LAND O'LAKES — A few days before his estranged wife ended up dead in their back yard, Theodore "Ted" Diller stopped to chat with a neighbor.
He and his wife, Rhonda "Nikki" Diller, had been separated and in the process of divorcing for years. They still lived on the same property because both wanted their assets — and both didn't think the other should get anything. Mr. Diller complained of the legal fees.
"She's costing me $60,000," neighbor Lily Lopresto said Mr. Diller, 67, vented to her.
"I'm sick of that b----."
Lopresto was not alarmed.
"He was always threatening to kill her," Lopresto said Wednesday afternoon as she stood in front of her house, looking at the crime scene tape surrounding the Dillers' property at 5439 Julia Lane. It's a quiet, wooded, lake front property. Mrs. Diller, 58, lived in a yellowish-green house. Mr. Diller lived in an A-frame. It was a quick walk between the two. Neighbors said Mrs. Diller only came outside at night because she feared her husband.
But she had dogs.
And they needed to go outside.
Ted Diller waited for her. Authorities say he hid underneath her car for two hours Wednesday and, when she stepped outside with her dogs, he shot her in the chest with a .357-caliber revolver. He then stood over her body and, the Sheriff's Office said, shot her again.
He covered her body with a blanket, went back to his house and "consumed numerous prescription pills," a release states.
A friend of Ted Diller's found him just after 11 a.m. and called 911. He then searched for Mrs. Diller and found her body, the Sheriff's Office said. Ted Diller, a former police officer for Tampa International Airport, was hospitalized and booked into the Pasco jail Thursday. He is charged with first-degree murder.
"It was just a volatile situation," neighbor Debbie Green said. "And somebody finally lit the fuse."
According to Pasco court documents, the Dillers filed for divorce in 2008, but the case was dismissed voluntarily. They filed again in 2010, and the case remains open.
Deputies dealt with the Dillers several times in recent years. The spats did not result in arrests. They were there on the grand opening day of the Dillers' now-defunct business, Sundial Clocks N' Tiques, on Dec. 16, 2004.
Ted Diller said his wife didn't want him to open the store, so she broke their items.
"Ted stated Rhonda is mentally ill, and gets mad very easily," a report states.
Mrs. Diller told the deputy "she bought the clocks at the store and she did not want him selling them since they were hers."
The deputy explained that since they were married, the clocks also belonged to Ted Diller. He gave an example: If he wanted, Mr. Diller could sell them at one dollar each.
"Rhonda then became irate and said she wasn't leaving because Ted was going to sell the clocks for a dollar. I tried to explain to her that Ted was not going to sell the clocks for that amount and that I was just giving her an example, but she said she did not understand what I was saying."
She eventually left the shop "and said she was going to the courthouse to sue Ted."
Deputies were called again to the shop six times between January and April 2008, according to the Sheriff's Office, when the couple had separated and were going through a divorce. Mrs. Diller told a deputy she and her husband had been married for "30 years," the report states. Mrs. Diller called deputies to demand that "all sales be suspended" at the shop because Mr. Diller was selling items at prices that were too low.
Another time, she called because Mr. Diller changed the locks and a locksmith wouldn't break into the shop without a deputy present. Later that same day, Feb. 12, 2008, Mr. Diller called deputies to the store again because "his wife had come to their shop and began breaking items inside," the report states.
Days later, deputies responded to their house on Julia Lane because Mrs. Diller called to complain that Mr. Diller "was on her property." Weeks later, Mr. Diller called the Sheriff's Office to say Mrs. Diller shoved him at their store. Both said the other violated a domestic violence injunction, stating neither could get within five feet of the other. But the deputy researched and found no injunction. He told them to call their lawyers.
In 2009, Ted Diller called again because he said Mrs. Diller "was hitting a glass window with a yard shovel to attempt to get inside" one of the buildings on their property. He said he wouldn't give her a key because "she steals everything from him."
The neighbors often heard their fights. They said they knew something bad was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.
"I think the whole situation is sad," Green said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 869-6229.