The Tampa Police Department is mourning the loss of one of their own. Deanna Mendoza, who was a 911 dispatcher and mother of three, was murdered by her estranged husband early Thursday morning. He then took his own life.
It's almost hard to believe that a woman who spent part of her time as a police dispatcher dealing with domestic violence lost her life that way.
And while we're told she was a model employee, her husband's family tells me there were serious problems outside the office.
"Everybody's devastated right now, because we can't piece it together, because he wasn't that type of person," said Steven Valdez, Sr., who is Pedro Mendoza's brother-in-law.
Mendoza family members and friends hugged each other, still coming to grips with what took place early Thursday outside their home on Galewood Circle in Town n' Country.
Yellow police tape wrapped around the gruesome scene, a neighbor heard gunshots and called 911.
"He approached the vehicle and did see two bodies slumped over in the vehicle," said Cristal Bermudez-Nunez with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies found Deanna and Pedro Mendoza dead inside her car.
"They were going through a separation and he was trying to move on," said a nephew, Ralph Betancourt.
The couple had been together several years and were still married, but they separated amid major problems in the last three months, family members said.
"He was a happy go lucky person," said Betancourt. "Like a person that when you're down, that was the person there to cheer you up."
The family said Deanna dropped her kids at the bus stop, then came by to see Pedro, whom his nephews call "Uncle Pete."
Detectives said Deanna pulled up outside the home Pete lived in with his mother. They say he went inside, then came back out of the house, shot Deanna in the driver's seat, then climbed into the back seat and shot himself.
"Did you know he had a weapon?," we asked. "No! No!," his brother-in-law Valdez. "Nobody knew anything or expected anything!"
"She always had a smile on her face, always willing to help everybody," said TPD Communications Director Tom Wolff, who added, the call about her death stunned everyone who knew her.
"I think she probably kept a lot of that to herself," said Wolff. "We knew that there's some issues, but nothing that anybody would ever think something like this would occur, so it's a shock to everybody here."
Pete Mendoza had four children from a previous marriage; Deanna had three, so their loss is being felt all around.
"Pete's never been a person to strike blood from anybody, he's not that type of guy," said Steven Valdez, Jr. who told us his Uncle Pete was his favorite uncle.
"He was always saying they were arguing and stuff like that," said Betancourt. "But never, never in my life would I have thought any of this could have happened or he had it to do this."
We're told Deanna's kids are staying with their father, and Pete Mendoza's family said they'd be staying with his mother and his kids, to comfort them.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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