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Pinellas detectives investigating apparent murder-suicide in quiet Palm Harbor neighborhood

PALM HARBOR — At the house of Stephen and Donalyn Walsh, cradled in a quiet cul-de-sac ringed with oaks, nobody was expecting death.

The couple was planning to move to California this week so that Stephen Walsh could pursue a new job, according to neighbor Colin Bissett. A large U-Haul truck, destined for San Diego, was parked in the couple's driveway.

But on Tuesday, a row of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office squad cars lined the street in front of their home. Deputies were investigating what they describe as an apparent murder-suicide after the bodies of the couple were found inside the home.

Investigators said that Stephen, 58, and Donalyn, 53, were discovered by their adult children, who forced their way into the house at 1909 Forest View Drive in the Spanish Oaks subdivision on Tuesday morning. They had become concerned after not hearing from their parents since Sunday.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Stephen Walsh shot his wife and then turned his gun, a .40-caliber semiautomatic, on himself.

Stephen Walsh is the son of former St. Petersburg City Council member Connie Kone. Pinellas County records indicate that he married Donalyn in 2004.

Deputies continue to investigate.

Officers were called to the house on Sunday night when the Walshes were having an argument, police said. Donalyn Walsh left the house while the deputies were present.

She returned later. Sometime that night, according to sheriff's detectives, Stephen Walsh killed his wife, then himself.

Donalyn's ex-husband, Charles Sommers of Palm Harbor, said the news of the couple's deaths came as a shock.

"All's I can say is, they were both good people, and this is a tragedy," Sommers said.

Yvonne Rodriguez, who lives about a mile from the house on Forest View Drive, sat astride her bicycle Tuesday afternoon staring across the yellow police tape cordoning off the cul-de-sac, which is northwest of the intersection of Belcher and Curlew roads.

"The whole neighborhood's pretty quiet. There's usually not much going on around here," she said. "That's why it's such a shock to me."

Bissett, the Walshes' next-door neighbor, said Stephen Walsh was an easygoing man who made a point of demonstrating guy-next-door amiability. "Hi, neighbor," Walsh would say when the two crossed paths.

"I never saw them argue at all," Bissett said. "Steve was a great neighbor, always working in his yard."

Over the weekend, Bissett said, the couple's house was abuzz as they packed the U-Haul van.

"We saw them on Saturday loading up, and there was lots of activity," Bissett said. "And then, come Sunday, there was no activity."

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. Staff writer Jamal Thalji and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Pinellas detectives investigating apparent murder-suicide in quiet Palm Harbor neighborhood 04/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:58pm]
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