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Husband blamed in double slaying was angry wife left him for woman, lawyer says

A group of freshmen walking home from Lake Gibson High School on Monday stopped to pray at a student-made memorial for assistant principal Samara Routenberg and math teacher Lisa Fuillerat. [ANASTASIA DAWSON   |   Times]


A group of freshmen walking home from Lake Gibson High School on Monday stopped to pray at a student-made memorial for assistant principal Samara Routenberg and math teacher Lisa Fuillerat. [ANASTASIA DAWSON | Times]


Published Feb. 28, 2017

BRANDON — Vincente Fuillerat was already pained by the separation from his wife.

Then the 53-year-old electronic security consultant found out the woman with whom he'd raised two children during 28 years of marriage was in a relationship with another woman.

The discovery of Lisa Fuillerat's romance with Samara Routenberg angered him, said Tampa attorney Ralph Fernandez, whose firm represented Vincente Fuillerat during the divorce proceedings. He considered it immoral, Fernandez said.

"He called it a lot worse than that," Fernandez recalled. "He said, 'I can't compete with that.'"

On Friday, authorities say, Vincente Fuillerat strapped on a bullet-resistant vest, broke into Routenberg's Brandon home and got into a shoot-out with both women. He fatally wounded both women with a shotgun before turning the gun on himself.

Deputies found a note pinned to his body. Officials declined to detail what it said, but it was clear he planned to kill the couple and himself.

The killings left students and staff at Lake Gibson Middle School reeling. Lisa Fuillerat, 51, taught sixth grade at the school. Routenberg, 39, was an assistant principal there.

"They were both afraid something like this might transpire," Melissa A. Wilson, an attorney who represented Lisa Fuillerat in the divorce, said in an email statement. "It was clear throughout the process that Mr. Fuillerat was having difficulty accepting the separation and divorce proceedings."

• • •

Court records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times offer new details about the months leading up to the murder-suicide. The documents paint a picture of a man who resisted when his wife filed for divorce and became violent after learning his wife and another woman were a couple.

The Fuillerats lived together in Lakeland, raising two children who are now grown. The couple knew each other as children, according to Fernandez.

They separated in 2014. At some point later, Lisa Fuillerat moved in with Samara Routenberg in Routenberg's home on Hickory Creek Drive.

It was unclear Monday when the relationship started, or what Vincente Fuillerat knew or thought he knew when he showed up at Routenberg's house along on Hickory Creek Drive on Oct. 2, 2015.

That afternoon, he entered the house through the garage door, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. When Routenberg confronted him, he left the house and got into his silver Hyundai. Routenberg followed and after a brief conversation, Fuillerat armed himself with "an unknown blunt object" and struck Routenberg on the head, hit her face and body with his first, and slammed her head against the concrete driveway, the affidavit states.

Routenberg fought back but the attack left cuts and bruises on her face. Fuillerat took the license plate off his car and left. He was later arrested and charged with burglary and aggravated battery.

Routenberg described the incident in her own words three days later when she filed a petition seeking protection from the court. She wrote that Fuillerat banged on door that day and was trying to look inside before he walked into her laundry room wearing a gray glove. He turned and walked out when he saw her and she followed him to the street.

"I kept asking who he was and why he was in my house," Routenburg wrote. "He said because he wanted to be."

Fuillerat asked if she recognized him. Then he went to his car and came back at her with a metal pipe.

"I am scared he is going to come back to my house & kill me," she wrote in the petition. "The only reason he stopped was because my neighbor came over. ... He knows where I live & work."

Fernandez, whose firm also represented Fuillerat in the injunction and criminal case, said that account was a "gross over-characterization" of what happened, and that the physical evidence didn't support Routenberg's account.

Fernandez said Fuillerat had intercepted electronic communications between the two women that would reveal their relationship and wanted Fernandez to use it in court, but Fernandez refused because it had been illegally obtained.

Fuillerat, who had no criminal record in Florida, was sentenced to 36 months of probation and ordered to pay Routenberg $6,040 in restitution to cover medical bills. He was also ordered to stay away from her.

On Oct. 21, 2015, Lisa Fuillerat filed for a dissolution of marriage in Polk County. She sought alimony and asked that the couple's house in Lakeland, where Vincente Fuillart was living, be sold so the couple could split the proceeds, according to the filing.

Fernandez's firm dropped him as a client after he failed to submit required financial disclosures, prompting the judge on the case to find him in contempt, Fernandez said.

Fernandez described Fuillerat as a friendly man who gave no indication that he was capable of murder. The attorney theorized that his former client felt emboldened by what Fernandez called a climate of intolerance in the country.

"I think in his effected state over the painful separation, he felt there was support for not allowing this kind of behavior to go on," he said.

Fuillerat's father, also named Vincente, declined to comment when he answered the door at his Lakeland home.

• • •

As the news of the deaths began to spread, mourners stopped by Lake Gibson Middle, on N Socrum Loop Road just north of the Lakeland city limits, to hang cards, flowers and balloons on the school's chain link fence.

Grief counselors were at the school and Lake Gibson High next door on Monday to meet with students. Most had already seen news articles over the weekend about their teachers' deaths, but others burst into tears when they heard the news through a schoolwide announcement during first period. Scheduled testing was canceled at the high school, and most classes skipped daily assignments to share stories about the teachers.

School administrators were not aware of the relationship between the two woman, said Kyle Kennedy, a spokesman for the Polk County School District.

Groups of students walking home from Lake Gibson High stopped to place flowers, balloons and cards along the fence surrounding the adjacent middle school where Routenberg and Fuillerat worked.

The students described Fuillerat as a tough but kind teacher who offered support, guidance and inspiration beyond schoolwork.

"She helped me through a lot when I first started school and was really struggling," said freshman Nichole Alfonso, 16. "She was more of a guidance counselor than a lot of the guidance counselors were."

Ashley Nielsen, a 15-year-old freshman at Lake Gibson, said Routenberg gave her a pink rose for her birthday last year because she knew pink was her favorite color. On Monday, Nielsen's birthday, she brought a pink rose for the memorial.

"She was so kind and always helped us when we needed help," Nielsen said.

After placing flowers, the students bowed their heads and prayed the women would be sent to "a better place."

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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