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'I did a sin': Pasco County man's security camera captures killing of his neighbor

ANGELIQUE HERRING   |   TimesQiu “Joe” Ke sits down for an interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Paige Fry at the Pasco County jail on July 10 in Land O’ Lakes. With an upcoming trial, Qiu faces the possibility of life in prison.
ANGELIQUE HERRING | TimesQiu “Joe” Ke sits down for an interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Paige Fry at the Pasco County jail on July 10 in Land O’ Lakes. With an upcoming trial, Qiu faces the possibility of life in prison.
Published Aug. 9, 2019

HOLIDAY — Surveillance cameras guarded the suburban Florida home of Qiu "Joe" Ke. They helped him keep an eye on his Richboro Drive neighbors.

Qiu's house acted as a sanctuary for his life of solitude. The 60-year-old Chinese immigrant had retired from his information technology job and didn't get out much.

One of Qiu's cameras pointed at Edward "Lee" Tudor's front yard. The execution-style shooting it captured on Jan. 23, 2018, shocked the quiet neighborhood. Qiu quickly admitted to police that he'd killed Tudor.

The video will be shown to a jury during Qiu's murder trial set for Monday. Police investigations, court documents and recent Tampa Bay Times interviews with Qiu and the victim's mother help to fill in the story of a crime that few understood.

Qiu has said he was tormented by his neighbor to the point of pulling the trigger, something friends and neighbors never witnessed.

"I kind of lost my hope for a peaceful life then," Qiu said. "That's why suddenly I did a sin — did a homicide."

•••

Tudor was tall and slim. He lost his hair when he was 20 to chemotherapy and didn't grow it back, partly in solidarity with his mother, who also had cancer.

He was working on a bachelor's degree in nursing. At 37, he was living in his first home and was making renovations so his mom could move in.

Tudor knew not to bother his next-door neighbor, Qiu. He told his mom not to park in front of his house.

She asked about the cameras. Tudor didn't think much of it. If something were to happen to his home, he figured, Qiu would catch it on video for him.

Just after noon on that January day, Tudor was studying with a classmate, according to court records. He got up to go outside, possibly to take his dogs out.

That's when Qiu walked in, aimed his gun and fired, an arrest report said.

The video deputies recovered from Qiu's camera shows that Tudor made it outside after the first shot. Qiu followed behind. He had a grin on his face, a witness said.

Tudor held up his hands and kneeled on the grass, begging for his life.

"What did I do?"

Qiu circled around as Tudor pivoted to face him, asking one last time what he did to deserve the attack. Qiu stopped when his victim was positioned perfectly in the camera's view.

He paused and lifted the gun.

•••

Qiu, now 62, wore the Pasco County jail's orange and white stripes during an interview July 10 with the Times. He sat with his back straight and fingers clenched. His face remained mostly unchanged as he talked about why he killed his neighbor.

He will tell you that he did it. He will tell you he was bullied. He paused before answering how it feels to know that he took someone's life.

"It depends on point of view," he said.

More than a year and a half ago, shortly after he was arrested, Qiu asked for the death penalty in exchange for a guilty plea to the murder charge. He wrote to the judge: "a life for a life."

Qiu pleaded not guilty after he learned the judge couldn't give him an immediate death sentence. He decided to represent himself, he said, but came to realize that it's hard to collect evidence while in jail. He's on his second public defender.

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Prosecutors are seeking life without parole. Qiu would prefer death, and if not that, then acquittal. He said he often dreams about heaven.

He wants to argue that the killing happened in the heat of passion. He said his neighbor drove him to the point of murder.

Days after the shooting, Qiu told a Times reporter that Tudor made so much noise, he couldn't get a good night's sleep. Tudor shot plastic bullets at his Florida room, Qiu said, and would tell Qiu not to make any noise.

Neighbors and friends of Tudor told reporters they didn't know of any dispute between the two.

An arrest report said Qiu had planned to kill Tudor for a long time and to hang himself after the killing. Qiu had his will notarized beforehand: 60 percent of his things were to go to the Salvation Army, 40 percent to animal shelters.

Qiu's public defender thinks they should take a mental illness-related defense, Qiu said. Psychologists and psychiatrists visited him in jail, he said, and believe he made up the four-year dispute with Tudor.

In a journal Qiu kept, he wrote how he cared for his father in China who had Alzheimer's and schizophrenia before he passed away in 2012, according to Pasco County Sheriff's Office records. When he came back to Pasco County, he said he had problems with a neighbor named John before he moved in next door to Tudor at 3527 Richboro Drive.

"Unfortunately the house came with bully neighbors, left, right and across street," he wrote in February 2014. "I have been in a war with left side neighbor, Lee, for over a year now and still ongoing."

He wrote that he believed Tudor was copying his noises, like when Qiu whistled, to send a message to Qiu to be quiet. When he confronted Tudor about the noise issues one day, he wrote, Tudor said he didn't know what Qiu was talking about.

Qiu didn't regret the murder, he first told reporters. A year and a half later, he said his "heart has softened."

He's accepted that he'll likely be in prison after his trial, but said the decision will be God's alone.

•••

Mary Tudor stood on her Indian Shores patio on July 12, looking out to the Gulf of Mexico. She searched for dolphins. If one jumps out of the water, she believes it's her son, Lee Tudor, saying hello.

She wore a gold necklace and matching ring that her son gave to her, bearing the image of a mother and child hugging. A rubber bracelet around her ankle read: "No one fights alone." Her son had worn it on his ankle. She asked deputies to give it to her after he died.

Mary Tudor, 56, and her only son moved from Lexington, Ky., to Florida in 1997. He went back to Kentucky to finish high school and start college and moved back home after undergoing treatment for stage-four, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The mother and son enjoyed fishing and scalloping. He got into riding sport motorcycles, encouraged by her second husband. He sold bike parts and worked part-time for Pizza Hut.

He graduated with an associate's degree in nursing from Rasmussen College in September 2017. His mom gave him a stethoscope with his name and "Love, mom" engraved on it. He framed his diploma to give to her for Christmas — the last of a lifetime of gifts.

His graduation ceremony was on Aug. 4, 2018, about seven months after he died. His mom walked in his place.

She added the stethoscope to his diploma frame. It hangs above a dresser topped with his T-ball trophies, a Spider-Man head lamp and a little statue he gave her of a boy with an inscription: "Know something, Mom? You're my best friend."

She last spoke to her son less than an hour before Qiu came to his door, she said. She called to make sure they were still on for dinner that night, then exchanged I love yous and goodbyes.

•••

Attorneys asked Mary Tudor if she wanted them to pursue the death penalty. No, she said. Only God should be able to take a life.

A judge awarded her $2 million in damages on June 6 after she filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Qiu, according to court records.

The criminal trial is one of the last steps toward closure. Qiu tried to apologize to her at one of the hearings, she said.

"I don't need him to feel sorry for me," she told a reporter in July.

Qiu also is waiting for an end.

If he had two buttons, he said, and he could push one to keep living or one to die and go to heaven, he knew which one he'd pick.

He regrets killing his neighbor, he said. An autopsy report shows that Tudor was shot four times. Two shots were fatal, one to the back of Tudor's head and one to his heart.

Tudor may have bothered him, Qiu said, but now that he's spent time in jail, he realizes that some inmates are worse neighbors than the one he killed.

"Compared with them, he's not as bad," he said.

Contact Paige Fry at pfry@tampabay.com. Follow @paigexfry.

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