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Roommate shot by man, 80, police say

Published Sep. 28, 2005

Martin Tovar's mobile home on the grounds of Romero's migrant worker camp still bears the markings of three lives: kitchen cabinets carefully partitioned, a trio of beds, bedsheets hung in doorways for a measure of privacy.

But Monday night, Tovar slept alone in the trailer. One roommate was dead from a bullet to the chest, the other in jail and charged with the killing.

Officials say Julian Montoya, an 80-year-old native of Mexico, shot and killed his 41-year-old roommate Sunday night after an argument.

Deputies did not release the name of the victim Monday night, because next of kin had not been identified.

Tovar said he knew the roommate as Ricardo and considered him a friend during the seven months he shared space in the trailer.

Tovar said he and Ricardo, who also worked in the fields, used to run errands together. They would drive to the market in Tovar's car to buy food and enjoy laughs along the way, Tovar said.

Tovar said he was not as friendly with Montoya, who was retired and often spent entire days in the back room of the trailer, where he had lived for about three years. Most days, he exchanged niceties with the elderly man, but rarely spoke to him.

Montoya and his other roommate had a more strained relationship, Tovar said. At times, Montoya would yell at his roommate to turn down his stereo. His roommate would yell back. But the arguments remained verbal _ until Sunday night.

Tovar said he was lifting weights and talking with Ricardo at 7 p.m. when Ricardo kicked a cabinet near Montoya's bedroom. Montoya came out of his room and yelled at the roommate, accusing him of deliberately banging shut one of his kitchen cabinets, Tovar said.

The roommate told him he had kicked his own cabinet, Tovar said, but Montoya didn't believe him and challenged him to a fight.

"Calm yourself," Tovar recalled his roommate telling Montoya.

But there was no pacifying the man. As the roommate backed out the front door, Montoya pulled a handgun out of his pants and shot the roommate in the chest, Tovar said.

The roommate stepped out of the house, ran a few feet and collapsed near the home of a neighbor. Police pronounced him dead at the scene.

Tovar said Montoya ran off as well. He was captured by police early Monday morning and charged with second degree murder. He is being held without bail at the Hillsborough County Jail.