Tarpon Springs man in neighborhood dispute threatens violence in letter to state attorney

TARPON SPRINGS — A Tarpon Springs man who threatened to kill his neighbors had written a letter to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe last spring, saying he would use deadly force if McCabe didn't help him.

Robert J. Wirth Jr., who was arrested in August on a charge of aggravated stalking, had been tangled in a long-running dispute with his neighbors for repeatedly walking his dog, Cole, without a leash.

That was a violation of the rules of the River Watch Home­owners Association. And the criminal charge stemmed from threats he had made against board members of the association, which filed a foreclosure suit against Wirth and his wife seven years ago after Wirth refused to pay a $1,000 fine for breaking the leash rules.

A judge sided with the association, Wirth appealed and by April 2009, Wirth was worried he might lose his home, which is owned by his wife, Sandra L. Blaker. If that happened, he told a reporter, he would shoot and kill a board member.

About a week later, in a letter titled "By Certified Mail Request for Assistance and Notice of Intent to Use Deadly Force Under Florida's Stand your Ground Law," Wirth pleaded with McCabe to prosecute his neighbors for numerous alleged illegal acts related to the fine and the lawsuit.

He said the board was elected improperly and didn't have the right to fine him at all.

"If you won't help us then I'm going to protect my wife, my home and my property with deadly force under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law," he wrote.

Wirth, 53, closed the correspondence telling McCabe that, if he thinks Wirth is mistaken about his right to use deadly force, to explain why.

The state's Stand Your Ground Law basically says people are justified in the use of deadly force to defend themselves if they have a reasonable fear of death or physical harm.

The St. Petersburg Times learned about the letter after reviewing information from the State Attorney's Office on Friday. Wirth didn't return a call seeking comment.

It's not clear if McCabe ever got the letter. Lt. Barbara Templeton, Tarpon Springs Police Department's spokeswoman, said she was informed that the letter was sent to him. McCabe's secretary said she didn't have a record of the letter in her log. McCabe didn't return calls for comment on Friday.

A copy of the letter was delivered to Tarpon Springs police in April, according to a sworn statement for a search warrant. The letter was inside an envelope that indicated it was from Wirth and was addressed to two officers who had interviewed Wirth about a week earlier.

Wirth was interviewed by police after a reporter contacted the department about Wirth's threats.

During the interview, Wirth said he made the statements to warn people that, if he has to defend his wife and home, he will do so at any cost, the report said.

"I don't want suicide by cop or anything like that, but if I have to use violence to protect my wife and my house from being taken I will," Wirth said, according to the report.

The following month, Wirth went on Inside Edition, showed off his guns and said, "I am going to use deadly force against board members and I have the guns to do it."

Around that time, his appeal filed two years ago was heading toward a conclusion.

And Wirth lost that appeal in July.

Wirth, who was also arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, was released on $20,500 bail the day after his Aug. 20 arrest.

Three of the five board members told police they were in fear for their safety and the safety of their families.

In a handwritten statement, one board member whose name was redacted by the State Attorney's Office said the "neighborhood has been held hostage for the past several years."

Wrote another: "This man has nothing (except his home) to lose. In the end, he will be dead this I know. How many will be dead before he is?"

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Tarpon Springs man in neighborhood dispute threatens violence in letter to state attorney 01/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2010 8:03pm]

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