A double homicide in St. Petersburg Sunday is now a double arson as well. One of the victim's trucks was stolen and discovered on fire in Tampa Monday shortly after noon.
St. Petersburg Police identified the murder victims as 51-year old Bruce Johnson, who lived at 2635 4th Avenue North; and 36-year old Arthur Regula of Hudson, Florida, who was installing tile.
"Both men were killed prior to when the fire started," said police spokesperson Mike Puetz, "We do believe the fire was actually set by the suspect in an effort to try to cover up his tracks."
Puetz declined to specify the cause of their deaths. Motive also remains a mystery, but Puetz said investigators do not believe the deaths were random.
"We don't believe these individuals were targeted randomly. Everything would seem to suggest that the suspect in this case probably had some connection to these individuals," he said.
Sunday, St. Petersburg police asked the public for assistance in finding Regula's pickup truck, which had a distinctive vanity license plate and painting on the tailgate. Monday, that vehicle was reported on fire, backed against a dumpster behind a commercial property at MacDill and Columbus in Tampa.
That vehicle fire was reported at 12:10 p.m. The house fire was also reported in broad daylight, at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday. That disturbs other residents of the Kenwood neighborhood.
"My kids were out playing, everyone's kids were out playing," said Laura Bechtel, who lives at the end of the block, "Nobody heard anything, nobody saw anything."
Lisa Berardo, another neighbor, said the situation was frightening.
"You know very, very scary when it hits at home. You just wonder why," she said.
But Ron Salvage, who lives two doors away from the crime scene, was more circumspect.
"I have some sociology in my background," Salvage explained, "I wouldn't be willing to make a guess about where our society is going because of somebody dying on our block."
Monday, a number of people who claimed to know Johnson stopped by the scene, and a small memorial began to build. All described Johnson as a long-time "flipper" of residential property, who was well-known and well-liked by many people.
As news of the circumstances behind this crime made the rounds, it made people in the neighborhood feel uneasy.
The people who live in the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg say it's just like any other community. People wave hello to their neighbors, but for the most part mind their own business.
"Sometimes you see somebody walk their dog, that's it," said neighbor Joyce Salvage.
Sunday, investigators say something much more sinister went on behind the doors of a home on 4th Avenue North. That's when police say two men were killed, the house set on fire, and one of the victim's truck was stolen.
That truck was found Monday afternoon, on fire in Tampa.
"I walked outside and I seen a truck on fire, a big old fire," said witness David Dowdy.
Police say they believe the two men were
killed before the fire was set Sunday.
"It's scary, especially to have two people found dead in there, and they're thinking it happened before the fire," said neighbor Vickey Schofield.
"It's very unsettling, I wasn't able to sleep," said Salvage.
Monday, St. Petersburg police wore out a little shoe leather looking to solve this double murder, double arson mystery. They walked door-to-door handing out fliers, looking for any little clue to help them find the killer.
Investigators say they believe this was not a random attack, and despite their sadness over the weekend murder, that was something that gave neighbors just a bit of relief.
"I'm not saying I'm glad that they're saying maybe it was targeted but in a way I am because if it was just random that would be a lot scarier," said Salvage.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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