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Tarpon Springs police offer $5,000 rewards in unsolved killings

Crystal Lake, left, and Dena Tingling put up a poster last month at the Tarpon Springs complex where Tingling’s father died.  

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Crystal Lake, left, and Dena Tingling put up a poster last month at the Tarpon Springs complex where Tingling’s father died. 

TARPON SPRINGS — The Tarpon Springs Police Department is offering $5,000 rewards for information that could help investigators solve this city's only two homicides of 2012.

Offered in the hope of attracting new leads, the rewards are also a reminder of the seeming lack of progress in the two cases, which have remained stubbornly resistant to detectives' efforts.

While no suspects have been arrested in the killings, a family member of one victim said she remains optimistic that in a town the size of Tarpon Springs, population 23,500, someone might step forward with a tip, now that the rewards are being offered. The $5,000 rewards come in addition to $1,000 rewards offered in both cases by Crime Stoppers of Pinellas County.

"Tarpon Springs is a very small community," said Dena Tingling, whose 73-year-old father, Eddie Dixon, was found dead by his caretaker one December morning in his apartment in a public housing complex. Police have not disclosed his cause of death except to say that he suffered "upper body trauma" that appeared to be the work of a killer.

"I plead to anybody, if they know something, to come forward," Tingling said.

Dixon's was the second death in 2012 designated a homicide in the city, which sees few violent crimes compared with larger Tampa Bay cities.

Early on a Tuesday morning in July, Luther Shaw, 48, was found shot to death in the street on S Safford Avenue near the corner of E Harrison Street. Shaw was found next to a white SUV with the driver's door open.

Police sought a search warrant for a house near the murder scene, but no arrests followed.

The Dixon investigation likewise began with a potentially promising lead: Dixon's housing complex at 351 N Ring Ave. recently had been equipped with surveillance cameras to improve security. But none of those cameras was pointed at Dixon's door, according to Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Mike Trill, and thus the cameras did not capture whoever entered his apartment and killed him in the night.

A third killing in Tarpon Springs last year was not classified as a homicide by police. In January 2012, Mary Kay Spradlin Hill, 52, was the subject of an investigation after she fatally shot her husband, Willard "Bill" Newton Hill, 79. She claimed she had acted in self defense, telling authorities he had pointed a gun at her. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office never charged her with a crime.

Tarpon Springs police Capt. Jeffrey Young would not discuss the details of the investigations into the Dixon and Shaw cases but said police think the new reward offers could spur witnesses to come forward — perhaps some who might reconsider an earlier decision to stay quiet.

"We're hoping the $5,000 will entice them to give us a call," Young said. "People talk."

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Tarpon Springs police offer $5,000 rewards in unsolved killings 03/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 7:44pm]
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