Lauren Boltman's four young daughters first heard screaming early Sunday, then an ambulance siren.
The family soon learned their neighbor at Orangewood Lakes Apartments, Lori Kaye Welch, had been slain. The screams were from Welch's children, who rose Sunday and found their mother dead.
"How can you wake up and find a parent like that?" asked Boltman, 33, whose own children often played with Welch's. "That's going to be the last image they have of their mom."
Welch's body was found about 8:40 a.m. in the Osteen Road apartment, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.
Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll would not say how the 33-year-old was killed and would not comment on suspects.
"We are keeping a lot of this information close to the vest," he said.
Boltman, who lived across the parking lot from Welch, said Welch had three children: a son, 10, and two daughters, 11 and 9.
Michael Schumacher, Welch's father, was caring for the children Sunday afternoon.
"They're going to need therapy," said Schumacher, 53, of Holiday. "They're going to need counseling for a long, long time."
Schumacher said his daughter had recently completed her associate's degree at Pasco-Hernando Community College and was set to start classes at St. Petersburg College, working toward a bachelor's degree in computer science.
"She was just a wonderful person, very generous and caring and very trusting," he said. "She always wanted to help people."
Sheriff's detectives and officials from the Medical Examiner's and State Attorney's offices were investigating Sunday. They carried off evidence in brown paper bags from Welch's apartment and a nearby trash bin.
Doll said Welch's car, a silver 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis, had been missing Sunday morning but was later found outside Pasco County.
Records show that Welch filed for divorce in January 2000 and sought a domestic violence injunction against her husband, Woodrow Welch, that same year.
Boltman said Woodrow Welch saw the children only occasionally, during supervised visits. Boltman said Welch had been dating someone else for the past year and planned to marry him in June.
A neighbor, 61-year-old Andy Andrews, said the most trouble he has seen at Orangewood Lakes, a federally subsidized housing complex, is an occasional car driving too fast through the parking lot.
"The tenants by and large keep to themselves," Andrews said.
Anyone with information about this case should call sheriff's Sgt. John Corbin at 1-800-854-2862.