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Sister presses for answers to January slaying in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Sandra Clement's last eight months have been filled with sleepless nights and uncertainty, but she says she is sure of one thing: Her sister's killer has a soul.

On Thursday, she used that belief to call on anyone with information about the slaying to come forward to police. Paula Witthaus, 53, and James Edward Rapp, 67, were found dead in the home at 2840 17th Ave. N on Jan. 28.

"This killer cannot be sleeping at night," Clement said.

Detective Rodney Tower, the lead investigator in the case, said officers have pursued multiple leads, but he declined to offer details, citing the active investigation.

"Right now, we haven't nailed down a single motive," Tower said.

Clement traveled from St. Louis to speak Thursday at St. Petersburg police headquarters about her sister's passion for politics and activism. Witthaus was working toward a college degree and would have likely finished her studies this summer, according to her sister.

"That all was taken away from us in a matter of seconds," she said.

In late December, Clement said, she traveled to Florida to see Witthaus and her brother, Kevin Murdy, of Tampa. That was the last time she saw her sister.

Murdy has taken Witthaus' death especially hard, Clement said, because he lived so close to her. Now, she said, Murdy sees his sister in all the places they visited around Tampa Bay.

"He said, 'How can I celebrate my birthday when my sister's not going to have another one?' " Clement recalled.

Police ask anyone with information to call (727) 893-7780 or to reach out anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-8477 or crimestoppersofpinellas.org.

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