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MURDER OF 'KIND GUY' SHOCKS HIS NEIGHBORS

The victim was known as a mild-mannered guy who helped others.

Darlene Adams clung to her husband, Phillip, and cried as she watched crime scene investigators prepare to leave the Julian Apartments on south Main Street Thursday morning.

Only a few days before, she had stopped to talk to her friend Robert Rutherford. Everything was fine, he told her.

At 12:15 a.m. Thursday, an anonymous tip led Brooksville Police to the apartment complex where they found Rutherford, 69, dead inside his apartment, the victim of an apparent homicide.

As of late Thursday, authorities had released few details about the incident and had made no arrests. However, Brooksville police Chief George said detectives were following several leads and were interviewing "a person of interest.''

News of the murder stunned residents, several of whom said they knew Rutherford as a friendly, talkative person who went by the nickname "Bunk."

"He was just a good old boy from Tennessee," said neighbor Tina Kimball. "Strangers weren't strangers to him, just friends who he hadn't met yet."

Adams, who said she met Rutherford about a year ago, described him as mild-mannered and helpful to others in the complex.

"He was a kind guy," Adams said. "If somebody needed something he went and got it. If they needed food he fed them. It's such a waste."

According to Adams, Rutherford was disabled and had a daughter in Tennessee. He had recently undergone treatment for cancer and worked 10 years as a welder in Brooksville.

Once a popular area for drug trafficking and other criminal activity, the apartment complex formerly known as Lemon Tree Apartments is much more sedate now, said Kimball, who praised new owners for fixing up buildings and improving security.

"It's made a world of difference," said Kimball. "People feel safer now."

Brooksville's last homicide occurred in September 2002 when Darious Jerome Walker, 28, of Brooksville was killed during a drug transaction. Walker was found dead in Russell Street Park. John Curtis Walton and Michael James Leahy later pleaded guilty to the murder.

Anyone with information on the Rutherford case is asked to call the Brooksville Police Department Detective Division at 352-754-6818 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-990-TIPS.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

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