A routine check on a couple in a quiet neighborhood Tuesday turned up a crime not seen here in recent memory: two bodies inside a home, with homicide suspected.
Zephyrhills police went to the double-wide mobile home at 38059 Lawanda Loop about 10:45 a.m. after a relative of the woman living there called from Maine asking for a check. Everything outside appeared to be in order, but with the help of a locksmith, police broke in and found a woman dead in the bathroom.
Later, when Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators arrived, they found another body in the bathroom. This one a man, another homicide victim.
Authorities said both bodies appeared to have been there several days.
Zephyrhills police Chief Russell Barnes all but ruled out a murder-suicide because a car, a gray, two-door 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado, is missing.
Authorities issued a bulletin for the car, with Florida tag 61149WT.
Barnes did not release the victims' names or cause of death. No weapon was found. Barnes said he thinks the victims are two of the three people who were living in the well-kept, cream-colored mobile home with light green shutters.
County property records show the home is owned by Craig Allen Thomas, 54, and Irene R. Martin, 45. Barnes said Thomas' son also had been staying at the home for the past few months and working at a local restaurant.
Crime scene investigators were unable to identify the male victim Tuesday night. Barnes said either Thomas or his son _ whoever turns out not to be the victim _ would be considered a person of interest in the investigation.
The Medical Examiner's Office will perform autopsies today.
Dick Dieffenbach, 65, who lives next door, said he hadn't seen Thomas or Martin in more than a week.
He began to wonder where they were when letters piled up in the mailbox, and the garbage can blew into the street.
"It's very sad," Dieffenbach said. "It was so much unlike them to disappear like they did."
The night of Dec. 26, Dieffenbach said his wife, Lois, saw the Oldsmobile peel out of the driveway about 1:30 a.m.
"She didn't see who was in it. She just knew it was leaving," Dieffenbach said.
He described the couple as very quiet.
"They were always willing to help you out if you needed anything," he said.
Dieffenbach also saw Thomas' son smoking outside on the stoop.
"He was friendly," he said. "He spoke to me every time."
Murders of any kind are rare in Zephyrhills. In January 2003, 23-year-old Shane Lani Sampson was killed by a shotgun blast to the belly.
Frank Adams Harrison Jr. is awaiting trial on third-degree murder charges.
But a double homicide is virtually unheard of in this growing town of 12,000.
Even so, Amanda Lay, who lives one street over with her 4-month-old son said she will take extra care to lock her doors.
"I'm going to be more alert," she said. "It's too close to home."
Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.
Investigators search for clues Tuesday outside the home at at 38059 Lawanda Loop. Two bodies were discovered after an out-of-town relative grew concerned and asked police to check on the woman living there. She was found dead along with a man, either her husband or son, police say.