Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Girlfriend fired, man shoots 2

James A. Webb walked into a real estate agency on Thursday, politely greeted the receptionist and continued toward a back office.

Wearing blue jeans, a flannel shirt and a baseball cap, he stepped into the office and slammed the door.

His longtime girlfriend had recently been fired from her job as an office manager at ERA Professional Realtors in Seminole.

After cursing and shouting, Webb pointed a handgun at a company owner, Tracy Sells, and fired. He shot an employee, Perinne McVey. And then Webb turned the gun on himself, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Both Webb, 56, of Largo, and Sells, 42, of Safety Harbor, died at the scene. McVey, 38, from Port Richey, was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, where she remained in stable condition Thursday night, authorities said.

"He did not seem like he was going to shoot anybody," said Richard Lane, 25, a mortgage broker who works in the building. "He said hello to people. He asked me to leave nicely. He said "please.' "

The shooting occurred about 2:40 p.m. inside a gray strip mall at 8970 Seminole Blvd. More than a dozen deputies descended on the busy street, running along the sidewalk with rifles and ordering shop owners to take cover or evacuate.

"I heard police telling someone to come out with their hands up," said Marlaine Cline, 37, who lives behind the strip mall.

Deputies did not know whether the shooter remained inside. But they stormed the office and found Webb and Sells, already dead. A wounded McVey was quickly placed on a helicopter.

It had all happened in less than 30 minutes.

Webb raised no suspicion when he walked into the business, saying he needed to retrieve something from the office of his girlfriend, 65-year-old Zelma Kougl, witnesses said.

Instead, Webb walked down to a back office where Sells, McVey and mortgage broker Lane were sitting.

Webb was nonchalant, Lane said.

"Can you please get out? I need to talk to these two," he recalled Webb saying.

Lane left, and Webb slammed the door.

"He was yelling, basically blaming those two for the problem," Lane said. "He was pretty much degrading them and yelling."

George Chiarenza, co-owner of the real estate business, tried to open the door.

"The guy stuck the gun out and told him, "Get out, this doesn't concern you,' " Lane said.

Webb fired four to five shots, deputies said.

"I'm shocked. I'm just in shock," said Gene Jackson, an ERA employee who was working at home Thursday when he saw his office building on the TV news.

Jackson had seen Webb's girlfriend, Kougl, about five days earlier. He walked into her office to discuss a contract and noticed she was upset.

She pulled out a letter from Chiarenza. The letter announced that she would need to find another job by February, Jackson said. It said she and the company were traveling in different directions, according to Jackson.

Kougl, who had an annual contract, gave Jackson a hug before their meeting ended.

"She was broken up about it," Jackson said. "Anybody would be. I think she told me she'd been with them for 11 or 12 years."

Kougl had health problems that were making it difficult for her to work as much as she had, said another real estate agent at the company, Charles Bates.

Kougl had been a partner in the business before selling her share to Sells about two and a half years ago, said Detective Tim Goodman, a sheriff's spokesman.

Sells, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, joined the company several years ago, Bates said. He was smart and savvy, well-respected in his field.

A graduate of Seminole High School, he owned Lighthouse Title Mortgage in Safety Harbor and was a part owner in two ERA real estate offices.

"He was a family man _ first and foremost," said Michael Lorenzo, a former brother-in-law. "He was a good man. He was a good friend."

Sells is survived by four children, two teenage daughters from his first marriage and a son and daughter from his current marriage.

Relatives and friends began arriving at his Safety Harbor home, 119 Harbor Woods Circle, late into the evening. His wife, Lee Ann, was too distraught to talk.

"He was a definite family man," said neighbor Margo Perrego. "He was a wonderful guy. We're still in shock."

McVey, the wounded office manager, had joined the office several months earlier and had been credited with making the office run more efficiently, Bates said.

"She was always nice to me and the kids," said Jeff Roddy, whose 5-year-old daughter, Emily, recently played with McVey's son, Jonathan.

"I hope she makes it through this, because she's got kids," said another neighbor, Tara Logio, 30, who lives across the street. "She seemed like a concerned mother."

Mostly, though, residents said they knew little about the McVeys because the family moved to the neighborhood, a few blocks east of U.S. 19, about three months ago.

The shooter, Webb, had once worked for ERA Professional Realtors, but had been unemployed for the past five years, the Sheriff's Office said.

He and Kougl lived in a green and white house on a cul-de-sac at 9820 136th St. N in Largo. They had been together for about 20 years, authorities said. Neighbors also reported seeing a teenaged boy living with the couple.

Herb Losse, a neighbor, said he came outside at 3 p.m. and saw four police patrol cars come into the cul-de-sac.

"I asked "What is going on?' All they told me was to go inside and watch TV."

_ Times researcher Cathy Wos and staff writers Maureen Byrne, Alex Leary, Adrienne Samuels and Megan Scott contributed to this report.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement