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Pasco deputies investigating 'suspicious death' in Land O'Lakes

Pasco County sheriff’s detectives investigate the scene where a suspicious death was reported Wednesday in Land O’Lakes.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Pasco County sheriff’s detectives investigate the scene where a suspicious death was reported Wednesday in Land O’Lakes.

LAND O'LAKES — A body was found in the back yard of a quiet, lakefront home Wednesday morning.

The Pasco Sheriff's Office said the death is "suspicious" but would not release the name, gender or age of the person who died or the manner of death, calling it "an active investigation."

But spokesman Kevin Doll did say the family dynamics at 5439 Julia Lane were "well known" to neighbors.

"We knew it was going to happen," said Lily Lopresto, who lives close to the property. "We knew it."

Lopresto said the person who died was Rhonda "Nikki" Diller, 58. She and her estranged husband, Theodore "Ted" Diller, 67, had been separated for years but still lived on the same quiet, wooded property. They slept in separate buildings and, according to neighbors, tried to avoid each other. Mrs. Diller told neighbors she only left the house at night. She was thin and shook. She was always nervous.

"What are you still doing here?" Lopresto said she asked Mrs. Diller many times. She said her friend said she didn't want to forfeit their property and money. "It's mine," Lopresto recalled Mrs. Diller saying. "Why should I have to move?"

Lopresto said she has known the couple for several years. She could not remember a time when they were happy, even before the divorce proceedings began. 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.

A brother of Ted Diller, seen leaving the Julia Lane property Wednesday afternoon, declined to speak to the Tampa Bay Times.

Lopresto and another neighbor, Debbie Green, said Mrs. Diller fought with her husband. They remembered a time when she smashed all the glass in a greenhouse that her husband built for her on their property.

"They both battled," Green said. "There is no doubt about it."

Lopresto said Mrs. Diller was fixated on a rumor that Mr. Diller buried $160,000 in cash to keep the money from her.

"She searched for it," Lopresto said.

Lopresto and Green said Mrs. Diller made money selling antiques. Records state Ted Diller worked as a police officer for Tampa International Airport from 1974 to 2000. The couple owned Sundial Clocks N' Tiques in Land O'Lakes, but the business is now inactive, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

Neighbors said Ted Diller closed the clock and antique store and opened a hot air balloon business. There is an American Balloons company at 4906 Land O'Lakes Blvd., a property owned by the Dillers, according to the Pasco County Property Appraiser. No one answered the phone at the business Wednesday.

Green couldn't understand why, if the divorce was so bitter, one of them didn't leave.

"They should not have been on the same piece of property," Green said. "They shouldn't have been in the same town."

Neighbors heard two gunshots about 9 a.m. But gunfire from hunters is frequently heard in this wooded area. Lopresto said the Dillers' maintenance worker stopped by the property just after 11 a.m. and found Mrs. Diller's body in the back yard, steps from her car, and found Mr. Diller in the house in some physical distress. The worker called 911. Lopresto heard sirens and went to the house to find out what happened. She said she saw Mrs. Diller's body.

"We all knew this was coming," Lopresto said she told the worker.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Pasco deputies investigating 'suspicious death' in Land O'Lakes 02/22/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 1:31pm]
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