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Family sensed danger in silence

Published Aug. 24, 2005

Though they lived nearly 1,500 miles apart, Irene Rita Martin talked with her 78-year-old mother in Maine every morning.

She spoke with her sister, Margaret, three or four times a day. And she spoke with twin brother, Irving, every day.

So when she didn't call for several days, her family in Maine knew to be worried. It was Margaret, 49, who finally called Zephyrhills police to ask them to check on her sister.

"I knew something wasn't right," said Margaret Martin, speaking Thursday from her home in Maine. "I told the police down there "I don't care how you do it, you need to get in that house. I'll pay for the door, if you have to break it down.' "

When Zephyrhills police entered the home on Lawanda Loop that Rita Martin, 45, shared with Craig Allen Thomas, 54, Tuesday they discovered the couple had been killed. Their bodies were found in the bathroom, where they had been for as long as eight days.

Missing were Thomas' 1979 gray Oldsmobile Tornado and his son, Kyle, 27, who had been living at the house for a couple of months.

The grisly discovery touched off an investigation and a search that stretches from Florida to Georgia for Kyle Thomas and for the car. The search continued Thursday.

"What we're doing now is the tedious grunt work," Zephyrhills Police Chief Russell Barnes said. "We're still searching. We're working with other agencies."

Barnes said Thursday he still did not have a definite time or cause of death for the couple who had lived on Lawanda Loop since 1998. Barnes repeated that he is very interested in finding Kyle Thomas, whom he said could be a suspect, a witness or another victim.

Martin's family in Maine knew little about Kyle Thomas and had no hints that something might have been amiss in the quiet east Pasco neighborhood. For a family that checks on each other's well being with determined frequency, the deaths have been hard to take.

"That's my twin sister," said Irving Martin. "We talked on the phone every day. Just "How you doing?' Nothing special. We'd just talk."

"She would call me three, four times a day," said Margaret Martin. "If I went out, she'd leave a message asking if I'm all right."

Family members described Martin as a homebody. She created her own jewelry and sent handmade earrings to her sister in Maine.

Her siblings said she was devoted to her "better half," as they described Craig Thomas, and that's why she lived in Florida rather than near her siblings and mother in Maine. Though Thomas and Martin both are listed as owners of the property on Lawanda Loop and had been together for years, they were not married.

Margaret Martin said the last time she spoke with her sister, she said she and Craig might drive his son to Georgia during the holidays. She added that there were no indications of conflict.

"When she didn't call, I figured they were out of town for a few days," Margaret said.

But when their mother had a stroke, Margaret became more worried that she couldn't reach her sister.

"She didn't even call on Christmas," Margaret said. "That's not like Rita."