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Family seeks leads in slaying of two sisters in Tampa

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Published:   |   Updated: April 12, 2013 at 10:57 PM
TAMPA -

The slaying of two sisters who lived in the small, red-brick home on Lotus Avenue have confounded police for exactly one year.

With no new leads, the adult children of Vickie Sterling and Linda Helms came forward Friday to ask the public's help in solving the crime.

“We're trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and we can't,” said Sterling's daughter, Tiana Vause, at a news conference. “We were planning everything out for our lives and she's gone.”

Tampa police detectives say Sterling, 54, and Helms, 62, were found dead last April in different rooms of their house at 808 Lotus Ave.

A friend, who hadn't heard from the women and was concerned about them, stopped by the house and found the bodies.

Sterling and Helms were both shot to death.

The slaying shocked neighbors, who described the sisters as kind and thoughtful.

“They are very nice women,” neighbor Chastity Delorey said two days after the killing. “For anything to happen to the two of them in any bad way, I wouldn't expect anything like that.”

On Friday, Tampa police Maj. Brian Dugan said he believes the sisters knew their assailant because they had willingly opened the door and let the person inside their house.

Dugan did not specify a motive, saying only that detectives continue to follow several leads, including one tip from Lakeland.

Vause, who is eight months pregnant, said it pains her that her mother never had a chance to hold her grandson.

“My son will never have his grandma,” Vause said.

Sterling was finishing up a medical training program when she died.

“She was very happy in her life and proud,” Vause said.

Helms' son, Ben Kowalewski, said his children have been saddened because they can no longer visit their grandmother.

“She was stolen from us,” Kowalewski said. “We need someone to come forward so we can have closure for our families.”

Anyone with information on this case can contact Crime Stopper of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477 or by sending the text message “CSTB” plus the tip to 274637. Callers can remain anonymous, and any information that leads to an arrest is eligible for a $1,000 reward.


rreyes@tampatrib.com

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