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Tarpon couple's death called murder-suicide

Police say they do not know why a husband apparently shot and killed his wife before turning the gun on himself.

When Jessica Nelleny clocked out from her cashiers job at the Staples store at 4:11 p.m. Tuesday, she did not know that she had just been chosen as employee of the month for May.

She would have found out Saturday at an employee meeting.

But Nelleny is dead. Police say that her husband apparently shot her to death in the living room of their modest apartment, then used the same .357-caliber Magnum to fire a bullet into his own head.

Police have no idea why Lawrence T. Nelleny killed his wife.

"We have absolutely nothing whatsoever as to motive for this," said Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Tom Hill. "We may never know."

Jessica Nelleny had just turned 51 at the end of July. Her husband was 47. They had been married since June 1995.

A neighbor walking a dog late Wednesday looked through a rear window and saw that Lawrence Nelleny lay slumped against the apartment's front door, a heavy nylon belt with a gun holster around his waist and the silver revolver at his side. The neighbor called police.

Detectives found no suicide note, and Hill said none of the neighbors at Tarponwood Apartments on Lime Street reported hearing the gunshots or any kind of disturbance before the shooting. They also told officers they did not know the quiet couple.

"They were the type of tenants who minded their own business," complex manager Helen Brown said. "They're the type of tenants you like to have."

Detective Sgt. Al MacKenzie said there was no sign the couple had physically fought before the shootings, but forensic evidence at the scene leads investigators to classify the incident as a murder-suicide.

Jessica Nelleny's co-workers and managers at the Staples store were downcast Thursday. She had worked there since the store opened in July 1998. She had the day off Wednesday, but had been scheduled to work Thursday.

"She was very bubbly and very willing to help anybody," said the store's general manager, Kevin Guertin. "She did just about everything in the store."

"She was always happy," agreed Susan Griffin, a supervisor. "She used to come out and help me on the (sales) floor," stocking merchandise, helping customers or doing anything else that was needed.

"She had never missed a day of work," Griffin said. "Never late. And I think she was one of the only people who never complained about her work schedule."

Lawrence Nelleny usually drove his wife to work in his red 1991 Ford Ranger pickup truck, then came back to pick her up when she was through, co-workers said. He did not come inside the store.

"I thought they were fine," customer service worker Melissa Huffman, 19, said of the couple. "I was shocked."

Lawrence Nelleny had received a state license to become a security officer last month, said Earlene Shores, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State. The license allowed him to be hired as a private security guard but did not permit him to carry a gun, she said.

He was working a construction job with a company in Safety Harbor recently, MacKenzie said.

He had been convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1991 in Pasco County. But officers never were called to the couple's Tarpon Springs apartment, where they had lived since February 1998, or to their previous apartment on Philippe Parkway in Safety Harbor, police and Pinellas County Sheriff's records show.

Griffin and other Staples employees said Jessica Nelleny considered her husband's security officer license an accomplishment.

"She always talked as if she was very proud of him," Griffin said.

Jessica Nelleny would have received a $25 bonus for being employee of the month.

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