A 58-year-old man was found slain Sunday morning in his home in an exclusive section of Hyde Park.
Raul Lopez, an interior designer, was found in a second-floor bedroom in his Delaware Street home. He had lived in the rambling, wooden home at least 15 years, according to neighbors.
"The only thing I noticed that seemed strange to me was his little dog barking furiously all weekend," said Leila Gordon, who lives on the next block. "I walk my dogs two or three times a day, and I could hear it in the next courtyard."
The ornately landscaped home, which sits far back from the street, is surrounded by an 8-foot fence with a locked wooden gate. There is an automatic, motion-sensitive lighting system that flashes on when approached.
Lopez was killed sometime during the weekend, said police Sgt. Frank Jensen. Police would say only that Lopez was the victim of "blunt trauma."
Lopez was last seen by friends Friday night, according to Jensen.
Although police said robbery did not appear to be the motive, they issued an alert for the victim's 1985 gold, four-door Mercedes Benz 190SE with the license tag NIL-27N. The car was missing from Lopez's home.
Mark Feingold, whose girlfriend lives across the street, said Lopez had been a robbery victim at least twice in the past two years.
In 1993, an acquaintance came to Lopez's home, asked for something to drink and then pulled a knife and bound Lopez's hands with a telephone cord before stealing jewelry and Lopez's Mercedes.
Lopez took great pride in his home's ornate landscaping. In a 1993 Tampa Tribune article, he described the elaborate pathways that cut through his garden. Lopez put 14 French doors on the front of the house, opening onto the garden. He used 50 truckloads of dirt to terrace the garden, to avoid Florida's flat contours.
"Florida is so flat, and I wanted my pathways to have the image of walking in a forest," he said. "Paths in the forest are never straight because plants grow strangely, and rock formations get in the way. I put a potting area at the end of one path, and I work with all my plants back there. I call it my walkway to heaven."
_ Information from two 1993 Tampa Tribune articles was used in this report.