SPRING HILL — Streaks of his mother's blood were smeared across the bathroom's white tile floor. When Raymond Carter saw it Sunday morning, her death, at last, felt real.
But that image, he decided, wouldn't become Maria Osterhoudt's memory. Not for him or for his family or for her.
So, in the room where authorities say Osterhoudt's husband, Alan, fired a bullet through the back of her head Saturday night, Carter took a mop and a green and yellow bucket, and he scrubbed the tile. When that wasn't enough, he knelt down on his hands and knees and used a towel. Beneath a silver cross tacked to the wall just feet from where his mother died, Carter cleaned the floor until the memory was gone.
Alan Osterhoudt Jr., Carter's stepfather and the man he called "dad," has been charged with second-degree murder and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail in the Hernando County Detention Center.
After the killing Saturday night, authorities say, Osterhoudt called 911 and told a dispatcher he had done the most heinous thing in his life. He smelled like booze when deputies arrested him. The 61-year-old soon asked for a lawyer and refused to give detectives any information.
Osterhoudt, Carter said, was an alcoholic and had been for years. He mostly drank Budweiser and was fine when he did. Liquor, his stepson said, changed him. It made him aggressive, obnoxious and mean, Carter said. He had never seen Osterhoudt harm his mother, though. The hostility had always just come through his words, never his hands.
"I never thought that he would ever hurt my mom," Carter said Monday. "That damn alcohol was his demon."
Osterhoudt's other hobby was guns. He owned more than 100 of them, Carter said, and was an avid member of the National Rifle Association.
The air-conditioning repairman was, in many ways, oddly paired with the woman he had been with for the past two decades.
Maria Osterhoudt had worked as a professor of computer and web design at the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College over the past 11 years. She earned a bachelor's degree from a college in New Jersey and a master's from the University of Florida. On campus, they called her Professor O.
The 65-year-old was a painter, a jazz pianist and a singer. A Suzuki grand piano sits in her living room. In her youth, she loved the Supremes and even auditioned with her friends for Showtime at the Apollo.
"It didn't go well," said her son, smiling. "They got stage fright."
She adored dogs, especially her 2-year-old border collie/beagle mix, Bo. She took him to the dog park every day. He followed her everywhere, even protecting her body from authorities after she was killed.
"He replaced me," Carter said. "He was definitely my little brother."
A devoted Christian and member of Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church in Clearwater, she was scheduled to lead a black history program there the day after she died.
Her favorite saying was, "I've been truly blessed."
She adopted Carter, 34, in South Carolina when he was 2 years old. They moved to New Jersey after he turned 6. Maria was married at least two times before Osterhoudt, Carter said, but she raised him alone.
"She was the strong one in the family," said her niece, Delana Clark.
She worked three jobs in the Northeast for years, running real estate and tax companies and doing marketing jobs on the side.
Then, when Carter was a young teenager, she met Osterhoudt in a bar. They didn't get married for a decade, but they always enjoyed each other's company.
The couple argued, he said, from the beginning. Carter believed his stepfather was jealous of her success and intelligence, but still, they made the relationship work.
Around Christmas, the two went on a 14-day Caribbean cruise. They both raved about the trip.
Carter last spoke to his mother Friday. They discussed her retirement party, scheduled for May 14. Friends were coming from all over the country to celebrate. Maria asked her son to find a DJ. She was elated.
Carter wasn't sure what Maria would have done in retirement. Stayed busy, he knew, and probably traveled, spoiled Bo and done more gardening, a hobby that always made her happy.
She already built a pair of gardens on the side of her home. One held roses. At its center, she planted a flower known as a "Peace" rose. In full bloom, it shines a light, creamy yellow, her favorite.
Its petals were gone on Monday; at the end of its stems, only withered, brown buds remained.
Reach John Woodrow Cox at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.