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Slain father: 'If something happens to me, it's going to be my son.'

Friends said Jim Costello, 68, loved to classic rock and blues songs on his acoustic guitar. Costello’s son, Evan, is accused of fatally shooting him, according to Tarpon Springs police. [Courtesy of Gina McNairy]
Published Nov. 15, 2018

TARPON SPRINGS — James Costello lived with a grim foreboding.

"He told everybody that, 'If something happens to me, it's going to be my son,'" said friend Gina McNairy.

That proved prophetic. His son, Evan Costello, shot him twice at their home Tuesday after an argument over the son's dog, according to Tarpon Springs police. The younger Costello, 25, now faces a charge of first-degree murder.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Argument over dog led Tarpon Springs man to shoot and kill his father, police say

Friends now mourn the loss of the elder Costello, 68, who went by "Jim." They remembered him as a kind spirit and talented carpenter who loved to play his Gibson acoustic guitar. He'd have friends over to his house at 1641 Lonesome Pine Lane to strum some blues, or hang out on McNairy's front porch and jam to classic rock.

Evan Costello was a loner who had moved back in with his father last year after a fight in 2015 left them estranged, said McNairy, 57.

The son had mental health issues and wasn't taking his medication, the father told her. McNairy recalled Jim Costello telling her that his son had recently started buying guns.

"I asked him if he thought that was a good idea," she said, "and he said no, but he couldn't really stop him."

Evan Costello told a 911 operator at about 1 a.m. Tuesday that he had shot his dad, according to police. He said the dispute started when his dog, a small mixed breed named Tetsuo, had eaten his father's medication and got sick.

They took the dog nicknamed "Tetch" to an animal hospital, then drove home in silence, according to the arrest report.

When they got home, Evan Costello told police that his father said something that "enraged him." He also said that he had thought about shooting anyone who angered him, the arrest report said, and was waiting for someone to do so.

Police said Evan Costello told investigators he grabbed his gun from his bathroom counter, walked to the doorway of his father's bedroom and shot him twice. The son said he froze, then called 911.

"I shot my dad," he told the operator, according to the recording.

"My dog got really sick tonight," he added later, "and he ate one of my dad's pills or something, and I just — I don't know. I just got upset. We were arguing."

Tarpon Springs officers found his father dead in a third-floor bedroom. Evan Costello was being held Wednesday in the Pinellas County jail without bail. He was placed on suicide watch to ensure he doesn't harm himself, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. A public defender was appointed to represent him in court.

No one else was in the home at the time of the shooting, police said. Court records show Jim Costello and his wife of 26 years divorced in 2014. He also had an older daughter, friends said.

The elder Costello had always worked in construction, said Roger Altland, a friend who met him when they both lived in Clearwater in the early 1970s. He was "a heck of a carpenter," Altland said, and hung two doors in his friend's Palm Harbor home.

Another friend, Michael Kesling, remembered cooking out and watching football with Jim Costello at a nursery McNairy and her late husband owned in Odessa.

After her husband died, McNairy said Jim Costello joined her for meals and festivals to make sure she wasn't alone.

"He was a very good working honest man," said Kesling, 66.

Altland, 64, said father and son often fought, although he said Jim Costello didn't express the same ominous hunch he shared with McNairy. Altland recalled a 2015 fight in which Evan Costello accused his father of punching him in the head. Police arrested Jim Costello on a battery charge. It was later reduced to disorderly conduct, and the father pleaded no contest to the charge.

Altland and McNairy said their friend denied hitting his son, and they believed him.

"I don't see Jim hitting anyone," McNairy said. "He just didn't have it in him."

Evan Costello moved back into the home on Lonesome Pine Lane about 18 months ago, McNairy said. Despite his son's struggles, she said Jim Costello was always there for him.

"Jim did so much good for that kid," she said. "He tried."

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

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