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Pasco couple die in apparent murder-suicide

NEW PORT RICHEY — A couple in the midst of a divorce was found dead Sunday night in an apparent murder-suicide, authorities say.

The bodies of Stephen Michael Searce, 58, and his wife, Penny, 48, were discovered inside their home at 9502 Paver Court after a family member reported being unable to reach Mrs. Searce.

No one else was home at the time of the shooting, authorities said.

When deputies arrived at the home in the gated Tanglewood community of New Port Richey about 7:10 p.m., both bodies were found with gunshot wounds. Stephen Searce shot and killed his wife and then turned the gun on himself, authorities said.

No family members could be reached Monday.

Court records show both Stephen Searce and Penny Searce had been married before and had children from their previous marriages.

In 2008, he filed for a domestic violence injunction against his then-wife, Victoria. He complained that she had hit him and bitten him, and frequently drove drunk with their children in the car, according to court records.

Victoria was ordered to take parenting classes and allowed only supervised visits with their kids — a daughter born in 1998, and a son, who has autism, born in 2000.

By mid 2009, the couple — by then divorced — were getting along and Stephen Searce agreed to have the injunction lifted. But at the end of 2010, he had fallen behind in child support payments, records say.

He married Penny Gardner in November 2009 in Clearwater. Records indicate she was the owner of a Dunedin company called Penny's Helping Hands.

In records from their pending divorce, Penny Searce listed Dunedin as her address. Stephen, it seems, was living alone in the home where they died.

Pasco couple die in apparent murder-suicide 08/08/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 8, 2011 10:10pm]
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