Shooting stuns neighbors

The dead man’s subdivision is locked down while deputies search for the gunman.

By REBECCA CATALANELLO and JACKIE RIPLEY
Published July 26, 2007



TAMPA – Jason Mullis was a fixture in his Northdale neighborhood.

He
lived in a house once owned by his parents in a prominent location
along the entrance to the Hampton Village subdivision. He regularly
threw neighborhood parties for his two young girls and their friends,
and frequently hosted neighbors for cookouts and gatherings, residents
said.

"Everybody knows him," said Gail Deriso, 52. "He’s just a nice country boy."

Mullis,
35, died Wednesday afternoon on Hoedt Road, next to his red Ford truck,
just around the bend from his house, 3201 Hoedt Road – shot to death by
someone he knew, a sheriff’s spokesman said.

Neighbors coming
upon the scene at Hoedt Road and N Dale Mabry Highway were stunned to
realize that the reason deputies blocked off access to their homes was
that their trusted neighbor was dead in the street.

And that the man suspected of killing him was on the run inside their subdivision.

Darlene
Mortellaro, a resident of the area for 22 years, arrived at the scene
right after the shooting, and said an eyewitness told her the two men
had been in an argument so loud it attracted the attention of nearby
workers at Pep Boys Auto.

Hillsborough sheriff’s spokesman J.D.
Callaway said Thomas Hall, 51, of 26042 Willow St. in Brooksville, shot
Mullis about 4:20 p.m., and ran into the neighborhood.

Deputies
scoured the neighborhood with search dogs, helicopters, cruisers and on
foot. Residents in their homes were blocked from leaving and told to
stay inside.

Deputies found Hall just over an hour later thanks
to help from a third party, Callaway said, declining to release any
more details of the capture. Hall was taken into custody and charged
with first-degree murder, he said.

Rumors rippled through the crowds of onlookers about the nature of the two men’s dispute.

Asked
if investigators believed the shooting was domestic in nature, Callaway
nodded his head. But the sheriff’s spokesman said more witnesses needed
to be interviewed before they could release a possible motive.

According
to court records, Mullis was married for 12 years to Kerry Terry, 36,
before divorcing in 2005. Neighbors said he worked in construction and
was renovating the home deeded to him by his parents.

Reached by phone, a member of Mullis’ family declined to talk about him.

Hall has no prior criminal record.

The shooting disrupted rush hour traffic in the already jammed thoroughfare north of Bearss Avenue on N Dale Mabry Highway.

Resident
David Chamberlin, 47, stood on one side of yellow crime scene tape
while his 17-year-old son, inside their home, talked to him by cell
phone about the lockdown and what he was seeing on the television news.

"It
always makes you nervous," said Chamberlin, a resident of the
subdivision for 10 years. He waited for more than an hour to get home.

At
Pep Boys Auto, assistant manager Jeremy Horab had to turn away business
because two employees had disappeared, giving witness statements to
deputies. He was surprised when customers expressed dismay.

"I’m sorry," he said. "If you can wrestle them away from police, have at it."

By
7:30 p.m., as the sun faded into a cooler night, residents lined up
inside the police tape, giving their names to deputies so that they
could be escorted back into the neighborhood without disrupting the
crime scene.

Mullis’ body remained several feet away, draped by a white sheet, his feet pointed toward home.

Times researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or 813 226-3383.

 

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Times
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http://www.sptimes.com/2007/07/26/news_pf/Hillsborough/Shooting_stuns_neighb.shtml

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