Sister says Tampa woman accused of killing disabled grandmother had mental health issues

Monica Lozano faces a second degree murder charge for the stabbing death of a roommate at an East Tampa rooming house Monday.
Monica Lozano faces a second degree murder charge for the stabbing death of a roommate at an East Tampa rooming house Monday.
Published July 27, 2018

TAMPA — Carol Handa-Dobis spent her life caring for others.

As a mother, she stood by her son through a long battle with cancer. As a nurse, she wore out her back caring for patients.

As a grandmother, she doted on her 10-year-old granddaughter. A blanket with a photo of them together from last Christmas was her prize possession and Handa-Dobis slept with it every night, her daughter said.

Monday morning, the 65-year-old died with the blanket. Police say her roommate stabbed her to death in the neck with a knife.

"I just want everyone to know my mom was a good, loving, caring person," said Monique Handa, 40.

Handa-Dobis grew up in Canada and worked as a nurse and nursing administrator there and in the U.S. She lost a son to cancer years ago, and her daughters are trying to raise money through a GoFundMe account to send her remains to Toronto to be buried with him.

The disabled grandmother was killed Monday morning in the bedroom she shared with the suspect, Monica Lozano, in an East Tampa rooming house, according to a Tampa police search warrant affidavit.

Catherine Berry was cooking breakfast in the kitchen for herself and Handa-Dobis when Lozano came in and reached in a drawer that contained only bowls, knives and sugar, Berry said in a criminal report affidavit.

When Berry went to get Handa-Dobis for breakfast, she found the grandmother on the floor between the pair of beds. Berry's screaming woke up another resident.

Police were called and detained Lozano when they noticed the bottom of her shirt and pants were "covered in blood," according to the affidavit.

A knife was found in a garbage can near the road.

"B---- snitched on me," Lozano, 38, said spontaneously to an officer, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Handa-Dobis died at Tampa General hospital a few hours later. Police have not stated a specific motive for the killing.

Lozano's sister says she is schizophrenic and has nerve damage in her brain.

Lydia Ferguson, 28, said Lozano has been held multiple times under the Baker Act, which allows Florida authorities to confine someone for up to 72 hours if they are thought to be a danger to themselves or others. "That is a mentally ill woman," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Lozano has been at both Gracepoint and Memorial Hospital, two local mental health facilities.

In April of this year, she was arrested on a charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle. No case was filed because the victim recanted her original statement or gave non-credible statements, according to a letter of release filed in April.

Arrest records show Lozano was officially released from custody July 4, a few weeks before she was accused of stabbing her roommate to death.

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Now Lozano faces a second-degree murder charge for the death of Handa-Dobis. She is being held with bail set at $200,000.

The victim's daughter wishes someone would have protected Handa-Dobis that morning. She had been excited that her younger daughter was 16 weeks pregnant. But she'll never meet her grandson.

"She didn't deserve this," Handa said, choking up. "No one does."