Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Son held in murder of mom, boyfriend at Oldsmar home

OLDSMAR — Benjamin K. Bishop walked into his mother's bedroom in the middle of the night.

He held a sawed-off shotgun.

Bishop, 18, had a history of mental illness, addiction to bath salts and violence toward his mother, Imari Shibata, 49, a nursing assistant, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Shibata and her boyfriend, Kelley Allen, also 49, a popular swim coach, were so concerned for their safety they removed all the knives from their home before Bishop returned in September from a 10-month stint at a rehab center.

Startled by her son that night, Shibata looked at him and the 12-gauge shotgun he bought through a friend, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Sunday. She asked her son what he was doing. Bishop answered by pulling the trigger.

He fired several times, reloaded, then fired again — eight rounds total, killing his mother and her boyfriend, the sheriff said. Then he called 911 and admitted to the crime.

Deputies arrived at the home at 205 Cedar Key Court shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday and arrested Bishop on two counts of first-degree murder, Gualtieri said at a news conference.

Bishop is unemployed and a diagnosed schizophrenic, Gualtieri said. His mother had fought with him Saturday because she wanted him to take his medicine, get a job and start paying rent.

"Apparently, Benjamin became very upset with his mother because he didn't like the medication," Gualtieri said. "He felt that the medication was killing him. So he decided that he was going to kill his mother and her boyfriend."

While neighbors struggled to come to terms with the idea that the odd kid who liked to hang out in his front yard at all hours of the night is charged with killing his mom, swimmers here and across the country struggled to come to terms with the fact that the energetic, ever-positive man they knew as Coach Kelley is dead.

• • •

Bishop tried to strangle his mother in July 2011, authorities said Sunday, and probation for that incident prevented him from being able to buy a gun.

On July 26, 2011, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, Bishop was arrested on charges of obstructing justice by tampering with a witness and domestic battery by strangulation, both felonies. The counts were reduced to a lesser battery charge, the records show, and he pleaded guilty. A judge withheld adjudication and the teen was sentenced this year.

Bishop also had been held four times under the state's Baker Act, Gualtieri said.

A few weeks ago, Bishop told an 18-year-old friend he needed a gun for protection from local gangs. He gave the friend $279 he had made by pawning electronic items, according to the Sheriff's Office. The sheriff would not release the friend's name but said he was being questioned.

Bishop hid the gun in the attic for a few weeks, then moved it to his bedroom dresser days ago.

According to his Facebook profile, Bishop attended Tarpon Springs High School. He did not graduate, the sheriff said, but received a GED instead.

Shibata divorced Joey Bishop, Benjamin's father, in 2009, according to county records. Bishop's father and a 13-year-old brother live in Palm Harbor.

The Sheriff's Office said Shibata was a nursing assistant, but did not say where she worked. She was in the process of applying for a Florida cosmetology license to specialize in facials, state records show. She previously had a license but let it expire in 2008.

Her former husband could not be reached, and neighbors said they knew little about her.

Allen had been Bishop's swim coach when the teen was younger, authorities said, but they also did not get along. Bishop told deputies he "had a discussion with Allen over the laundry" Saturday, in addition to the fight he had with his mother.

Those who know Allen for his work as a swim coach at Westchase Swim and Tennis Center knew about the problems with Bishop. Allen had told several parents his girlfriend's son was intent on hurting her, said Rachel Sellers, president of the Westchase swim team's booster club.

"He was always so worried that something bad was going to happen," she said. "You could tell that they really just weren't getting the help they needed."

• • •

There are hundreds of swimmers across the region and the country who learned to swim from Kelley Allen, friends said Sunday. Allen was a longtime coach at Westchase for Tampa Bay Aquatics, a private swim club, and also ran the Little Flippers program for the Westchase Homeowners Association, teaching children of all ages to swim.

"He's going to be irreplaceable," said Susan Curnutte, 55, a colleague of Allen's at Tampa Bay Aquatics who knew him for more than 20 years. "Kelley never spoke a bad word to a swimmer, ever. Even if you didn't have a good swim, he made each child feel like he was the best swimmer in the pool."

Allen, who swam in college at Georgia Southern University, was named Florida Swimming Age Group Coach of the Year for 2010.

Sunday afternoon, about 100 swimmers and family members gathered at Westchase Swim and Tennis Center to talk about Allen, to honor him and to remember him. They talked about the man with the reputation for pacing frenetically alongside the pool during meets and practices, practically swimming the race along with his kids, pushing his arms through the air like he wanted them to push through the water.

"It's tragic," Curnutte said. "It's horrible. Pointless. Senseless."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

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