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Retired Safety Harbor fire chief's suicide evokes brother's death

SAFETY HARBOR — Five years ago this summer, the youngest brother of William Jay Stout, the former Safety Harbor fire chief who committed suicide early Wednesday, had an eerily similar ending to his life.

About 9:45 a.m. Aug. 22, 2005, Dale Stout, 50, shot himself outside his Hamilton Avenue home.

"It's just so strange that my husband committed suicide and now Jay's committed suicide," said Nancy Stout, Dale's wife. "I never would've expected it, especially after the way (Jay) was at (Dale's) funeral — just sad and upset to the point that he couldn't talk."

Thursday, a day after her brother-in-law died, there was still no indication as to what led him to take his own life.

Stout, the longest-serving fire chief in Pinellas County when he retired, had just turned 62 a week ago and was barely a year into his retirement.

Family, colleagues and friends did not return telephone messages. They said they were too grief-stricken to talk.

"The city, Stout family or members of the department don't wish to respond," Stout's successor, fire Chief Joe Accetta, wrote in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "Please respect these wishes as the community mourns the loss of a retired fire chief and friend."

City Manager Matt Spoor followed up with an e-mail message of his own. "The City of Safety Harbor has said all that we wish to say at this point in time," he wrote.

Authorities have not disclosed the manner in which Stout took his life.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was waiting on toxicology results and reviewing 911 calls "to make sure everything connects," spokesman Tom Nestor said.

"So far, everything seems to be consistent with what they're being told at the scene. However, they're not discussing anything further until they get all of the evidence back from the Medical Examiner's Office, interview everybody and review everything."

Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office, said the office had performed an autopsy. "Right now, the cause of death is pending," he said.

Nancy Stout said she has not spoken with her husband's family since his funeral, although her Hamilton Avenue home is a half-mile from her brother's-in-law Marshall Street home, the scene of Wednesday's suicide.

"They did not associate with me," Nancy Stout said. "It was really strange."

According to a Sheriff's Office report from 2005, she had told investigators she caught Dale Stout taking her muscle relaxer medication. Nancy Stout has multiple sclerosis.

They argued and she threatened to leave him, the report said. Dale Stout got his 9mm Colt 2000 and went outside; Nancy Stout went into the bathroom and took a shower.

She was still in the bathroom when the Sheriff's Office entered her home and told her that her husband was lying in the grass with a gunshot wound to his head.

"He was the life of the party," Nancy Stout said Thursday. "Very outgoing, just a fun-loving guy. Somebody you would not expect to do what he did."

She sought counseling for two years to cope with her husband's death.

"You have a tendency to blame yourself especially if you do have words with somebody," she said. "No matter what you say to somebody, it's their choice. You know what I mean? That's an individual's choice."

She said if she could share anything with Jay Stout's wife and daughter, it would be that.

"It's not your fault," Nancy Stout said. "No matter what it is, it's not your fault. No matter what."

News researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at or (727) 445-4167.

Retired Safety Harbor fire chief's suicide evokes brother's death 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:08pm]
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