PLANT CITY — They grew up like twins, just 11 months apart and in the same grade at Plant City High School.
Beverly Crumley loved her little brother, though she did not keep in touch with him after a tiff in 2008. He died late Saturday, shot multiple times by his 17-year-old son.
As authorities tell it, Crumley's brother, 36-year-old Christopher Thorpe, is both victim and villain.
Thorpe began beating and choking his wife, Jill Thorpe, during an argument at their home, deputies said.
A small group of family and friends was gathered around a bonfire outside the mobile home at 7427 Burnt Barn Ave. in rural northeastern Hillsborough County.
The couple's fight moved from the living room to the master bedroom.
That's when Channing Thorpe kicked in the master bedroom door and defended his mother with a .44 Magnum revolver, similar to the gun Clint Eastwood's character used in Dirty Harry.
Channing shot his father multiple times in the torso, deputies say, then called 911. Someone tried CPR, but Christopher Thorpe died before paramedics could take him to the hospital.
On Monday, Crumley did not condemn her nephew's actions, though she questioned them.
"I think it could have been handled differently," she said. "Maybe he could have called the cops. But it might have been too late. I don't know."
She said she had not spoken to her nephew or Jill Thorpe, who was released from the hospital with a bullet wound to her leg.
Deputies released no additional information Monday and said the case is still under investigation. The Hillsborough County State Attorney's office will review the case and decide whether any charges are warranted.
Meanwhile, Christopher Thorpe's family gathered in Plant City, remembering a funny man and a hard worker.
"He's just a wonderful person," Crumley said. "He loved to hunt and fish."
They used to have cookouts together. Christopher was a great sportsman, she said. He would hunt turkeys, hog, deer — sometimes alligator.
Their mother, Evelyn Thorpe, said simply: "He's ours. We loved him."
Crumley also used to be close with her nephew and sister-in-law, Jill Thorpe. She was "like a sister," Crumley said. The whole family was close, she said.
"We just don't know what to say or think," Crumley said.
She said her brother did have a temper. The siblings fell out over an argument about Crumley's ex-boyfriend.
She said she did not know about any domestic violence issues at the house. Hillsborough County deputies say they never went to the Thorpe home for any domestic issues.
"I don't know what goes on behind closed doors over there," Crumley said. "Nobody knows."
Other members of Christopher Thorpe's family are traveling to Plant City from Texas, North Carolina and Missouri. He leaves three siblings and four half-siblings. The family is making funeral plans.
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.