TAMPA — When Chris Freeman drove up to his Tampa home one afternoon, he was surprised to see a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Dodge Durango in the driveway.
At first, the former detective chalked it up to an old friend stopping by. But then he saw the second Durango parked behind it, and he knew something was wrong.
Freeman’s son came outside and stood beside his father while the deputy — a friend of Freeman’s — told him that his sister, Kim Freeman Bailey, had died while vacationing in Orlando.
When Freeman’s son walked inside, the deputy told Freeman the truth.
It’s a lot worse than that, he told Freeman.
According to a report from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Kim, 55, was shot and killed by her husband of 30 years, Troy Bailey, 61, while she lay in bed that morning. He then shot himself, the report said.
While the case, as of Aug. 12, was still considered open, the Sheriff’s Office is calling the incident a murder-suicide, a spokesperson for the agency said.
After Freeman learned of the tragedy, he did the most painful thing he’s ever done — told his parents and his sister’s only child what happened.
“I just didn’t want a stranger to tell my parents, my niece, the most horrible thing they’re going to hear in their life,” Freeman said.
Murder-suicides in recent years
There is no national database or tracking system to document the number of murder-suicides across the United States, according to the Violence Policy Center, a national organization. Instead, the center looks to news reports to collect and analyze data.
In the center’s latest data, published in 2020, researchers found that there are an average of 11 murder-suicides in the U.S. each week. In 90% of them, the killer used a gun.
The study analyzed a six-month period in 2019 and found Florida had the third-most murder-suicides during that time — 27, which led to 56 deaths.
Since Jan. 1, at least nine other murder-suicides have involved people from the Tampa Bay area, according to Times reporting.
“Picking up a gun ... it’s a dehumanizing weapon, but it’s also a weapon of opportunity, and you can make a snap decision and do it before you even thought it out,” said Mindy Murphy, the president and chief executive officer of The Spring of Tampa Bay, a domestic violence center in Hillsborough County.
Most murder-suicides are done by men perpetrating violence against women and children before killing themselves, Murphy said. The study found that 91% of the offenders were men who acted alone.
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Freeman said he wasn’t aware of any abuse in Freeman Bailey’s marriage.
However, Murphy said that in situations of a murder-suicide, often there are prior instances of domestic abuse.
“Abusers will sometimes say ... ‘I’m going to kill myself,’ but sometimes they frame it, ‘If you leave me, I’m going to kill myself,’” Murphy said.
Freeman believes Troy Bailey may have struggled with his mental health after suffering a stroke within the past year.
He said he hopes his sister’s case will encourage people to notify police if someone’s actions are concerning. Freeman pointed to Florida’s risk protection orders — known as red flag gun laws ― in which a person’s firearms can be legally seized by a judge’s orders. People subjected to the order are barred from touching a gun for a year.
He says that after what has happened, he also hopes background checks will become tighter in the future and include some kind of mental health screenings.
Kim Freeman Bailey: A mother, a sister, a friend
Freeman Bailey was a wonderful mom and sister — an all-around amazing person, her brother said.
“You know, the better you are in life, it just doesn’t seem like you stay on this planet much longer,” Freeman said.
Freeman Bailey, the older of the two siblings, was born in Largo. She attended Hillsborough High School and went on to the University of Tampa, where she got a degree in accounting.
She spent her life in Tampa Bay, where she had worked as an accountant in the child welfare industry — handling funds set up for kids in the foster care system, according to Barbara Finnegan, a friend and former colleague of Freeman Bailey.
Freeman Bailey made sure the children had what they needed, according to Finnegan.
Finnegan and Freeman Bailey met 12 years ago at work, and they became inseparable. Finnegan and her boyfriend were vacationing with Kim Freeman Bailey and Troy Bailey on June 25, when authorities say Bailey shot his wife and then himself.
“She was very close to me and my daughters,” Finnegan said.
The two friends talked every day on their way to work or in their free time. Freeman Bailey and Finnegan vacationed together, worked together, planned parties together and even got their hair cut together.
“It’s such a loss,” Finnegan said. “Not just for, you know, me or her family, but for children and child welfare and those she came across.”
Outside of her duties as an accountant, Freeman Bailey tutored. There was one child, in particular, with whom she connected, Finnegan said. When the child was struggling, or when he didn’t want to go to a placement, Freeman Bailey would sit and play games with him, help him with homework or just talk.
“I think that if she wasn’t in the foster care organization, she would have adopted that child,” Finnegan said. “Like, that’s how attached she got to the kids. She just wanted to make sure that they had a better life.”
Freeman described weekends when Freeman Bailey would be called to an office to sit with a child who had nowhere to go.
“You pray someone like Kim will step up and do the job that no one else wants to do, like helping children most in need,” Freeman said.
A family mourning
In the weeks since Freeman Bailey’s death, Freeman’s focus has been on helping his niece, Allyson Bailey, 27 — cope with the deaths of her parents and the role authorities say her father played in them. She’s struggled with health issues that have made it difficult to work, he said. Freeman has started a GoFundMe to help his niece with financial needs. So far, it’s raised $12,000.
Freeman Bailey’s impact was wide-reaching, Finnegan said.
“The same connection that I have with Kim, and the same love and support and friendship that I feel, everybody that came in contact with her had that same deep feeling, like you just connected with her,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan also has taken on the task of making sure Allyson Bailey is cared for.
“Because I know that she would do that for me — or for anyone else — if the situation was reversed,” Finnegan said.
On July 22, Freeman, his family and a few of Freeman Bailey’s friends, including Finnegan, set sail on a cruise from Port Canaveral. He said his sister had coordinated it before her death because their parents’ health is declining, and they wanted to have a last vacation together with the whole family.
She and Troy Bailey were meant to be on the trip.
Before the cruise ship left the port, the family spread Freeman Bailey’s ashes at the water’s edge. They each had a glass of wine in honor of Freeman Bailey — an avid wine collector.
“One thing that made the cruise so difficult, you know, there were those chairs — they were supposed to be sitting at our table,” Freeman said. “And there were two empty seats.”
How to get help
If you are in immediate danger from domestic violence, call 911. Here’s how to reach Tampa Bay’s domestic violence agencies for help:
Hillsborough County: Call or text The Spring of Tampa Bay’s 24-hour crisis line at 813-247-7233 or visit online at thespring.org. The TTY line is 813-248-1050.
Pasco County: Contact Sunrise of Pasco County via its 24-hour hotline at 1-888-668-7273 or 352-521-3120, or go online at www.sunrisepasco.org.
Pinellas County: Contact Community Action Stops Abuse, or CASA, by calling the 24-hour hotline at 727-895-4912, texting casa-stpete.org/chat or visiting casapinellas.org. The TTY line at 727-828-1269.
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Domestic violence warning signs
- Abuser isolates victim from friends or family.
- Victim is encouraged or forced to stop participating in activities important to them.
- Abuser controls finances or puts victim on an allowance, asks for explanations of spending.
- Victim is blamed for their feelings, yelled at or made to feel “small.”
- Abuser criticizes and controls victim’s appearance, including what they can wear.
- Abuser abandons victim in places they don’t know.
- Abuser keeps victim from eating, sleeping or getting medical care.
- Abuser throws or punches things around victim.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211 or by visiting crisiscenter.com.