Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Police seek leads in fatal stabbing beside Clearwater city park

CLEARWATER — A 22-year-old Clearwater man found dead in the street bordering a city park early Sunday was stabbed to death while bicycling home from work, police said.

Jason Paul was found at 12:40 a.m. Sunday in the 100 block of S Glenwood Avenue, which borders the city's Crest Lake Park. Police say he died from upper body stab wounds.

Investigators have neither a suspect nor motive and have not recovered any weapon.

"Every indication is that he was just riding his bike and that a confrontation and attack ensued," Clearwater police Detective William Hodgson said.

Paul was riding to his house from the Tiger Direct electronics store where he worked, Hodgson said.

The attack probably took place in the late evening hours Saturday, police said.

The attack has stirred fears about public safety in the historically high-crime area around Crest Lake Park, which borders busy Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

Residents say drug users and dealers, as well as homeless people, have grown accustomed to congregating in the shady park, which has a dog park, playground, walking path and large lake.

"It's unnerving," said Dawn Lakin, 65. "Two months ago I was mugged in my driveway."

Paul was killed in the same street where 20-year-old college student Melissa Dohme was attacked by her ex-boyfriend just under a year ago, barely surviving more than two dozen stab wounds.

Joan Lewis, 78, who often surveys the park while seated on her front porch on S Glenwood Avenue, said she hadn't seen a murder before in the area.

"But we've seen everything else," she said. "Everything goes on in that park."

The Clearwater Police Department has performed 352 directed patrols in the area of Crest Lake Park since June for various reasons, including reports of suspicious persons, crime deterrence and enforcing city ordinances.

Speaking with police at a gathering of reporters at Crest Lake Park Monday, Paul's mother, Renee Langfritz, said her family is "pleading with the community" for clues about the identity of his killer.

She said her son's assailant is a "coward, truly a coward, who would leave a young, innocent man alone to die in the dark."

Standing against a brisk wind beneath an overcast sky, Langfritz said Paul had been fond of taking his dog, a Boxer mix named Marley, to the park, where his killer may have lingered Saturday night as he was bicycling toward his home.

"We're... still very numb," Langfritz said. "Our whole family is."

Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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