TAMPA — Behind the yellow police tape and in front of dozens of onlookers, two mothers fell to the ground in grief.
Dale T. Matthews, 19, lay fatally shot Tuesday morning inside a home at Louisiana Avenue and 34th Street. Police found a baby bottle on his chest, and his infant daughter, unharmed and crying, in a bedroom.
As detectives combed through the east Tampa house and reporters set up for a news conference, Matthews' mom, Nettie McBride, 42, drove up and ran past the crime scene tape toward the home.
"Where is my grandbaby? Where is my son?" she yelled at the officers. "Where's she at? Let me in my house, please. Where is my grandbaby?"
After she heard of her son's death, she crumpled to the ground, wailing.
An officer appeared at the door. In his arms he held a baby wrapped in a pink blanket.
The crowd of onlookers, who had been chatting and milling around, fell quiet.
"Can somebody get me a glass of ice water for her?" Tampa police Cpl. Robin Penix called out to the crowd.
Neighbor Annette Myers brought water for McBride.
Myers, too, felt the pain of losing Matthews. He had been the godfather for one of her grandsons, and she said he could always be counted on to be there for the boy. At a recent birthday party, Matthews brought his godson clothes and even brought a video game player for the boy's brother.
A slim, young woman in a nursing scrubs top crossed the police tape toward McBride. She reached out her arms and dropped to the ground.
McBride had called Sierra Sam at work with the news that something bad had happened at 3222 Louisiana Ave. Renee Miller, director of the True Holiness Church Childcare, took the call. She and Sam drove to the house.
Sam saw all the people and the police cars and got out in the middle of the street.
"She was so scared that something happened with the baby," Miller said.
Sam, 20, met Matthews two years ago at a club. They were not married and did not live together, but Matthews helped out when his daughter, Lailah Monique Sam, was born, watching her five days a week so Sam could work.
On Monday night, Sam dropped Lailah off with Matthews at 6:30 p.m.
"He was very responsible," she said. "He was a great father. He was just making a bottle for her."
Police said a friend, whose name was not released, stopped by to exercise with Matthews at 10:20 a.m. He knocked at the front door, but no one answered the door. He could hear a baby crying inside.
Seeing a side door was ajar, the friend stepped in, and saw Matthews lying dead near the kitchen, police said. He ran outside and flagged down an officer.
Investigators discovered Lailah in a back bedroom, and interviewed the friend and three witnesses. But Tuesday evening, police had not released information about any suspect and had made no arrests.
The motive was unclear.
Anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area is asked to call Tampa police at (813) 231-6130.
Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said there's a history of criminal activity at the house.
Matthews had been arrested nine times, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. His arrests include charges of robbery, disturbing the peace on a school campus and cocaine possession. Matthews was a juvenile at the time, and it's unclear how the cases were resolved.
His most recent arrest happened in February 2007, when Hillsborough deputies accused him of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.
As police carried evidence markers out of the house and television crews packed up to leave, Sam stood with McBride, who held Lailah in her arms and tucked the pink blanket tight.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or