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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Crime & Courts

Motive remains elusive in Avila murder-suicide

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Published:   |   Updated: June 9, 2014 at 06:58 AM

A month after firefighters found a family of four, including two teenagers, dead inside a burning Avila mansion, law enforcement investigators continue to dig for answers to explain why a man would fatally shoot his wife and two children before torching the house and turning the gun on himself.

It’s no secret what happened, said Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman Larry McKinnon. The question, at least so far, is why.

Homicide detectives are looking at the full spectrum of the family’s interactions with each other and others to uncover possible reasons why prominent business executive Darrin Campbell did what he did.

“We’re working very hard to come up with a reason,” McKinnon said. “In a case like this, there are so many dynamics involved you may never know the reason. And the only person who did know the reason took it to his grave.

“This is a very complex case,” McKinnon said. “We’re looking for answers ... for the extended family members and the community, so we can all have closure.

Deputies said Campbell, 49, killed his wife, Kimberly, 51, and two children, Colin, 18 and Megan, 16, before he set fire to the $1.6 million home he rented from retired professional tennis player James Blake, and killed himself.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews were called to the upscale house behind the gates of Avila early on the morning of May 7. Entering the burning home, they found the bodies of the teens and their parents.

Sheriff’s deputies have concluded that Darrin Campbell executed his family and killed himself with a .40 caliber Sig Sauer he bought a few weeks prior to the incident. He also had placed plastic cans of gasoline around the house along with $600 worth of fireworks to impede firefighters, deputies said.

Detectives are looking at a wide array of possible motives, including finances, whether there were marital problems or mental health issues, McKinnon said.

“No stone will be left unturned to try to draw a picture of what may have pushed this person into this situation,” he said. “We may not know why, but hopefully, we will be able to say what this family was involved in prior to this occurring.”

If relatives have clues as to what was going on, they aren’t talking.

Kimberly Campbell’s father, Gordon Lambie of Michigan, said, “no comment,” when reached by telephone Friday. Darrin Campbell’s mother, Mary, who lives in Arizona, declined to take a call from a reporter Friday as well.

Initial speculation was that financial problems may be at the heart of the motive, McKinnon said, though the probe is open-ended. Just financial problems, McKinnon said, “doesn’t lend itself to being the only reason why this happened. Certainly it’s a component, one aspect, but it’s only a slice of the pie. We can’t focus in on someone having financial difficulties and ignore everything else.”

He said he has never seen a case in which a person killed his or her family solely because of financial problems.

“I can’t remember ever, ever, in my 35 years in law enforcement, an occurrence similar to this and it happening just because of finances,” McKinnon said. “But everyone’s perspective of what is hopeless is different.”

Campbell was an executive whose career featured stints at established companies such as PODS and Anchor Glass Containers before taking a job at Vastec, a Channelside-based digital services provider. There, Campbell was the chief operating officer. He had taken time off from work at Vastec shortly before the killings.

Harry Costello, spokesman for Vastec, a month ago said the company had noticed no irregularities in the finances there and was not planning to audit the work done by Campbell. Investigators, he said, also reviewed the books in the days and weeks after the deaths.

Costello on Friday said nothing had changed.

“We haven’t seen anything amiss,” he said, “not to our knowledge.”

Public records reveal no apparent money problems with Campbell or his family. He has no criminal record and no apparent history of mental health issues. He volunteered as treasurer for the private Carrollwood Day School, where both his children were enrolled. School officials have said the school has no reason to believe he was misusing funds.

“We have no indication there has been any financial impropriety as it relates to our school,” said school spokeswoman Erma Ruffkess. “There are extensive checks and balances and protocols in place to ensure the security of all school bank accounts and accounting/financial records.

When the probe will be completed is uncertain, McKinnon said, as forensic evidence analysis and toxicology tests from the medical examiner’s office have yet to be completed.

There was no suicide note left behind or any hint of what caused Campbell to take such drastic actions.

“We can say individuals are having health or financial issues or extramarital affairs of something else domestic-related,” McKinnon said, “but unless someone in that party left documentation indicating why they did it, we may never know. The forensic evidence is obvious about what happened. Now the questions are why, why would somebody do this?”

He said detectives are driven to get answers for relatives of the victims and the community as well as themselves.

“We have a moral obligation to try to provide an answer,” he said. “But this may be one case where we may never know.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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