Monday, November 26, 2012
PLANT CITY — A teenager defending his mother as his father beat and choked her Saturday night shot and killed him, authorities said.
The shooting happened about 10 p.m. after a small group of family and friends gathered around a bonfire outside a mobile home at 7427 Burnt Barn Ave. in the Antioch area of rural northeastern Hillsborough County, investigators said Sunday.
At some point, Christopher Thorpe, 36, followed his wife, Jill Thorpe, 35, into the mobile home. The two got in an argument, deputies said.
The fight escalated from words to fists and Christopher Thorpe began beating her, moving from the living room to the master bedroom, deputies said.
He was chocking her when their son rushed in. Channing Thorpe, 17, fired several shots from a handgun, deputies said.
At 10:15 p.m., he called 911 to say he had shot his dad, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies found Christopher Thorpe dead in the bedroom. One of the bullets also struck Jill Thorpe in the thigh. She was taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital and later released.
Deputies made no arrests in the case and left Channing Thorpe in his mother's custody.
If the family had a history of domestic violence, it was not evident in documents examined Sunday. Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show no criminal past in the state for the father, mother or son. Hillsborough court records show no domestic violence orders for protection were ever sought. And, until this incident, deputies had not been sent out to the property in at least the past year, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.
The killing stunned Evelyn Thorpe — Christopher Thorpe's mother — who was driving down Sunday from Kentucky.
"I had never, ever seen three people that were so close," Evelyn Thorpe, 64, said. "All three of them did everything together. Everything. I just can't understand it."
She said she had seen her son just two weeks ago when he visited her in Kentucky and did some hunting near her house.
He worked as a quality control inspector for Sensenich Propellers, an aircraft and airboat parts manufacturing company in Plant City.
A neighbor, Bill Dunlap, 60, said he was not aware of any domestic violence issues at the home but said Christopher Thorpe had a temper.
"He was always ready for a confrontation," Dunlap said. "I didn't really like him."
Still, he had helped Dunlap get work years ago at Sensenich and Channing Thorpe started working there after school about a year ago, Dunlap said. Jill Thorpe, he said, manages the Strawberry Hut sandwich shop.
"Chris thought of himself as the ruler of the roost and I guess Jill just got tired of it," Dunlap said. "He thought all women loved him and all women were second-class citizens."
Three others at the bonfire apparently did not witness the shooting. The three were Channing Thorpe's maternal grandmother, who lives there, along with his girlfriend and another friend, the Sheriff's Office said.
The shooting becomes at least the eighth incident in nine years in the Tampa Bay area where a child has stepped in with a weapon to protect a parent from domestic violence.
They include a case in St. Petersburg last year in which a 16-year-old told police he stabbed his stepfather to death to protect his mother. As parents Paula and Otis Wilson Jr. fought, the teen, Derrion Adams, got a knife from a kitchen drawer. He was arrested and faced a charge as a juvenile of manslaughter.
They also include a case in Hillsborough in 1994 in which a 14-year-old boy stabbed and injured his mother's live-in boyfriend, Rudolph Nathan, after the man had demanded money from her and her two sons to support his drug habit and a fight broke out. The boy's name was not released and deputies said he would not be charged.
In the shooting this weekend, the Sheriff's Office will continue to investigate, spokeswoman Debbie Carter said, then hand the case to the State Attorney's Office to decide on any charges.
Times news researcher Natalie Watson and staff writer Rich Shopes contributed to this report.