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Suspect in hotel slaying is arrested

A 25-year-old Broward County man suspected of stalking an Air Force recruiter to a Tampa hotel before shooting him to death was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder. Theodore John Bass, 25, of 3871 SW 58th Ter. was arrested at 7:25 a.m. after police in the Broward County city of Davie received a letter implicating Bass in the murder of Donald Spaide, 30, of nearby Fort Lauderdale. The letter was found by a man who repossessed Bass' 1986 Hyundai late Monday night.

Police would not speculate on the motive in the murder, but Tampa police spokesman Steve Cole said Bass knew the Spaide family.

Spaide was shot once in the back of the head as he waited for an elevator on the first floor of the Ramada Inn at Busch Boulevard and Interstate 275 just before 1 a.m. Feb. 3. He was carrying some medicine he had bought at a nearby convenience store for his wife, who was sick in an upstairs room.

Apparently Bass followed Spaide to Tampa, Cole said. Donald Spaide, his wife, Dominique, and their two young children were on their way to Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, where Spaide had accepted a job as head of the base's publicity department.

There were no witnesses to the shooting, and detectives were stumped.

"They were at a real standstill in the investigation and (the letter) was definitely a help," Cole said.

Late Monday night, a car repossessor named Phil Benincasa searched Bass' car looking for ownership papers and found the letter in a briefcase police say belongs to Bass.

Police will not divulge the contents of the letter, but Cole said it did not appear that Bass intended to mail it to anyone.

As Benincasa took the letter to the Davie police, Bass was working as a cashier at a Mobil service station and mini-market about a mile and a half from his house. Police arrested him as he walked home after work.

Bass refused to talk to Tampa detectives who went to Davie early Tuesday morning. He will be arraigned on the murder charge Wednesday morning. There is no indication whether he will fight extradition to Tampa, Cole said.

Bass has no prior arrest record, Davie police spokeswoman Christine Murray said. He has not served any time in state prisons, according to the Department of Corrections.

Mrs. Spaide and the children are still living in Davie, officials said.

Jack Fisher, who lives next door to Bass, said Theodore Bass, the middle of three brothers, had been a Boy Scout and his parents, Leslie and Rosemary, also were involved with the organization.

Donald Spaide's first cousin, Larry Spaide, 25, said he was relieved that an arrest had been made.

He said Spaide's "only real hobby was his family."

_ Staff writer Kathleen Ovack contributed to this story.