Pamela Kok stood in the scorched front yard of her parents' home Wednesday morning. She held a shell casing in her hand, and she was looking at it as if it held a clue to what had happened the night before.
Someone asked her what got into her 24-year-old nephew that made him fire several guns, and then set the house ablaze.
"I don't know. Drugs, I guess," said Kok, 62, of Safety Harbor, the daughter of longtime Pinellas County educator O'Cain Thumbtzen.
Kok's father died Saturday at the age of 93. Her mother, Evelyn, is in Lake City, where the memorial service will be held. Desmond Thumbtzen, Kok's nephew and O'Cain's grandson, had been house-sitting for his grandparents at 2796 Robinwood Drive in an unincorporated area near Clearwater. Kok said she called him about 9 Tuesday night, and everything was fine.
Something changed over the next three-plus hours, though, because about 12:45 a.m. the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office received calls from several neighbors reporting that shots were being fired in the area of Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park Cemetery. When deputies got there, they saw Thumbtzen coming out of his garage, randomly firing a weapon in the air, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.
Deputies watched Thumbtzen enter and exit the home for several minutes. Eventually, deputies approached him as he came out of the house unarmed and used a Taser to subdue him and take him into custody, Barreda said. Arson detectives said Thumbtzen set multiple fires inside his home around the same time deputies were present. No one was injured.
Clearwater Fire and Rescue responded to battle the fire overtaking the home. Barreda said the house was engulfed when firefighters arrived.
There was no one else in the house, but there were two German shepherds in the back yard, and a large green parrot. The dogs weren't harmed, but the parrot died.
Thumbtzen was charged with arson, discharging a firearm, animal cruelty and probation violation for an unrelated battery charge stemming from a November arrest.
O'Cain Thumbtzen was former principal at Clearwater's North Ward Elementary School, Tarpon Springs Elementary and 16th Street School in St. Petersburg, Kok said.