ST. PETERSBURG — Rodney Blanchard hated cats.
But the 49-year-old, who worked in construction and liked to drink Natural Ice on the weekends, lived with several at Vagabond Mobile Home Park.
His buddy and roommate, Francis "Franny" James Bahr, 55, kept two adult cats and twice as many kittens at the mobile home. Blanchard was known to feed them from time to time.
This weekend, however, Bahr went to jail on charges that he shot two people at the mobile home park across the street.
And Blanchard's son, who moved in several months ago, disappeared after being accused of participating in the shooting.
Rodney Blanchard took it hard, friends said.
"He was acting a little more different than usual," said friend and neighbor Eve Mulder. "Everything was a little edgy, with the shooting and everything. … I could see it in his face, it was really bothering him."
Mulder stopped by the blue trailer the three men shared on Sunday evening. She downed a couple of Bud Light beers. She's not sure how much alcohol he'd had at that point.
"He was pretty drunk," said Mulder, 38, a stay-at-home mom.
Blanchard started talking about the shooting, about how upset and worried he was for his son. Then he mentioned someone was coming to pick up the cats the next morning.
Then he asked Mulder to get him a beer out of his freezer.
She lifted the lid of his chest freezer and heard meowing. She saw movement inside clear plastic sandwich bags on the bottom shelf.
"There was no beer, of course," she said.
There were kittens. Four of them. Three were alive, one was dead. Mulder recognized them as the ones she would bring her toddler over to play with occasionally. She reached in to get them.
Blanchard shoved her back, then ordered her off the property. "It freaked me out," she said. "I was terrified. That's just inhumane to me, it's not right and it's sick. I don't know what was going on in his mind. He was trying to kill them."
Mulder ran home and called 911.
Deputies arrived at the park for the second time in two days and arrested Blanchard on animal cruelty charges. They would return the next day for a third time, to arrest Damian Blanchard, 24, also charged with attempted murder.
All three men remain in the Pinellas County Jail.
Mulder is still struggling to reconcile the conflicting feelings she has about them.
She said Blanchard once helped her family when they were going through financial trouble. She said Bahr, who worked on-call for a moving company, was a loner and quiet.
Sheriff's investigators say Bahr shot a man and woman at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park early Saturday morning. Bahr wanted a relationship with the woman, but had been rebuffed. Damian Blanchard is accused of helping to lure the pair out of the home.
"I'm still in shock … about all this stuff," Mulder said. "I'm baffled. … It's been a rough weekend. It's been a really rough weekend."
Pinellas detectives returned Tuesday to the two mobile home parks, on 46th Avenue N east of Park Street, searching for more evidence. Both victims are still in critical condition.
Officials at the SPCA said the kittens will eventually be put up for adoption. Authorities there said they have no record of Rodney Blanchard calling about the cats before Sunday.
On Tuesday morning, after Mulder got her older daughter off to school, she noticed a plywood sign leaning against her own trailer.
Someone had written a message in black marker.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.
See the Vagabond Mobile Home Park and hear Eve Mulder talk about discovering the kittens. Watch the video at links.tampabay.com