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Slain man was going through rocky divorce

In the weeks before his murder, Kelly Eskridge was going through a divorce.

He and his wife, Sharon Eskridge, were fighting over money, their son and a Harley-Davidson.

Detectives do not know if the rocky marriage, including Eskridge's arrest on a domestic battery charge, had anything to do with his death.

"The mere fact that there may have been domestic strife doesn't automatically mean that murder was the next step on the progression," homicide Sgt. Mike Puetz said Friday.

He said detectives have no suspects in the beating death, which occurred Wednesday or Thursday. Eskridge's body was found at 5 p.m. Thursday by a friend who stopped to see him at his house, 2488 17th Ave. N.

Eskridge, 43, was a disabled welder who had attended Tampa College to be a medical assistant. A regular at Jim's Harley-Davidson of St. Petersburg, Eskridge was an avid Harley rider who welded motorcycle parts for friends.

"He always liked to ride, and he always liked to have a good time," said Arthur Zinkerman, the service manager at Jim's Harley-Davidson, where Eskridge would take his 14-year-old son, Kelly Eskridge II.

Eskridge's wife, whom he married on Valentine's Day in 1986, was too upset to talk about her husband's death Friday.

The couple separated last August, two months after a fight involving Mrs. Eskridge's 19-year-old daughter, Jessica Fetting.

Mrs. Eskridge said her husband "hates my daughter because she dates a black man," court records show. She also told the court her husband was addicted to painkillers, taking "up to 16 pills a day."

Eskridge was arrested and charged in November with domestic battery on his wife. He pleaded no contest to the charge a few weeks ago and was placed on probation and ordered not to have contact with his wife.

Both sides have asked the court for protection against each other for domestic violence. Mrs. Eskridge, 45, said her husband hit and pushed her. Eskridge said his wife "pulled handfuls of hair from my face and head," court records show.

It was Eskridge who filed for divorce in November.

The couple met twice with attorneys to consider a settlement. Mrs. Eskridge wanted sole parental responsibility of their son but was willing to allow limited visitation. At one point, she asked for $400 in monthly child support and $1,000 in monthly alimony.

The two could not agree on terms to settle their divorce, and a pretrial hearing was set for April 19.