, she declined to say what it said and no other information has been released as to a possible motive.

"We can't talk about the content (of the note)," Barreda said.

The couple had lived at 433 Manor Blvd. for two decades.

Neighbors described Don Campbell, a popular former teacher at Tarpon Springs Middle School, as an outgoing person who was often outside and liked to bike and kayak. Joanna Campbell, 66, was an inside-the-house person, said Karen Magenheimer, who lives next door.

Both Don and Joanna Campbell were active at their church.

Zipperer said it was fairly well known that Joanna Campbell had been ill for some time. But he did not believe her situation to be life-threatening.

Efforts Thursday by the St. Petersburg Times to reach the couple's daughter, Kelly Campbell, were unsuccessful. But others who knew Don and Joanna Campbell were saddened, shocked and confused.

"They were fine people," Zipperer said. "It's just unbelievable."

Authorities think the couple died just after midnight Tuesday, Barreda said.

By midday Wednesday, some of the Campbell's neighbors became concerned when neither had been seen and their newspaper remained in the driveway. One neighbor had a key, so a small group entered the home to check on the couple.

That's when they discovered the grisly scene.

"This is too hard to understand," Magenheimer said. "These were two good people."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed. Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

Neighbors shocked at couple's death 04/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 2, 2009 11:03pm]
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