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Woman found dead in canal behind New Port Richey home

Rose Vrehopoulou, right, and Carmela Gavinelli talk about the sudden death of longtime friend Vickie Petrakis. 

ALEX ORLANDO | Times

Rose Vrehopoulou, right, and Carmela Gavinelli talk about the sudden death of longtime friend Vickie Petrakis. 

NEW PORT RICHEY — Rose Vrehopoulou got a call from her longtime friend last week.

"What day do you want to go shopping?" asked Vickie Petrakis, 76.

"Tuesday," Vrehopoulou, 85, told her over the phone.

That was the last time they spoke.

So she was puzzled Monday morning when she saw Petrakis' car sitting in the driveway of Vrehopoulou's home at 5003 Forecastle Drive in Gulf Harbors, a west Pasco neighborhood where canals are as plentiful as streets. Petrakis was a day early. And nowhere to be found.

Vrehopoulou called Petrakis' husband, James.

"Your car is in my driveway," she told him. "Where is your wife?"

James Petrakis came to look for her. They checked across the street at Salome Prencipe's house. Prencipe hadn't seen her, either.

"Did you check the canal?" she asked.

At about 11:40 a.m., the small search party walked back to Vrehopoulou's house, to the canal behind it. From the dock, Prencipe said, they saw Petrakis at the bottom.

Authorities arrived and pulled her body from the water.

It remains unclear why Petrakis went to her friend's house that morning and how she made it into the water. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said there were no obvious signs of foul play but they were still investigating. James Petrakis declined to speak to reporters.

Vrehopoulou and Petrakis, who lived several miles away at 2624 Tottenham Drive, had been friends for years. Both Greek, they bonded over coffee and shopping trips. Vrehopoulou doesn't drive, so Petrakis would take her and her sisters on errands. Neighbors called the group the Golden Girls.

Carmela Gavinelli, 76, called Vrehopoulou to the edge of the sheriff's line tape that circled the yard so she could ask her what happened. They hugged. Vrehopoulou buried her face in her friend's shoulder.

Alex Orlando can be reached at aorlando@tampabay.com or at (727) 869-6247.

Woman found dead in canal behind New Port Richey home 12/10/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 10, 2012 9:29pm]
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