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Ex-teacher guilty of murdering wife

(ran NS, S editions of Tampa Bay and State)

A former school teacher described as "a nice man" and "low key" by the principal of Dowdell Junior High School was convicted Friday of the first-degree murder of his estranged wife.

Earl Summerline, 56, told police he drove to Patricia Summerline's Clair-Mel home a week before Christmas last year to pick up the couple's 7-year-old daughter and take her on a holiday shopping excursion.

Instead, prosecutors charged, the couple became embroiled in a battle over unpaid child support that ended when Summerline emptied a five-shot, .38-caliber revolver into the woman.

Testifying in his own defense, Summerline said his wife had a gun and that her words and actions led him to believe she was preparing to harm her three children by a previous marriage and the Summerline's own daughter.

He left the house briefly, he said, and went to his car to get his revolver. He admitted breaking through two locked doors to get back to his wife. Summerline said he shot only after he knocked his wife to the floor and she pointed a small pistol at him.

After the shooting Summerline took his daughter to another former wife's home before going to the Tampa police station where he surrendered, according to a police report.

Summerline was also convicted of burglary of a dwelling and assault and battery with a firearm.

Circuit Judge Bob Anderson Mitcham will sentence Summerline Nov. 21.