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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Crime & Courts

Officials: Dad shot family, set Avila fire in murder-suicide

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Published:   |   Updated: May 9, 2014 at 09:16 PM

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office confirmed Friday what many had suspected: The four people found dead after a pre-dawn house fire on Wednesday died in a murder-suicide.

“Darrin Campbell, with the gun that was registered to him, systematically shot his son, his daughter and his wife in the head,’’ said sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski. “He then placed fireworks throughout the residence. Used an accelerant to assist in lighting the fire. Lit the fire and then shot himself.”

Investigators do not yet know why, she said.

Along with Campbell, those killed in the fire were his wife, Kim, 51, and their two children, 18-year-old Colin and 15-year-old Megan.

Darrin Campbell, 49, did not appear to have a history of mental illness, Lusczynski said. She said investigators are looking into whether he had been having financial issues. She said he appeared to recently have taken time off from the Tampa company VASTEC, where he had been the chief operating officer.

The evidence against Campbell is clear, Lusczynski said. He bought several gas cans at a home improvement store at about 8 a.m. Sunday, a large amount of fireworks an hour later, then purchased gas at two separate stores on Tuesday, the day before the fire.

Investigators are still combing through the home, which the family was renting from retired tennis star James Blake and which was destroyed in the fire. Lusczynski said some records and computers were found in the house, though whether the information contained in them is salvageable is still unknown.

Investigators are interviewing friends and family members to try to establish a motive, but the process will take time, Lusczynski said.

“We express our condolences to the family,’’ Lusczynski said.

County property records indicate that the Campbells appeared to be doing well financially a decade ago but might have been having financial problems since the recession.

In 2001, the couple built a home in Westchase and took out a $546,000 mortgage. In 2003, the Campbells brought a vacant lot in the Stillwater neighborhood in Odessa for about $338,000. They paid off the mortgage quickly and sold the lot for $500,000 in 2006, at the height of the market.

That same year, the couple bought another vacant lot in Stillwater for about $300,000. The couple still owns that lot, property records show, but it now is valued at about a third of the purchase price.

The couple owed an $8,000 lien on that vacant lot in 2011 for unpaid homeowner’s association fees, which eventually was paid off, records show. The couple also was delinquent on the tax payments for that property in 2008 and 2012, and had yet to pay the $1,800 owed for 2013.

In 2007, the Campbells refinanced their Westchase home, a process they repeated at least twice more before they sold the home in 2012 for $750,000, when they owed about $487,000 against the property, records show.

The family did not appear to live as if money was an issue. In addition to renting a home valued at nearly $1.6 million, both children attended Carrollwood Day School, whose website says the annual tuition cost for a high school student is $17,000. That amount does not include the costs for uniforms, supplies and fees to participate on athletic teams.

Darrin Campbell is listed as the school’s treasurer, an unpaid volunteer position.

Campbell bought the gun he used to kill his family at Shooters World, the sheriff’s office said.

Bruce Kitzis, general manager at Shooters World, said Darrin Campbell wasn’t a member of the gun store, located at 116 E. Fletcher Ave., and wasn’t a regular.

Campbell bought a .40-caliber Sig Sauer handgun that cost about $500 in early 2013, Kitzis said. He passed the background checks and didn’t alarm any store clerks when he bought the gun, Kitzis said.

“We did all the necessary background,” Kitzis said. “Everything seemed to be fine.”

The East Fletcher store alone sells about 18,000 guns a year, Kitzis said.

“He was not a member. He never frequented this place,” Kitzis said.

Shooters World is cooperating with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigation, he said.

“There are so many wonderful gun owners,” Kitzis said. “It’s a tragedy. We feel bad.”

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

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