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Three lives tragically intersect in violence

James A. Webb did not back down.

He jumped a counter in an emergency room when a nurse said he couldn't see his companion.

He threatened to cut a motorist's throat during a road rage incident.

He choked an electronics store worker who requested his receipt.

"This guy has been for years a time bomb," said George Chiarenza, an owner of ERA Professional Realtors, where Webb once worked.

On Thursday, the 56-year-old Webb fatally shot Chiarenza's business partner, Tracy Sells, and wounded the office manager, Perinne McVey, before killing himself inside the Seminole business.

He was angry that Zelma "Z" Kougl, his companion of 20 years, had been fired from ERA. At 65, Kougl had cancer and could not keep up with the office pace.

Kougl would not comment on Friday.

"Z, she was a mother to all kinds of novice young realtors," said Ocala resident Delphine Blachowicz Herbert, 68, who knew the couple 15 years ago. "I didn't have much to do with Jim, but my feeling is he truly was a good-hearted individual."

Some ERA employees said that in happier times, Webb played golf and poker. When he quit selling homes several years ago, his mood worsened. He owed nearly $34,000 in federal income tax.

A patient at Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Webb seemed depressed, spending hours in front of a computer at home.

"Z told me a month ago he was very argumentative," said ERA agent Charles Bates. "He was isolating, and he also had verbally threatened her at home."

Over the years, Webb clashed with people, including a client who lodged a complaint to ERA headquarters and the state against Webb for verbal abuse, according to interviews and police reports.

"Jim Webb has repeatedly used foul language to my husband and I," wrote Lois Lear of Clearwater. "He had repeatedly called us stupid, verbally abuses us, yells at us etc."

Lear also complained that Webb was practicing real estate with an inactive license.

Webb's only arrest in Florida appears to be in 1999 after a confrontation with a nurse at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Kougl was in the emergency room, and Webb wanted to see her.

The nurse told him he had to wait, but Webb vaulted a counter and grabbed the nurse's throat.

"I'm going back if I have to jump through a window," Webb told the nurse.

Webb pleaded no contest to a battery charge.

Several years later, Webb was involved in a road rage incident with a motorist near Tyrone Square Mall.

Driving a green minivan, Webb pulled in front of a car, prompting the driver to blow his horn. Webb slammed on his brakes, forcing the driver to slam on his brakes.

Soon, the two were in the street, exchanging words.

"I'm gonna cut your throat," Webb told the motorist, according to a police report. The report said Webb rested his right hand on a folding knife in his front pocket.

Webb wasn't arrested in the August 2001 incident, but a month later, St. Petersburg police were called to Best Buy. Webb got into a scuffle with a worker who asked to see his receipt as Webb was leaving the store.

When police asked Webb why he didn't show the receipt, Webb said it was a "matter of principle."


Life was going well until shooting

Timothy and Perinne McVey came to Florida in search of a better education for their children, a warmer climate and to be near family.

Their spacious Port Richey home had an in-ground pool and the neighborhood was filled with kids. The McVeys found good jobs, he in electronics repair, she as office manager of ERA Professional Realtors in Seminole.

"Everything," said Timothy's mother, Frances McVey, "was going fine for them."

Until Thursday.

McVey was badly injured when she was shot at least twice by James Webb at the ERA office. She was in serious condition Friday at Bayfront Medical Center.

Authorities think Webb shot McVey because she was hired to replace Zelma Kougl at the real estate office.

Perinne McVey, 38, grew up in New York, family members said, and was in the Navy in the mid 1980s, stationed on the USS Norton Sound in California. It was there that she met her first husband, also a sailor.

"She was very outgoing, like one of the guys," Abel Medeles said in a telephone interview from San Diego. They had a son, Guy, named after McVey's brother.

Medeles and McVey split in 1987. After the Navy, McVey took a job with Con Edison, the energy supplier to New York City. Her duties included climbing power poles.

"She likes challenges," Frances McVey said. "She would never be afraid to do anything."

Timothy McVey also worked at Con Edison. The couple married and had two children, Johnathan and Reed. The young family lived in the Bronx and then Beacon, N.Y., before deciding to move to Florida, where Perinne McVey's brother resides.

Neighbors said they don't know McVey well, since the family moved to Port Richey only months ago, but she appeared to be a devoted mother.

"I really feel terrible and hope she's okay," said Tara Logio, whose daughter played with McVey's son. "She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, that's all."

McVey's sister-in-law, Andrea Burke, who also works at ERA Professional Realtors, said McVey was hired to turn the office around.

George Chiarenza, co-owner of the business, said McVey had made operations more efficient. "She was a hard worker, very personable and likable."


Loved business, but put family first

Tracy Sells wanted a career in the military. The Seminole High graduate joined the Army and served as a tank gunner in the Persian Gulf War.

A rocket-propelled grenade blasted his tank during a battle.

"He got his men out of the tank, and as he was getting out, a second grenade hit," said said Michael Lorenzo, an ex-brother-in-law who is close to Sells' family. "The tank was destroyed underneath him."

Sells' knees and back were seriously injured, Lorenzo said. He received an honorable discharge and was awarded a Purple Heart, Lorenzo said.

Sells returned to Seminole. He and his wife, Renee Lynn Hedeen, divorced in 1994. The couple had two daughters.

Sells, 42, married Lee Ann Hatcher in 1998. The couple moved to Safety Harbor, and had two children, a boy and a girl.

About three years ago, Sells became a partner with George Chiarenza in two real estate offices, one in Safety Harbor; one in Seminole.

Sells also owned Lighthouse Title Mortgage in Safety Harbor.

Andrea Burke, 31, of Holiday worked as office coordinator in the ERA Professional Realtors' Seminole branch. Her sister-in-law, Perinne McVey, 38, of Port Richey, also worked at the office and the two women drove to work together.

"Tracy was a real go-getter," Burke said Friday. "He was very business as well as very friendly."

But family was most important to Sells, Burke said.

"He was a great person, he was a wonderful father and he worked his very best," she said. "All he wanted to do is do good for his family."

When Sells wasn't working, he was spending time doing things around his house or playing with his children, said neighbor Margo Perrego. "I never saw Tracy without a smile on his face," she said.

Sells' mother, sister and brother live in Orlando. His father, Gene Wells, lives in Belleair Bluffs and works as a consultant at the ERA Seminole office.

Sells was an avid outdoorsman and loved to fish and hunt, Lorenzo said. He recently bought a boat and enjoyed competing in local kingfish tournaments.

Michael Platt, a Pinellas County sheriff's lieutenant, spent a week in the Florida Keys in 2000 fishing for lobster. Platt, 52, became friends with Sells and heard his Iraq war stories. He also heard stories about his loved ones.

"He was an outstanding family man," Platt said.