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St. Petersburg motel manager found dead in his room

ST. PETERSBURG — Yellow crime scene tape was stretched across the parking lot. Detectives and crime scene technicians conferred outside. It was a familiar scene at the Inn on the Hill, the 34th Street motel that has seen violence and death over the years.

The latest: The motel's manager was found dead Tuesday morning, according to St. Petersburg police, after suffering trauma to his upper body.

Police did not identify the 54-year-old victim because they were still trying to notify the next of kin.

The live-in manager had been having medical problems, according to police spokesman Mike Puetz, which was why motel staffers became concerned when they couldn't rouse him.

"The maids needed access to the rooms. They were trying to wake him up," Puetz said. "They were knocking on the door. His vehicle was there, but he wasn't answering."

They called the motel's owner in Lee County. He called the police. It was 9 a.m. when officers entered the room at 275 34th St. S and found the victim dead inside. He had last been seen alive Monday evening.

Daniel Davis, 30, screamed and cursed when he learned who the victim was. The manager was a "nice guy" who paid him to do odd jobs, Davis said. He said the manager also helped clean up the place a bit.

"He wouldn't put up with anything," Davis said. "My grandmother lives nearby. She used to fear the place. Since he's been here, she hasn't."

The owner declined to comment Tuesday.

The manager was a generous person who had worked and lived there for years, another resident said. The manager cooked an annual Thanksgiving dinner for residents and even shared it with passersby.

The vacancy sign was lit Tuesday afternoon. Rooms go for $40 a day or $200 a week. But some people have made the motel their home.

Drugs and prostitution are known to plague sections of 34th Street.

Violence also has plagued the Inn on the Hill. In 2003, a 45-year-old man was shot in the head on the second-floor balcony. He survived.

The next year, a 42-year-old man was stabbed to death at the motel after police said he threatened another man with a rifle. The two men had been quarrelling. It was ruled self-defense, and no one was charged.

In 2008, another argument led to the shooting death of a 26-year-old man. A suspect was arrested.

"They're always taking bodies out of there," Davis said.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

St. Petersburg motel manager found dead in his room 09/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 9:40pm]
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