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Lawyer for man found dead in Clearwater home: 'I was very concerned something was going to happen to him.'

Deputies found the body of Daniel Gillespie Jr., 71, after responding to a home on Meadow Dale Drive near Clearwater. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
Deputies found the body of Daniel Gillespie Jr., 71, after responding to a home on Meadow Dale Drive near Clearwater. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
Published Nov. 23, 2018

CLEARWATER — Deborah Moss worried about her client.

Daniel Gillespie, 71, had endured court battles, accusations of abuse and several months living in a motel room, said Moss, a Clearwater attorney.

He had just moved back into his house at 1506 Meadow Dale Drive near Clearwater last week. He found the house had been vandalized by one of his daughters, a woman Gillespie tried to evict as tensions between them mounted.

"I was very concerned that something was going to happen to him," said Moss, who represented Gillespie in one of the court cases.

On Thursday, days after Gillespie moved back, Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies found him dead in the home.

Detectives said only that he died of unnatural causes. The Sheriff's Office robbery-homicide unit is investigating. No arrests have been made.

The months leading up to Gillespie's death were packed with disputes between Gillespie and his daughter, Shannon, according to court records and accounts from the his lawyers.

It started with petitions for protection the elder Gillespie filed against his daughter and a grandson who shares his name.

Daniel Gillespie wrote that his daughter, who lived with him, had tried to hurt him and prevented him from calling 911. She destroyed property and took more than $1,000 from him, he wrote, adding that he had recently come into some money. He said he feared his daughter.

"I haven't spent a dime on myself. All for them when I die," he wrote, and later, "They can stay if they apologize."

He dropped both petitions about two weeks later. School was starting, and he wanted his daughter's three younger kids to come back and settle in, another daughter, Elizabeth Gillespie, told the Tampa Bay Times.

The next day, Moss said, Shannon filed her own petition for protection from her father. The document is not publicly available, but a copy from Moss showed it involved her children.

A judge granted a temporary injunction requiring that Daniel Gillespie stay away from his daughter and her children. The elder Gillespie moved into the Orange Motel on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, court records show.

On Aug. 31, Daniel Gillespie went to a Publix supermarket where one of his grandchildren worked. Clearwater police arrested him on a charge of violating the protective order. That's when Moss entered the picture.

The attorney said she didn't believe the allegations in Shannon Gillespie's petition, noting that the injunction was later dismissed. The Sheriff's Office also looked into the allegations, she said, but her client was never arrested.

Moss typically doesn't advise clients to talk to law enforcement, she said, but with Daniel Gillespie, "I had no hesitation."

"He was beside himself that even the allegation was made," she said, "and quite frankly, everyone believed him. He was a very believable man."

In October, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office dropped a charge filed in connection with the Publix encounter.

Meantime, another dispute was playing out in court.

Daniel Gillespie was seeking to force his daughter from the home, which was left to him in 2009 by his wife after she died. Upon his death, the home was to be split among their four children, according to court records.

Gillespie's lawyer in that case, Daniel Kortenhaus, said his client had agreed to let Shannon Gillespie live in the home but was revoking that consent. A lawyer for Shannon Gillespie wrote that her late mother had wanted her and her children to live there. Shannon Gillespie paid household bills in the eight years she had been living there.

"Until the series of disputes this year, Ms. Gillespie had no reason to fear that her father would go back on his word," according to a court filing.

A judge sided with the father and gave Shannon Gillespie two weeks to move out.

Kortenhaus spoke to his client Nov. 13, two days before his death. Gillespie told the attorney that his daughter had moved out. But she had also taken several important documents, including Gillespie's military discharge papers, Kortenhaus said.

"He was concerned about his daughter coming back," Kortenhaus said.

A woman at the home on Monday told a reporter that her family had been cleared, but declined to elaborate.

The attorney who represented Shannon Gillespie in the cases involving her father, Michael Brundage, did not return repeated requests for comment.

Elizabeth Gillespie said Wednesday that her family was mourning the loss of her father, a retired mail carrier and Air Force veteran. He was a quiet, giving person, she said, who regularly attended Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater — sometimes with his grandkids.

The last time she saw her father was at a hearing in one of the petitions he filed. Beyond that, she said, she didn't know much about the relationship between her sister and father.
She said, "I wish I would have known."

Contact Kathryn Varn at or (727) 893-8913. Follow @kathrynvarn.