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Deputies: Town 'N Country man shoots wife, then self

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigate an apparent murder-suicide Thursday in the 8000 block of Galewood Circle in Town ’N Country.
Published Jan. 24, 2013

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Their children were in school when it happened.

At about 9 a.m. Thursday, deputies say, Pedro Mendoza, 42, shot his estranged wife, police dispatcher Deanna Mendoza, 34, and then turned the gun on himself.

It happened in a black car parked in the driveway of their home at 8361 Galewood Circle.

She was sitting in the driver's seat, and Pedro Mendoza got in the passenger's seat. At some point, Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies say, he shot her.

Then he climbed into the back seat and shot himself.

The couple, who married in 2010, had not been getting along for a while, neighbors say. Deanna Mendoza had moved out of their home, and neighbors say the pair often argued.

Some said they believe the fights were about their children. They both had children, though none in common, deputies say.

Still, several who know the couple said they never saw the pair's fights become physical.

"It's not like him at all," said neighbor Janel Delgado, 17.

As homicide investigators combed through the crime scene, Pedro Mendoza's mother screamed and cried.

In Spanish, she insisted that she would just pull her son from the car. He would be alright, she said.

"It's terrible," said neighbor Desmond Scrivner. "Both were really decent people. They were easy-going, easy to talk to."

According to Deanna Mendoza's Facebook page, she has three children: two girls and a boy.

She trained 911 dispatchers at the Tampa Police Department, which she joined in 2009.

She was well-liked by the dispatch staff and was promoted last June, becoming a trainer, Tampa police's communications director, Thomas Wolff said Thursday.

"She was a very hard worker," Wolff said. "She enjoyed training the new dispatchers. Anytime there was a project, she was always willing to volunteer."

In January 2012, she was chosen as the department's civilian employee of the month.

"She always spoke about her children. She's just a very nice person," Wolff said. "It's a big shock to everybody here."

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor sent out an agency-wide email to let her staff know about Deanna Mendoza's death.

"She was a valued member of our team and a wonderful person," the chief wrote. "She leaves behind three children, other family members and countless friends."

Pedro Mendoza had children of his own, too. One goes to Alonso High School and was called to the student affairs office Thursday morning, a friend said.

According to his Facebook page, he had to put his 7-year-old pit bull down this week because she had cancer.

He has a lengthy arrest record and has been convicted of grand theft, aggravated assault, burglary and dealing in stolen property. He spent three stints in prison, most recently from 2000 to 2003.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

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