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Hillsborough counselor bailed convict out of jail and then, deputies say, shot him

TAMPA — About three weeks ago, a 49-year-old woman paid $250 to bail a 30-year-old man out of jail.

That woman, a mental health counselor, and that man, a former prison inmate, were alone together in an office suite Monday, deputies say, when the woman grabbed her gun and shot the man.

Counselor Sarah A. Hughey has known Arthur Cornelius Howard for several months, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported. It's unclear whether Howard, who was released from a hospital Tuesday, was a client.

His sister says the two had a personal relationship dating back to Howard's release from federal prison in December.

It was an odd pairing, said the sister, Delphanie Thompson, 37.

He has "thug" and "life" tattooed on his arms and has spent most of his adult life behind bars for drug convictions.

Hughey is a licensed mental health counselor who, according to her website, has been practicing in Tampa for 15 years. Property records show that she owns a $248,000 house on an Apollo Beach canal with her husband, Robert Hughey, 55. She has no criminal record.

But Thompson of Orlando said she saw her brother and the counselor together about a dozen times. She said she saw them hold hands and kiss. The three went to Ybor City and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, she said.

On Sept. 29, Hughey paid the $250 needed to bail Howard out of jail on an accessory after the fact charge, according to Orange County court records. He'd been arrested in Hillsborough County on an outstanding warrant.

Hughey didn't return calls left at her house Monday.

No charges have been filed.

The Sheriff's Office is still investigating the shooting, which took place at Hughey's office suite at 9350 Bay Plaza Blvd., just west of Brandon.

Deputies declined to state a possible motive.

Family members learned from a detective that, after the shooting, Hughey reported that Howard had tried to assault her.

Deputies say they're still investigating whether the counselor acted in self-defense.

Howard could not be reached Tuesday for comment. His sister says she expects he will stay with family outside the Tampa Bay area.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough counselor bailed convict out of jail and then, deputies say, shot him 10/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 11:32pm]
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