Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Stone in woods marks Tarpon Springs spot where homeless men were shot

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TARPON SPRINGS — The garden stone rests in tangled weeds growing below a crooked chain-link fence just feet away from Walton Avenue.

Embellished with colored tile pieces and the word "God," the stone was placed there by victim advocate Sherry Clester to honor two homeless men shot on the spot earlier this month.

Brian C. Kennedy, 56, died. His friend, Larry J. Schuff, 54, was critically injured and remains hospitalized.

Thursday evening, Clester dropped by to place white carnations and a blue bandanna atop the circular stone, which was donated by St. Timothy Lutheran Church, where Schuff and Kennedy went for meals on Thursdays.

Kennedy's sister asked Clester, who works in the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, to place a bandanna there in remembrance of her brother, known for always wrapping one around his head.

"He has a place here," Clester said. "He has a resting place."

About 2:30 p.m. Aug. 5, an employee at the Florida Capital Bank, 710 E Tarpon Ave., called 911 after hearing gunshots behind the building. A black man wearing red shorts and a white shirt ran south on Walton Avenue, she told police.

Officers searched the wooded area behind the bank and discovered Kennedy and Schuff with gunshot wounds. The men were rushed to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where Kennedy died.

Nearly two weeks after the shooting, no one has been arrested. Tarpon Springs police have released few details, only disclosing that the investigation remains active.

Schuff is in critical but stable condition at Bayfront, police said. State records show he has been arrested numerous times for trespassing and was convicted of animal cruelty. Detectives have been unable to find his family.

Police were able to locate Kennedy's relatives, including his sister, Donna Taylor.

Taylor said her brother was born in Hartford, Conn., and worked in boat yards in the Tampa Bay area. He met a girl. They married, moved to Michigan and had three children.

In Michigan, Kennedy worked at a railroad until he was laid off. The family moved back to Florida. The couple eventually divorced and his wife and children headed back north.

"They all lost contact with each other. My brother pretty much went downhill from that point," Taylor said. "He just could never get out of that rut."

Florida records show Kennedy had a string of arrests and prison sentences dating back to the 1980s, on charges including car theft and burglary. For the past nine years, Kennedy was homeless, Taylor said.

A few years ago, Taylor and her mother tracked him down in Florida. They asked him to move to Wewoka, Okla., with them. He refused.

"I truly believe he became accustomed to that lifestyle," she said.

Kennedy's two other brothers also ended up living on the streets of Florida.

In February 2008, Craig Kennedy, 49, got into a brawl near a St. Petersburg soup kitchen for calling a man "derogatory terms for a homosexual person," police said that year. The man punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Craig Kennedy sustained a severe head injury and died at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

The other brother, Erin Kennedy, is homeless in Lakeland, but will soon be moving in with a friend, Taylor said.

For days, Taylor delayed telling her 87-year-old mother, recently diagnosed with cancer, about the latest death in the family. The weekend after the shooting, she finally told her mother she had lost another son.

"She was telling me that for the past week or so, she's been thinking so much about Brian," Taylor said, "and wondering where he was, and just had a motherly sense that something might have happened."

Times news researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157.

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