RIVERVIEW — Stacey Gwin spent Sunday night at her home in Alabaster, Ala., with her mother looking through old photos and reminiscing about her 48-year-old big sister, Tamara Ann Naish.
Naish was found dead in her Riverview home on Sept. 22.
"She loved people," Gwin, 46, told the Tampa Bay Times. "She loved animals. She loved helping anything in need and was a generous soul to a fault. And that's ultimately what put her in this position."
Thomas Elmore Jr., 43, was arrested by Hillsborough sheriff's deputies Sunday on a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Naish, his live-in girlfriend.
"She was helping him to get into the VA to (allegedly) help his PTSD," said Naish's mother, Wynette Turner Naish. "He told us tales for about three years about his life in the Army. Now it turns out that may have been a fairy tale."
Naish's mother and sister said law enforcement, as of yet, had been unable to confirm Elmore's 17-year military service. The Times could not reach the Sheriff's Office on Sunday night for comment.
Naish, an Alabama native, worked in health care both as a nurse and in administration.
Among her past employers were dermatologists, hospital operating rooms, United Healthcare and HCA Healthcare, Gwin said.
"She was always earning new certifications," Gwin said. "She had four or five and was working on more. We joked she wanted to have the alphabet soup after her name."
Gwin said Naish had most recently worked in administration with WellCare.
Elmore gave a statement to investigators on Sept. 24 saying he and Naish got in a fight over her job loss and money issues when he got home from a Hooter's at about 1 a.m. Sept. 21. He told investigators that Naish kicked his dog during the argument, prompting him to take the pet to his parents' house in Seffner.
Naish's family said this story is inconsistent with who she was.
"She would never hurt a dog," said Naish's mother. "Not ever. She loves animals."
Gwin said her sister was also not the type of person who escalated arguments.
"She was such a frustrating big sister," Gwin said with a light laugh. "If you argued with her and yelled and screamed she would remain calm. You wanted to scream at her to yell back. She was not a violent person at all."
Elmore initially told deputies he found Naish's body 24 hours earlier and, distraught, didn't know what to do until his attorney told him he should report it.
During a search of their home at 9413 Star Gazer Lane in Riverview, Naish's body appeared to have been moved and manipulated, the Sheriff's Office said. The county medical examiner found that she had been dead at least 36 hours and later reported the death as a homicide, not suicide.
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Her sister said officers did not inform Naish's family in Alabama of the suicide statement. From the start, Gwin said, they were told there was an investigation.
State records show Elmore was arrested twice in 1998 on domestic violence charges. In the first arrest, he was also accused of violating a domestic violence injunction. Previously, his most recent arrest was in 2012 on a charge of driving under the influence with property damage.
As of Sunday afternoon, he was being held at the Hillsborough County Jail with no bail.
Gwin said her sister had moved in with Elmore within the last year due to health problems that made it hard to climb the stairs at her previous home.
"He had fewer steps so it was easier on her," Gwin said.
Naish and Elmore had dated for three or four years, Naish's mother estimated.
Neither Gwin nor her mother had been told by Naish that her relationship with Elmore was violent. And when they learned who authorities had blamed in Naish's death, they were neither shocked nor surprised.
"Something terrible has already happened," Gwin said. "This just compounds it more."
Contact Paul Guzzo at email@example.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.