Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas Park police search for clues in death of man found shot at home

PINELLAS PARK — The sign hanging on the light next to the front door invites visitors to "cast your troubles away."

A fitting message for the home of David Eugene Rhea, a commercial fisherman who spent much of his time searching for whatever was in season.

But now detectives are searching for clues about what happened to Rhea this weekend.

Police discovered early Monday that the 39-year-old had been shot inside his home at 5800 94th Ave. He died shortly afterward.

The report that someone had been shot was made to 911 at 2:45 a.m. Monday, police said. Rhea's mother went to a neighbor's house to call for help, according to police, but it was unclear if she was home during the incident.

Rhea was taken to Northside Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:22 a.m.

A police canine team was called to the scene to search for suspects, but was unsuccessful.

Police did not release many details about the shooting Monday, and said they're still searching for suspects and a motive. It was not clear when Rhea was attacked, or whether police were looking for just one assailant — or more.

But police said they believe the crime was not random.

"We believe that the suspects targeted the house for reasons unknown," said Sgt. Brian Unmisig.

The house was blocked off with crime scene tape for hours Monday morning as school buses and children went past.

Investigators and sheriff's forensic technicians scoured the neighborhood for clues. On a road behind the home there were numerous yellow cones marking evidence. Officials said they also found bullet casings on the ground.

Neighbors said the house was known for its run-ins with police in the past.

"We didn't really have anything to do with them," said resident Mark Bentley, 52. "We didn't want to."

According to police records, officers had been called to the home six times since July 2011, including Monday. The more serious calls were about a burglary and an assault, but both were downgraded when officers arrived, said Unmisig. No charges were filed in either case.

He said police were not particularly familiar with the family or residence.

"It doesn't appear we knew the story of that house," Unmisig said.

Rhea has several arrests in Florida dating to November 1992, on charges that included battery, disorderly conduct and overfishing.

Rhea was "hardworking," said neighbor Domingo Vega, 39.

"That truck with the boat was always gone," Vega said. "He always came home late. He was a hard worker; he was a provider."

Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 839-8804.

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