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Suspect's mom says victim was "hostile'

The mother of the man accused of murdering Steven Leacock as he lay in his bed early Wednesday said Friday that there had been bad blood between Leacock and her son.

"It's possible my son's life was threatened," said Frances Hager of Pennsville, N.J. "As far as I know, Steve (Leacock) was a very hostile person. He was very terroristic in his threats."

Hager would not elaborate on how or why Leacock might have threatened Samuel Augustus Coppola, 28, whom she said had lived with his aunt in the Weeki Wachee area for the past year.

Coppola was charged with first-degree murder Thursday after he told authorities that he shot Leacock in the back of the head with a 9mm handgun in Leacock's mobile home on Moon Road west of Brooksville.

He was arrested at a home on Devlin Street, in Weeki Wachee Acres, about 5 a.m. Thursday. Coppola was being held in the Hernando County Jail on Friday without bail.

Authorities say more arrests in the case are possible.

"I believe my son was coerced into a confession," said Hager, who said she did not believe he pulled the trigger.

Though authorities said a motive in the slaying remained unclear, additional details about the case emerged Friday, including information that Leacock's wife may have waited more than six hours after the shooting to notify authorities.

Initial reports said that Julia Marie Leacock, 39, the victim's wife and Coppola's cousin, told authorities she was asleep in the house at the time of the shooting, which detectives estimate occurred about 2:30 a.m.

She said she found her 38-year-old husband in his bed about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. She then ran to a neighbor's house, she said, and authorities were notified.

In an arrest affidavit released Friday, Leacock said she was awakened by the 2:30 a.m. blast, then saw Coppola running out of her house. The report said Coppola told her, "Just lay there and shut up, he's done."

According to a sheriff's report, Mrs. Leacock last saw her husband about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, just before he went to sleep in the couple's bedroom in the front of the house.

She told authorities she and her husband did not sleep together because he had chronic back problems.

There were no signs of forced entry at the mobile home, said sheriff's Maj. G.Z. Smith.

Rhoda Stevens, who lives next door, said Julia Leacock knocked on her door about 9 a.m. Wednesday and asked for her son, Randy Stevens, who then returned with Mrs. Leacock to her home and called an ambulance.

When deputies arrived, they found Steven Leacock lying on his right side in bed with blood-splattered sheets pulled up to his shoulders.

No weapon was found at the Leacocks' home.

On Friday, sheriff's spokeswoman Deanna Dammer said investigators recovered a 9mm handgun and two more weapons at a home at 7082 Devlin St. Initially, authorities said the weapons were found at the home of Coppola's aunt on Seabreeze Avenue.

Neighbors said Coppola had lived at the Devlin address with his girlfriend and another man for the past few weeks. They said he sometimes shot pool in the nearby Car Lot Bar on Cortez Boulevard.

Hager said she spoke with her son by telephone Tuesday night and he was "in good spirits." She said Coppola told her that he and Leacock were having problems, but she would not discuss the nature of the problems.

"I think my son tried to get along with Steve," Hager said. "I'm very devastated by what's going on right now."

Coppola, who is divorced, has two daughters, 6 and 8. He has no criminal history in Florida.

Hager said Steven Leacock brought her son to Florida a year ago to help him repossess cars for a living. Before that, he worked as a carpenter, she said.

"My son would do anything for anybody," she said. Every time he called me, he said, "When you coming down, Mom?' He loved it there."

_ Times researchers Carolyn Hardnett and John Martin contributed to this report.