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Crime & Courts

Deputies: Three shot at Citrus Park home

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Published:   |   Updated: May 6, 2013 at 10:12 AM
TAMPA -

Two women were shot to death late Sunday morning and a third managed to escape the bloodbath, running a block away before she sat down next to a utility pole, where a passer-by found her drenched in blood.

The shooting occurred near the corner of Gunn Highway and Manhattan Drive,  across from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's District III headquarters.

The shooter had not been identified by Sunday night, though deputies said the shooting did not appear to be random.

Fern Giddings, 56, was found dead inside the home, while Nell Mason, 52, died at St. Joseph's Hospital, said sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski. The third victim has been identified as Christina Soto, 35. She is in stable condition at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Deputies sought a search warrant so they could go inside the home and gather evidence. Lusczynski said the shooter appeared to have known the victims.

"We don't have somebody roaming around the streets shooting people," she said.

Three people were being interviewed about the shooting, deputies said, but no suspect was named.

The women lived in the home, along with some other people, Lusczynski said. It was unclear who, besides the victims, was inside the house at the time of the shooting.

"We are trying to track them down," Lusczynski said. Several neighbors were giving their accounts to deputies about what they heard and saw.

Deputies were alerted to the wounded woman, Soto, and found the other two victims in the home at 7420 Manhattan Drive in the Citrus Park area shortly after 11 a.m., Lusczynski said.

Soto, who escaped from the house, was still alive, but Mason died after she was taken to the hospital, she said.

Mason would have turned 53 on Monday.

Neighbors said they heard three bangs, like the sound of a hammer on a nail.

"I was sitting at my picnic table and I heard three pops," said Brittany Mellon, who lives a couple houses down from where the shooting occurred. "I thought nothing of it and then five minutes go by and I see her."

Mellon saw Soto emerge from a side street a block away from the house. She slumped near a utility pole.

A bicyclist had stopped and Mellon approached. The wounded woman was clad only in underwear and soaked with blood.

"'I've been shot,'" she told Mellon and the bicyclist, and pulled her hand away to reveal a hole in her neck.

Mellon ran back toward her house and shouted to other neighbors who were outside to call 911.

Mellon and two other neighbors who did not wish to be named agreed the neighborhood has its share of crime and that deputies often were at the house where the shooting occurred, though Lusczynski said she had not seen a list of prior calls for service at the home.

The neighbors said cars often came and went from the single-story, three-bedroom house, while the occupants seldom left.

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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