Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Public safety

'Homicidal violence' kills two men found amid St. Petersburg house fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Police homicide detectives are investigating how two men died amid a suspicious blaze in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood Sunday afternoon.

The men, whose names and ages have not been released, died of "homicidal violence," a St. Petersburg police spokesman said, declining to provide details.

The blaze occurred about 1:30 p.m. at 2635 Fourth Ave. N, a single-family, one-story house built in 1930 and last sold in 2010.

A victim's vehicle was missing from the scene, detectives learned. Police were looking for a black, 2004 Ford pickup truck with a personalized license plate of "AREK," which is also painted on the front of the truck.

The tailgate has two devil horns painted on each side of the Ford emblem. A devil's tail is also under the emblem, police said.

Anyone with information on the pickup's location was asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 893-7780.

Arson investigators and crime scene technicians spent hours combing through the home for evidence. An arson dog was brought in to help.

Weather was not a factor in causing the blaze, said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata.

"It's a little unusual in the middle of the day," Granata said two hours after the blaze started. "There are a lot of things odd in this situation."

He declined to elaborate on the "oddities and suspicious" things connected to the fire.

When firefighters arrived, they found one man already dead in the burning structure, Granata said. The other male victim was found hours later under rubble in the laundry room.

Firefighters had to exit the home because intense heat caused the roof to collapse, Granata added. None of the firefighters was injured.

The blaze appeared to have started in the rear of the home near the laundry room and kitchen.

One victim, a friend of the owner, was staying at the house, Granata said.

The owner was not at home at the time of the fire, but returned to find the house ablaze.

A man identified by neighbors as the homeowner stood behind police tape with his partner and hugged friends as they arrived.

He declined to speak with reporters.

After speaking to police officers several times, the man waved goodbye to firefighters drinking bottled water on the rear of a fire engine. He and his partner left down Fourth Avenue.

Laura Bechtel, who lives three doors away from the burned home, has never talked to the owner.

Her 8-year-old daughter, Stella, was playing with friends in the back yard of another house and spotted smoke spewing from the bungalow.

After Stella alerted Bechtel, she darted outside and learned that someone else had already called 911.

Firefighters, she said, arrived within minutes. By that time, the home was engulfed in flames.

"It's very, very surreal," Bechtel said. "It's a sad way to meet your neighbors. We watched as it burned."

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Comments
Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Law enforcement and federal immigration officials will announce today new efforts around the use of immigration detainers.The detainers, or requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that local jails hold onto people suspected of being in...
Updated: 12 hours ago

St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY — The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang.Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton is th...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Man shot, runs for help to Bahama Breeze with suspects following

TAMPA — Attackers shot a Tampa man Monday night as he sat in his car then chased him as he fled to a nearby restaurant to get help, Tampa police said.The victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.The incident occurre...
Published: 01/16/18

Man pistol-whipped resisting home invasion in Wimauma

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office is looking for three men who broke into a Wimauma mobile home Tuesday morning, beat one of the residents with a pistol, stole cash and carjacked a vehicle to make their getaway.The incident occurred around 5:4...
Published: 01/16/18
Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

By Zachary T. SampsonTimes Staff WriterLong before a shuttle ship from Tropical Breeze Casino caught fire Sunday off the coast of Port Richey, leaving one passenger dead, the company behind the operation was a source of controversy.The casino operato...
Published: 01/16/18
Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Heartbreak and jealously were the twin engines driving the scheme, police would later say. Ishnar Marie Lopez-Ramos was in love. The object of the 35-year-old Floridian’s affection, however, was tangled up with another woman. To solve her hear...
Published: 01/16/18

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Published: 01/16/18

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Published: 01/16/18