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Pasco man, suspected of hiring a contract killer, arrested in 2003 disappearance of wife

Tyrone Tackett had twice stranded his fiancee on their wedding day before they finally exchanged vows in January 2003. They lived in a home in Bluegrass Downs, an exclusive subdivision northeast of Nashville, for one week as newlyweds.

Then Salena Tackett disappeared.

Tyrone Tackett told authorities his wife left with a large sum of money, but friends never believed Salena, 25, would willfully abandon the couple's young daughter, Grace.

Salena never turned up, and police suspected foul play. But the case went cold for more than eight years — until new leads brought Tennessee police officers to Dade City this week to arrest Tyrone Tackett.

Tackett, 39, is accused of trying to arrange his wife's murder. He was arrested about 9 a.m. Wednesday at his home at 17932 Lake Iola Drive and taken to the Land O'Lakes jail. He is being held without bail on a charge of solicitation to commit murder.

Authorities plan to bring him back to Tennessee today or Saturday.

"It was there and we don't give up," said Mickey Miller, the police chief in Hendersonville, Tenn. "The detectives had worked on it for several years and decided to sit down take a look at it and started working with the District Attorney's office to get it ready."

The Hendersonville Police Department renewed its efforts to solve Salena Tackett's disappearance in January, when Miller became chief. A billboard was erected near land owned by Tyrone Tackett's family in Bowling Green, Ky., and local police there started a tip line.

Miller declined Thursday to provide any details on what they believe happened to Salena, or what break in the case led to Tackett's arrest. But a relative named Brian Tackett filed a lawsuit in 2004 in Mississippi offering this version of events:

Brian Tackett alleged Tyrone Tackett and others stole numerous pieces of construction equipment from him and made money using it on various projects — a practice that allegedly continued after Salena's 2003 disappearance, with the cleanup of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Not only did Salena know about the illegal activity, the lawsuit alleged, she was the bookkeeper for Tyrone Tackett and could not be trusted to stay quiet.

"Salena possessed information about (Tyrone Tackett's) racketeering activities because she was not only the girlfriend of Tyrone Tackett, and mother of his child, but also a bookkeeper in the enterprise," the lawsuit alleged. "When she could no longer be controlled by Tyrone, he propagated false rumors that she was a drug addict to discredit her. When that alone was still insufficient, he contracted to kill her."

The lawsuit alleged Tyrone Tackett planned to hire a man to kill Salena and make it look like a robbery. The lawsuit then claims Tyrone Tackett killed Salena himself.

The Mississippi lawsuit was dismissed in 2005 due to procedural issues. Brian Tackett could not be reached for this story.

Kay Russell, who lived next door to Tyrone and Salena Tackett on Secretariat Place, said Salena was like a daughter to her. She remembered Tackett as a man who was eager to fit in.

"He wants to be part of the group, but then there's another side," Russell said, alluding to the couple's frequent arguments.

Russell remembered watching Tackett and Salena argue on the back porch, which was about 100 feet from her own. A few days after that last fight, Russell said, Tackett reported his wife missing.

"My first reaction was that she would never have left Grace in that house," Russell said. "Something was wrong. She wouldn't leave her baby, period."

Russell said Tackett shunned the neighbors after Salena's disappearance, and moved away shortly afterward. He left with the couple's young daughter and, according to the Mississippi lawsuit, a then-15-year-old girl named Holly Ann Duncan.

Pasco County property records show that in 2009, Duncan, now an adult, bought the 17-acre tract at Lake Iola Drive and Blanton Road where Tackett was arrested this week. Another relative, Grayson Tackett, is listed as a co-owner.

Russell, 53, was pleased to hear about Tyrone Tackett's arrest on Thursday.

"We were thrilled that (Salena) might be able to get some kind of peace," Russell said. "She's not a number. She's a person. She has a lot of family and friends and touched all of our lives."

Russell said she doesn't have much hope that Salena is still alive — especially when she missed Grace's birthday the year after her disappearance.

"That was a really sad day for us because we knew she would show up. If it was in her power, she would have."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification: A 2004 lawsuit alleged Salena Tackett was killed because she knew about her husband, Tyrone Tackett, stealing construction equipment and using it to make money on various jobs — a practice that allegedly continued after her 2003 disappearance, when the equipment was used to clean up after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The original version of this story was unclear on that timeline of events.

Pasco man, suspected of hiring a contract killer, arrested in 2003 disappearance of wife 07/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 9:11am]
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