Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two die in blaze at mobile home

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue workers inspect a burned mobile home at 12224 N Florida Ave. in Tampa. Authorities are not releasing the identity of two bodies found in the home.


Hillsborough County Fire Rescue workers inspect a burned mobile home at 12224 N Florida Ave. in Tampa. Authorities are not releasing the identity of two bodies found in the home.

TAMPA — Paul was a rapist, and his friend Paul was a killer. State records made this clear. They had met in prison and now they were getting old.

The Pauls paid their societal debts and settled down together in the Hi Pines Manufactured Home Community, off Florida Avenue north of the city, in a white mobile home set about with orange and lemon trees.

The neighbors thought they were nice men. They may have known the truth, or even the whole truth, or maybe nothing. But the Pauls seemed to be done causing trouble.

"They were good respectable neighbors of mine," said Wende Del Rio, 63. It was Friday morning and the air smelled faintly of smoke.

"They treated us super," said her husband, Joe.

Both men were 67 years old.

Paul Price was the rapist. According to the Florida criminal history database, he was convicted of child sexual molestation in Sarasota in 1976. He was convicted of strong-arm rape with a weapon in Pinellas County in 1978. He pleaded no contest to aggravated assault in Tampa in 1999. By the end he was working on a streak of three years, seven months and five days without an arrest. He had cirrhosis of the liver, and he smoked, and he used an oxygen tank.

Paul Brinson was the killer. After a string of gambling arrests in Tampa in the '60s and '70s, he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1981. He was sentenced to 30 years, got out on parole, violated parole, and finished his prison sentence in 2004. He soon became the best customer of the Sit N' Bull, a bar on Nebraska Avenue.

The Sit N' Bull is dark and smoky, with a Crock Pot of boiled peanuts by the beer taps. It opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. Brinson was there every day before it opened.

He drank draft Budweiser and loved Barry White. He played Jungle Boogie on the jukebox again and again. But he didn't always come to drink. Often he just sat outside for hours, watching the cars go by.

"How much is my tab, baby?" he used to ask Tara Jennings, a bartender with long dark hair and a spider tattooed on her left shoulder.

"Five dollars," Jennings would say.

"There ain't that much money in the world," Brinson would say. "Do you want me to rob a bank?"

Early Friday morning, the bar owner saw something on the TV news about a fire at Hi Pines. She got to the Sit N' Bull and Brinson was not there, and then she knew.

About 2 a.m. Friday, the neighbors heard something like dynamite. They saw a white light and a cloud of black smoke. Price's oxygen tank had exploded.

Authorities said they weren't sure what caused the fire, and they didn't release the names of the dead.

They pulled two bodies from the wreckage. The neighbors all figured it was the Pauls.

A friend named Margarita came by about noon, in the unmerciful sun, to see what had happened. She would not give her last name. She said she hoped they didn't suffer, and she figured they were in heaven, or something.

The Pauls had a younger woman who lived with them and looked after them. Melinda Abernathy was her name. She was playing dominoes at another friend's house Thursday night when she decided to sleep over. That decision may have saved her life.

Abernathy also came by about noon. She looked through the windows and saw everything painted black. A muffled sob came out.

"Jesus," she said, almost to herself.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at or (813) 226-3416.

Two die in blaze at mobile home 08/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Chris Archer, 25,000 Cubs fans and Tampa Bay's painful truth

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The biggest ovation inside Tropicana Field on Tuesday night was not for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who was returning for the first time since managing the Rays.

    "W" flags fly in the stands after the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Rays Tuesday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. A rendering of the Bucs' indoor practice facility.
  3. Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise


    Well, that didn't take long.

    After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

    A scene from "The Lego Ninjago Movie." (Warner Bros.)
  4. Irma slows curbside trash service in Pasco


    Hurricane Irma brought a hiccup to twice-weekly curbside trash service in Pasco County.

Pasco officials are asking for patience about the slow pace of residential trash service from private haulers. In some areas, trash hasn't been collected since Friday, Sept. 8, because of the volume of waste left after Hurricane Irma.
  5. Clemson reunion for Bucs' Adam Humphries, Vikings' Mackensie Alexander


    Bucs receiver Adam Humphries will have a familiar face lining up against him Sunday when he's in the slot and the Vikings have Mackensie Alexander guarding him as their nickel defensive back.

    Bucs wide receiver Adam Humphries (10) makes a reception before being tackled by Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]