Sunday, May 27, 2018
Public safety

Shooting death near Weeki Wachee in May ruled justifiable homicide

BROOKSVILLE — Four months ago, after Joshua Harth fatally shot 68-year-old George Avedissian, detectives would say only that the shooting happened during an altercation between the two men.

The case was turned over to the State Attorney's Office for review. On Monday, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said the shooting appeared to be a case of justifiable homicide and that Harth, who was 24 at the time, will not be charged with a crime.

"From the materials submitted by law enforcement and other related agencies, it was determined that the death of Mr. Avedissian was caused by justifiable use of deadly force as a result of deadly combat," Magrino said.

A memo Magrino penned for his office's file includes Harth's account of what happened on May 23 and some evidence in the case that led to Magrino's decision not to charge him.

Harth was renting a room at Avedissian's home at 8743 Ostrom Way, north of Weeki Wachee. About 8 p.m. that evening, Harth was awakened by Avedissian banging on the bedroom door. Harth said Avedissian was complaining about an open can of soup left in the kitchen as he kicked in the door.

The argument escalated. Avedissian left and returned with a 9mm carbine rifle and told Harth to leave the house. Harth said he went out to the back yard and Avedissian fired the rifle and ran at Harth with the gun still pointed at him. There was a struggle, and Harth took the rifle and fired.

Avedissian was hit once in the lower abdomen and once in the lower back. Harth tossed the gun down, called 911 and said he shot Avedissian during a struggle. In an interview with detectives, Harth was "crying and upset at times while also stating on more than one occasion that he thought (Avedissian) was going to kill him," Magrino wrote.

Detectives found signs of forced entry to the bedroom, a soup can in the bedroom and a bullet hole in the rear lanai.

Another man who rented a room at the house was not home at the time but told detectives there was disharmony between Harth and Avedissian that appeared to be prompted by Avedissian. The man also described Avedissian as an alcoholic who became aggressive in the afternoons and was "subject to outbursts usually directed at Harth."

An autopsy revealed Avedissian had a blood-alcohol level of 0.106 at the time of his death. Florida law presumes a motorist to be impaired at a level of 0.08.

In the memo, Magrino noted that Florida law defines homicide as excusable when "committed by accident and misfortune in … or upon sudden combat." The courts have expanded the concept of excusable homicide to include the use of a weapon during sudden combat. Magrino said the lead detective on the case agreed with the decision.

Magrino does not cite the state's controversial stand your ground law, which says a person "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground" if he or she thinks deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery.

Harth could not be reached for comment. The Times has been unable to reach Avedissian's family members.

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.

Comments
Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

NEW PORT RICHEYDriver surrenders after crash that kills bicyclistThe driver Florida Highway Patrol troopers say struck and killed a bicyclist then drove from the scene turned herself in Sunday afternoon.Shanna Marie Rampino surrendered a 2000 Toyota ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

None injured in Trinity rehab center fire

TRINITY ó No one was hurt Sunday morning after a fire broke out at a rehabilitation center.According to Pasco County Fire Rescue, Trinity Regional Rehab Center at 2144 Welbilt Blvd. is running on generator power after the blaze broke out about 10:30 ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
FHP: 30-year-old motorcyclist killed in Hudson crash

FHP: 30-year-old motorcyclist killed in Hudson crash

HUDSON ó A 30-year-old man died after he was struck by a car and thrown off the motorcycle he was riding.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Derek Fingerle, of Hudson, was traveling south on U.S. 19 in the center lane about 8:20 p.m. Saturday. M...
Published: 05/27/18
Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said. Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in th...
Published: 05/26/18
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE ó A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Published: 05/26/18

Police investigating shooting outside nightclub

ST. PETERSBURG ó Police are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred outside a south St. Petersburg nightclub early Saturday morning.Brennan-Aire D. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by cab at Bayfront Health. Police invest...
Published: 05/26/18

Woman dies in Plant City after SUV flips off road

PLANT CITY ó A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Published: 05/26/18
Getting popped for trespassing at Starbucks: Itís not always like Philadelphia

Getting popped for trespassing at Starbucks: Itís not always like Philadelphia

ST. PETERSBURG ó She didnít mean to, but inside Starbucks with her headphones on, Amanda Adams got comfortable and fell asleep. Two police officers woke her and escorted her outside."It was humiliating," the 34-year-old said. "I didnít realize I fell...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Quick action to slow traffic on Bayshore prompts call to do more citywide

Quick action to slow traffic on Bayshore prompts call to do more citywide

TAMPA — As city workers set up signs Friday establishing a lower speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, neighborhood residents and transportation activists urged more steps to improve safety for pedestrians all across the city. The move is a good ...
Published: 05/26/18
Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in childís death

Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in childís death

The 18-year-old who was arrested this week after police said he was racing when he fatally struck a young mother pushing her stroller across Bayshore Boulevard was back in jail on Friday night.Cameron Herrin, 18, was arrested on a second count of veh...
Published: 05/25/18