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Largo police investigating shooting deaths of mother, daughter

Neighbors were unaware until Friday that a mother and daughter had been killed, perhaps days before, inside their ground-floor apartment at the Autumn Chase complex in Largo. [CHARLIE FRAGO | Times]
Neighbors were unaware until Friday that a mother and daughter had been killed, perhaps days before, inside their ground-floor apartment at the Autumn Chase complex in Largo. [CHARLIE FRAGO | Times]
Published Dec. 6, 2015

LARGO — Elizabeth Genthner and her teenage daughter lived alone and mostly kept to themselves.

Simonne Say, 17, was homeschooled by Genthner, 47, who sometimes behaved erratically, a neighbor and a relative said.

Only a strong odor coming from apartment 1302 hinted at the gruesome scene inside, where Simonne and Genthner lay after they were fatally shot.

Largo police on Saturday weren't certain if their deaths were a murder and suicide or a double suicide. Police discovered their bodies about 2 p.m. Friday at Autumn Chase, a condo and apartment complex at 2200 Gladys St., near Largo's Southwest Recreation Complex.

Ann Rodriguez, 46, an upstairs neighbor who knew them both, said she hadn't seen them since Monday.

She said Genthner had been acting erratically, drinking and taking sleeping pills.

One night several months ago, Rodriguez called 911 when Genthner began foaming at the mouth from taking too many sleeping pills.

It was just one of many signs that Genthner was unstable, Rodriguez said.

"Something was obviously wrong," said Rodriguez, who had befriended the pair when they moved to the sprawling complex more than a year ago. "She (Genthner) was talking to demons and was making her own incense out of olive oil."

Simonne, a sweet, quiet girl, had confided to Rodriguez that she was scared of her mother.

"I'm scared of what she says and does," Rodriguez remembers Simonne telling her once.

The mother and daughter had hard lives long before their deaths, said Simonne's half-sister, Sarah Say, 26, of Pinellas Park.

The sisters' father, Richard Say, died in 2001 of a drug overdose, Sarah Say said. Genthner struggled to cope with the loss of her boyfriend.

Sarah Say said she is left with memories of Genthner as "an ugly drunk."

"I'm going to tell you right now I always thought she was crazy," Sarah Say said. "She needed help, and she never got help."

Genthner's court records show a criminal history stretching back to 1992, including arrests for cocaine and marijuana possession. Her most recent run-in with the law was in 2004 for DUI and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

She also was charged with felony child neglect in 2001. Sarah Say said police found Simonne, who was 2 years old at the time, in reach of drugs when police investigated her father's death.

After that, the toddler went to live with her grandparents for a while, Sarah Say said. By the time Simonne was in middle school — and back in her mother's custody — she faced such bad bullying that her mother removed her from public school and started home-schooling her, her half-sister said.

Sarah Say largely lost touch with then-baby Simonne after their father died. But just a month ago, the 17-year-old Simonne and her mother walked into a family care office in Largo where Sarah Say works.

She helped check her half-sister out after a doctor's appointment. It's the first time she'd seen Simonne in eight years.

"They didn't even recognize me at first," Sarah Say said.

But they chatted of reconnecting during the brief meeting. Sarah Say was in shock Saturday that she would never have that chance.

"They seemed fine," she said, distraught.

No one heard the gunshots that ended their lives, Rodriguez said.

Even the smell, which had grown stronger by Thursday, didn't trigger any sense of the tragedy below.

"You're not going to imagine there's two dead people," she said.

Someone had left a few flowers outside the front door of apartment 1302 on Saturday. The sliding glass doors in back were covered in blood spatter.

Rodriguez grieved for the girl she called "Sammy" who liked feeding the ducks at a small retention pond a stone's throw from her apartment.

Sarah Say grieved, too, for the half-sister she barely knew. A sister, she said, who had a lot to deal with.

"I really did feel bad for her," she said. "I wish I was more involved with her life."

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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