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Silvio IZQUIERDO-LEYVA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The Radisson Hotel killer"
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: December 30, 1999
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1963
Victims profile: Eric Pedroso, 29; Barbara Carter, 55; Jose R. Aguilar, 40; George C. Jones, 44, and Dolores Perdomo, 56
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Tampa, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on April 15, 2002
 
 

 
 
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A housekeeper opened fire inside a hotel crowded with football fans in town for a bowl game, killing four co-workers before shooting a fifth person dead as he tried to escape.

The gunman then carjacked another vehicle without hurting that driver and drove a short distance before he was apprehended by police.

 


Niece says suspect quiet, shy, sweet man

Tampa Tribune

31 December 1999

TAMPA - Nely Rodriguez was surprised but not alarmed when Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva burst through the front door of 3023 Green St. and brusquely asked, "Where's everybody at? Where they at?"

"He seemed like he was paranoid, kind of scared," said Rodriguez, 16, who often visits a friend at the house, Liza Izquierdo, also 16. Izquierdo-Leyva is Liza's uncle, Rodriguez said.


Five died in shooting spree at crowded Florida hotel

Watertown Daily Times

31 December 1999

Without saying a word, a housekeeper opened fire inside a hotel crowded with football fans in town for a bowl game, killing four co-workers before shooting a fifth person dead as he tried to escape, authorities said.

Three others were wounded in the 3 p.m. Thursday spree. One remained in critical condition early today, while the other was in serious condition. The third was treated and released on Thursday.


Man opens fire at hotel in Florida; 5 are killed

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

31 December 1999

In a hotel jammed with football fans, an employee shot and killed four co-workers yesterday, then killed a fifth person as he tried to escape, police said. Three others were wounded.

The suspect, Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, 36, was arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree murder, Police Chief Bennie Holder said late yesterday.


Hotel employee kills 5 in shooring spree

Gunman seemed to have a grudge, Tampa Police say

San Jose Mercury News

31 December 1999

An employee opened fire at a Tampa Bay, Fla., hotel Thursday, killing four co-workers, then fatally shot a motorist as he attempted to steal her car for a getaway, Tampa police said. Three other people were wounded.

The gunman then carjacked another vehicle without hurting that driver and drove a short distance before he was apprehended by police, police official Steve Cole said. The suspect, identified as Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, a 36-year-old Cuban immigrant, was arrested without incident.


Murder suspect devoted to Santeria

Scripps Howard News Service

31 December 1999

TAMPA, Fla. - When Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva returned from a visit last month to his native Cuba, he was a changed man.

He had always been drawn to Santeria, a religion rooted in Africa with gods, spirits and sacrifices. But now, Izquierdo had embarked on a year's worth of studies to become a Santero, a priest of the faith.


Motive for targeting co-workers still unknown

December 31, 1999

When Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva went on his rampage Thursday, police say he targeted those he worked with every day.

Four of the five people that police said Izquierdo killed were employees of the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel.

The fifth victim, 56-year-old Dolores Perdomo, simply got in the way of his escape. Izquierdo shot her as he was trying to steal her car, police said.

Those killed at the hotel were Eric Pedroso, 29, of 3907 N Tampa St.; Barbara Carter, 55, of 8718 Fountain Ave.; Jose R. Aguilar, 40, of 101 Newbury Avenue; and George C. Jones, 44, of 1003 E Poinsetta Ave.

Perdomo, of 7803 Haversham Place, was killed in her car on Columbus Drive. Records show she received her first Florida driver's license two months ago.

The surviving victims are Jorge Cano, 40, who was in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital; Charlie Lee White, 43, who was treated for a gunshot wound to the leg and released from St. Joseph's; and Geraldine Dobson, 53, who was in surgery Thursday night for a gunshot wound to the buttocks.

One of the dead workers, Carter, had worked in housekeeping at the hotel for 15 years. Todd Hixon, a friend, told the Times late Thursday that Carter was sitting next to fellow employee Cesar Bustamante when Izquierdo approached and fired from point-blank range. Hixon is Bustamante's roommate.

Izquierdo turned toward Bustamante. Only 2 feet separated him from the gun, Hixon said. But the gun didn't fire. Izquierdo calmly walked away.

"There was no warning and no words said," Hixon said Bustamante told him. "There was no reason for it that we know of."

Bustamante had trained Izquierdo a couple of months ago for his job as a housekeeper. He did not seem to be outwardly hostile toward any of the other employees, Hixon said.

Hixon had visited the hotel early in the afternoon. He had brought sandwiches from Schlotzsky's Deli to eat with his friends. The housekeeping staff was in a jovial mood for they had received their paychecks a day early due to the New Year's Eve holiday. Most had just finished their shifts when the shooting started.

"Barbara was in a good mood like usual," Hixon said.

Hixon described his friend as a fun woman who could take a joke. She startled easily so Hixon and Bustamante would often leave plastic spiders lying around to see her reaction.

Carter lived in Tampa most of her life and had little family, Hixon said. Carter enjoyed collecting Elvis records and was a sucker for a good western movie and model cars.

She was planning to move to a new mobile home in the next few weeks, Hixon said.

"It's still shocking that she won't be able to do that," he said. "The whole thing doesn't make much sense."

As police worked to notify next of kin Thursday evening, frightened relatives of hotel workers scrambled for any information they could find. Many arrived at St. Joseph's Hospital, where most of the wounded were taken.

Darron Duval was at work in Bradenton when his sister and cousin frantically called him Thursday afternoon, telling him his mother, Geraldine Dobson, had been shot.

Duval jumped on the highway and drove to St. Joseph's -- only to learn his mother was in surgery at Tampa General Hospital for a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

"They told me St. Joseph's," Duval said as he rushed to his car outside the wrong hospital. "I don't know anything yet. I'm going to see what's up."

Late Thursday, officials at TGH said Dobson was in serious condition.

Dobson has been a housekeeper at the Radisson Bay Harbor for a few years and enjoyed working there, Duval said. Other relatives who arrived at St. Joseph's said Dobson was engaged to White -- a hotel kitchen worker who also was shot.

Dobson's sister, Vera Ward of Tampa, was frustrated that authorities didn't know Dobson's condition -- or even point her to the right hospital.

"We just haven't heard any details," Ward said. "They just told me to get over to the hospital."

Meanwhile, others who had relatives working at the Radisson arrived at St. Joseph's to see if they were among the wounded.

Jessica Aviles arrived at the hospital with several members of her family after hearing her uncle, Jose Aguilar, may have been wounded. Aguilar worked in the kitchen at the hotel, Aviles said.

"The police and the hotel won't tell us anything," she said.

Police later confirmed Aguilar was one of the five people killed.


Suspect devoted to Santeria

December 31, 1999

The family of the man charged with the shooting rampage say he had begun work to become a priest of the religion created by slaves.

When Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva returned from a visit last month to his native Cuba, he was a changed man.

He had always been drawn to Santeria, a religion rooted in Africa with gods, spirits and sacrifices. But now, Izquierdo had embarked on a year's worth of studies to become a Santero, a priest of the faith.

And as such, jeans and T-shirts would no longer do, his family said.

"He must wear white," said his niece Liza Izquierdo, 16. That included even his shoes.

When, according to police, Izquierdo sprayed the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel and the streets of Tampa with bullets Thursday, he was dressed entirely in the color of purity in Santeria lore.

The rampage left Izquierdo's family dumbfounded. Never had they seen a sign of violence, his nieces and nephews said.

And he seemed stable.

"He must have been crazy but he sure didn't seem like it," said another niece, Sheena Vazquez, 14.

Even at the West Tampa house where Izquierdo lived periodically over the last year, family members said nothing seemed to bother the man who was well over 6 feet tall and had a belly that revealed his hefty appetite.

"He was the quiet type," Liza Izquierdo said about the uncle whom they affectionately called "Kaki."

And maybe, they said Thursday night, as police tallied five dead and three wounded, the silence was the problem.

"I guess he's the type of person to hold it all in," she said quietly against the noise of cars rushing down Interstate 275, just beyond the front yard.

When he came to the U.S. several years ago, Izquierdo left behind sisters, brothers and a young daughter in Cuba. He lived for a while in Alabama, according to officials, and in Mississippi with a woman, either a girlfriend or wife, said Liza and Sheena.

Maria Col, a Catholic Social Services worker in Mobile, said Izquierdo arrived in Mobile in 1995 with a group of Cuban refugees who had been detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He left several months ago, said Col, who described him as a hard worker who didn't drink.

Izquierdo had a few traffic citations but no criminal record in Mobile, said officials with the Mobile Police Department. Police in Hillsborough said they couldn't find a criminal record under Izquierdo's name, either.

Liza and Sheena's father, George, who was Izquierdo's brother, died years ago. But when Izquierdo moved to Tampa, he came to live with them, their three siblings and their mother Angela Vazquez, 40.

"He always liked my mom," Liza said. "When my dad and mom got together, she said (Izquierdo) had a little crush on her."

And yet, it appears Izquierdo might have been targeting the family Thursday. Liza got a near-hysterical call from her mother Thursday afternoon that Izquierdo tried to shoot her at the Radisson hotel when she stopped by to pick up a paycheck.

He then went to their house, at 3023 Green St., looking for family members but found none home.

When Angela Izquierdo asked him to move out seven months ago, he moved into a West Tampa home with a woman he was dating. The woman, Adrianna, who was reached by phone Thursday and would not give her last name, said there weren't any problems between them, and that he never bad-mouthed the family.

Six months ago, though, he bought a gun. Adrianna said she didn't know why he got one or how, or even what kind.

When Izquierdo was handcuffed Thursday, he was carrying two firearms. One was a 9mm pistol he bought from the Floriland Mall flea market on Jan. 2, said police Chief Bennie Holder. The other, a .38-caliber revolver, was purchased from Nationwide Sports by an unknown person, he said.

But Adrianna said that Thursday morning was like any other. Izquierdo left for work at 8:30, and when she called him an hour later, everything seemed normal.

"Get the clothes ready because when I come home, we're washing them," he told her.

But at least one co-worker thought Izquierdo seemed troubled Thursday. Hotel employee Dolly Guzman, 35, said that since Izquierdo started work there two months ago, he usually was nice, if taciturn.

"He seemed weird today," said Guzman, a maid at the hotel for 13 years. "I talked to him and he didn't answer very nicely."

Guzman also said he was known to be involved in witchcraft and once refused to go to a employee party because it was against his religion.

But even to family, he didn't reveal much about his faith. Santeria is a secretive religion begun several centuries ago by West Africans enslaved in colonial Cuba. His trip to Cuba lasted 21 days -- the longest allowable by visa.

Before he left, he collected numerous photos of Angela and her children and took them with him. Sheena Vazquez said she wasn't sure if they were part of a Santeria ceremony or if he just wanted to show them to family.

And despite his recent voyage and steady employment, money was always tight, family said.

"He was always calling us, asking for money," Liza Izquierdo said.

But the family wasn't bothered when he came around. On weekends, he took his bait and tackle and headed to the Courtney Campbell Parkway to fish. At home, he watched Spanish-language soap operas.

The day before Christmas, he was at Angela's house watching action and horror movies with the group, including Rage, Rush Hour and Carrie II at least twice.

A month earlier, Izquierdo had asked Angela if he could move back in.

She said no. She didn't want her five children to have to give up any of their bedrooms.

Izquierdo didn't bring it up again. And he didn't appear offended.

But family members still grappled with what may have triggered the rampage police say was Izquierdo's doing.

Said Sheena Vazquez, "Something must have happened that he didn't like my mom and us."


MOTIVE SOUGHT IN HOTEL MURDERS

THE MIAMI HERALD

1 January 2000

While friends comforted the family of a mother of two slain as her car was stolen, a burly hotel housekeeper, accused of a Tampa hotel shooting spree and violent escape attempt, stood silently Friday before a judge reeling off five counts of first-degree murder.

Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, 36, a recent Cuban immigrant with aspirations for Santeria priesthood, faces the multiple murder charges and three counts of carjacking - all erupting from 21 minutes of mayhem in downtown Tampa, police say.


SUSPECT FORMALLY CHARGED IN FIVE TAMPA MURDERS

HE IS A LEGAL CUBAN IMMIGRANT WITH A REPORTED INTEREST IN SANTERIA.

THE TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

1 January 2000

A man accused of opening fire inside a crowded hotel, killing four colleagues before shooting another person dead while trying to escape, was formally charged Friday.

Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, 36, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder and three counts of armed carjacking during an initial hearing before Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Holloway.


Hotel Worker Is Charged In the Killing Of 5 in Tampa

The New York Times

January 1, 2000

A hotel housekeeper was charged today with first-degree murder in the killings of four fellow workers in a crowded hotel and the shooting death of woman from whom he tried to take a car as he sought to escape.

The worker, Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, 36, was also charged with three counts of armed carjacking in a hearing today before Judge Cynthia Holloway of Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

Mr. Izquierdo-Leyva did not talk to investigators after his arrest on Thursday, and the police are still unsure of a motive, Chief Bennie Holder of the Tampa police said.

There were indications today that only hotel workers were the gunman's targets.

Wendy Sobaski, a member of a Missouri women's college basketball team staying at the hotel, told her father, Kenny, that a teammate, Robyn Gerber, came face to face with the gunman as she tried to flee.

''He told Robyn he wasn't interested in anyone else, the team was O.K.,'' Mr. Sobaski said.

There were also indications from relatives that Mr. Izquierdo-Leyva went after his sister-in-law, Angela Vazquez, who supervises housekeeping at the hotel.

Mr. Izquierdo-Leyva was arrested not long after he opened fire in the Radisson Bay Harbor Inn and struck seven people: two outside the front entrance, two in the lobby, one in another area, one by the pool and one in a restaurant.

Of the three people who were wounded, one remained in critical condition and another in serious condition today. The third was treated and released on Thursday.


THEORY EMERGES IN HOTEL KILLINGS

TAMPA TRIBUNE

2 January 2000

TAMPA - A witness believes the suspect was seeking revenge against co-workers who complained about his job performance.

Two days after a shooting spree that left five dead and three wounded, witnesses believe complaints about sloppy towel delivery led to the suspected shooter's attack.


RAMPAGE SUSPECT ARRESTED IN '97

TAMPA TRIBUNE

4 January 2000

TAMPA - As family members prepare to bury the victims of Thursday's shootings, more details emerge about the suspect.

The man charged with five counts of murder in last week's shooting rampage was arrested in Alabama just two years ago in the vicious stabbing of an acquaintance, authorities there confirmed late Monday.


RAMPAGE SUSPECT SENT TO ANOTHER JAIL

TAMPA TRIBUNE

22 January 2000

TAMPA - The man charged in a Dec. 30 shooting rampage finds himself in trouble with Hillsborough County jail officials.

Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, charged in a shooting rampage that left five people dead and three others wounded, has been transferred to another jail after allegedly attacking another inmate, officials said Friday.


ACCUSED SHOOTER CLAIMED DEPRESSION

THE MIAMI HERALD

10 February 2000

A hotel worker accused of fatally shooting four co-workers and another woman during his escape told police that a doctor refused to treat him for depression because he didn't have enough money.

According to police documents released Tuesday, Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva told detectives shortly after the Dec. 30 shootings that he was tired and thirsty and hadn't slept well for a week.


SHOOTING SPREE SUSPECT STILL CONFUSED

DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL

14 February 2000

The man accused of a shooting spree that left five people dead at a hotel in Tampa late last year still doesn't understand what happened, his brother said.

Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva seems like a man coming out of a coma, his brother Pedro told The Tampa Tribune for Sunday's edition.


POLICE CHARGE PAIR WHO SOLD GUN TO HOTEL SHOOTING SUSPECT

DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL

3 March 2000

A couple who officials say provided a weapon to a Cuban immigrant accused of killing five in a bloody rampage last year now face charges that they did not maintain proper records at their flea market gun shop. Federal agents poured over the records at Big E's gun shop at the Floriland flea market after Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva was accused of fatally shooting five people at the Radisson Bay Harbor hotel and La Teresita Supermercado.


TWO FIREARMS DEALERS ACQUITTED IN TAMPA HOTEL SHOOTING

DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL

10 June 2000

Two firearms dealers who sold a gun allegedly used in a hotel rampage that left five dead were cleared Friday of charges that they broke the law.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew said she wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that James and Sonia Simms deliberately violated federal firearms record keeping regulations.


The Suspect

In his back yard, Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva's carefully built shed protects objects meant to guide him into an ancient religion.

There is sugar cane, a photo of a white-bearded African spirit guide, white flowers in a vase and a bowl with coins.

A plastic figure of a child seated on what may be an altar occupies a place of apparent honor. A crooked stick rests on the child's arm.

A small bottle containing what friends say was liquor, an offering for a saint, rests on its side. Just outside the little shed, less than 5 feet high and maybe 4 feet long, a wooden bowl is upside down.

"That's where he puts the pieces of meat,'' said a friend, pointing to the bowl and warning a visitor not to turn it over. The friend is the oldest brother of Izquierdo-Leyva's 33-year-old girlfriend. She is identified on a police report as Aoriana Ordonez, although friends called her "Adrianna.''

The brother says the meat is just ordinary lunch meat.

The shrine, in the small yard behind the couple's home at 6651 N. Church St., was hammered together by Izquierdo-Leyva in a day, she said.

That was about two months ago, and since then the shrine has been visited daily by the 36-year-old hotel worker, who was charged Friday with five counts of first-degree murder and three counts of armed carjacking.

Police say Izquierdo-Leyva is the gunman who went on a shooting rampage Thursday, killing four fellow workers at the Radisson Bay Harbor hotel. He also is charged with killing a woman on a Tampa street as he tried to hijack a getaway car.

Two of his relatives were in the hotel when the shooting began.

His niece, Diana Izquierdo, said she was in the lobby of the hotel just after 3 p.m., with her mother Angela Vasquez, 40. Vasquez, Izquierdo-Leyva's sister-in-law, and her 18-year-old daughter work as hotel housekeepers and live on Green Street in Tampa.

"I was in the lobby getting my paycheck when I heard shots,'' Diana said. ``My mother and I hid in an office, and I saw Silvio walk by the office door.''

She said she didn't believe her uncle was targeting her or any family members.

THEY SAY HIS SHRINE to Santeria, a 4,000-year-old religion that began in West Africa, provides no clues to why the Cuban native might have gone over the edge.

"It didn't really have anything to do with it,'' said Diana.

Izquierdo-Leyva would visit the shrine after work at the Radisson, where he loaded sheets and other supplies distributed by maids. The brother said Izquierdo-Leyva sat just outside the shed, hunched over on an upside down plastic bucket, brooding. Izquierdo-Leyva has worn white daily for months, the color worn by Santeria acolytes.

Santeria is also connected to animal sacrifice, and the blood of goats and chickens is supposed to be part of ceremony. But Lena Gomez, 20, the wife of Ordonez's oldest brother, said she never saw animal sacrifice.

"We have puppies we leave out here. They are safe. Here they are.''

Ordonez, who like Izquierdo- Leyva speaks Spanish and no English, said she called him "Tony,'' and listened many nights as he talked of bringing his only child, a 10-year-old daughter, to the United States from Cuba.

In November, Izquierdo-Leyva made a two-week visit to Cuba, where the daughter lives with her godmother, according to a reporter for WFLA, Channel 8.

When he returned, Ordonez said, he was more serious but rarely spoke of Santeria. She said the couple continued their usual routine, doing laundry together, going to see movies like ``The Mummy'' and watching Spanish language soap operas on television.

"He bought me a wristwatch for my birthday. He is very calm. He is very nice,'' Ordonez said through Gomez, who acted as interpreter. Ordonez and Izquierdo-Leyva speak only Spanish.

THE COUPLE MET about a year ago through Izquierdo-Leyva's sister-in-law, Vasquez. Ordonez was working then at the Radisson, but quit in March.

Izquierdo-Leyva started at the Radisson a few weeks after he returned from Cuba.

Izquierdo-Leyva came to Tampa from Mobile, Ala., where he had landed after his arrival from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the Mobile (Ala.) Register. He had been taken to the base after he tried to flee Cuba in 1995.

He stayed in Mobile from about 1996 to 1998, listing three apartments. There, he had a speeding ticket but no criminal record, according to the Alabama newspaper.

Maria Colon, a worker at Mobile's Catholic Social Services, a group that helped Izquierdo-Leyva when he first landed in there, said he was a hard worker who did not drink.

She heard from Izquierdo- Leyva only days ago. It was a Christmas card he sent the charity from Tampa.


Worker’s rampage spills from hotel

TAMPA—Beside the pool, a man lay shot to death, draped over a blue lounge chair. At the rear of the hotel, near the employees’ entrance, lay two more bodies, sprawled in front of a minivan. In the hotel’s lobby, near the registration desk, was another body. Elsewhere in the hotel were three more people, shot but still alive.

The stunning scene unfolded in the space of just a few minutes Thursday afternoon at the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel on Courtney Campbell Parkway.

The dead and the injured were all hotel workers—and so was the gunman, Tampa police said. They identified him as Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva, a 36-year-old refugee from Cuba who had worked at the hotel for only a couple of months.

A fifth person would die before one of Tampa’s most tragic days was over.

After the gunman fled the hotel in a stolen car, he abandoned it near West Tampa’s famous La Teresita restaurant. He shot and killed a motorist who refused to give up her car, police said. Then he stole another car—after thanking the driver for getting out promptly—and sped off.

Minutes later, cornered by police on a city street, the suspect gave up quietly.

Two of the wounded Radisson employees remained hospitalized late Thursday, one in critical condition; the other, serious.

Izquierdo has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

What had set off the killings? There was no clear answer to that question late Thursday.
Tampa police Chief Bennie Holder said at an 11 p.m. news conference that Izquierdo had refused to talk to police and was maintaining a casual demeanor.

“At this time we don’t have a motive for the shooting,” Holder said. “Apparently he’s not concerned about what happened. He’s upstairs sleeping.”

Some relatives of Izquierdo’s told the Times that during the rampage, he went after his sister-in-law, Angela Vazquez, who supervises housekeeping at the Radisson.

Vazquez and one of her daughters were in the lobby collecting their paychecks when the gunman stormed in. He fired at them but both escaped without injury.

“My uncle came in just shooting,” Izquierdo’s niece, Liza Izquierdo, said later. “He was chasing Mommy through the halls.”

Silvio Izquierdo came to the United States from Cuba in 1995, and has no criminal record in Florida or Alabama, where he lived before coming to Tampa. Relatives said he has a daughter in Cuba and visited there a month ago, returning intent upon becoming a priest in the Santeria religion.
It appeared that only hotel workers were the gunman’s targets.

Wendy Sobaski, a member of a Missouri women’s college basketball team staying at the hotel, told her_father that one of her teammates, Robyn Gerber, came face to face with the gunman as she tried to flee.

“He told Robyn he wasn’t interested in [shooting] anyone else, the team was okay,” Kenny Sobaski said.

‘I THOUGHT THEY WERE_PLAYING SOME GAME’

Thursday’s mayhem started about 3 p.m. amid Christmas lights spread throughout the waterfront Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel. Employees were milling around the lobby preparing for the night shift to come in.

Waitress Kathy Pruniski heard sounds—Pop! Pop! Pop!—and assumed they were part of the holiday celebrations at the hotel.

“Isn’t that funny, they’re getting a jump on New Year’s,” she said to some guests.

Rafael Barrios, a bellman at the hotel, had arrived to get his paycheck when he saw men and women running out of the lobby and hiding behind cars.

“I thought they were playing some game,” he said.

Diana Izquierdo, the suspect’s niece, was just about to leave with her mother when the shots started.

“I thought it was firecrackers. My mom was screaming, ‘Diana, come on! Come on!’ ” she recounted, crying and clutching her baby daughter’s teddy bear.

Silvio Izquierdo saw them and began firing, said Liza Izquierdo, who spoke to her mother by telephone afterward. Police identified the weapons as a 9mm semi-_automatic handgun and .38-caliber revolver.
Diana Izquierdo said she could not fathom a motive. “My uncle snapped,” she said.

Rafael Barrios, 20, the bellman, pulled up in his white Honda Accord. He saw the men and women running out of the lobby and hiding behind cars. Suddenly, a man calmly stepped from the bushes, stood in front of his car and lifted a pistol.

“He pointed it at me right through the window,” Barrios said.

The man didn’t say a word, but his expression said everything.

“Evil—just evil in his face,” Barrios said.

Barrios watched in horror as the man reloaded a clip. “My life was in his hands,” Barrios said. Barrios jumped from the car and ran before the man could reload.

The man, whom Barrios recognized from housekeeping, walked back into the hotel. A few seconds later, Barrios heard more shots.

When Barrios finally went into the hotel, he saw people he worked with lying on the floor, shot.

“It’s tragic. There’s so many things going through my mind right now,” he said.

The hotel was bustling with fans preparing for the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl between Purdue University and the University of Georgia.

Carson Woods of Dayton, Ohio, said he was leaving the lobby to retrieve a bag from his car when he heard shots.

“I heard two pops and saw people running out of the hotel,” said Woods, who was wearing a Purdue shirt. “I knew I had to get out of there.”

Members of the women’s basketball team from Missouri’s Truman State University, in town for a game against Eckerd College, encountered a body as they fled a pregame meal. None of the players was injured.

Wendi Sobaski, a junior guard for the Bulldogs, told her father that as they were finishing their meal, “employees from the hotel came in and said, ‘Get out! Get out!’ ” said Kenny Sobaski, who talked to his daughter by phone Thursday evening.

As the team heeded the warning, some members encountered a body and “took off running,” Sobaski said.

‘I KNEW TO GIVE HIM THE CAR’

The gunman sped away from the hotel in the Honda owned by Barrios, the bellman.

Inside a food concession stand in the parking lot next to La Teresita, restaurant owner Confesor Rodriguez saw what happened next:

The assailant, who had abandoned the Honda, aimed a nickel-plated handgun at a woman in her four-door burgundy Mercury.

“Lady, give me the car,” he told her, said Rodriguez.

When the woman didn’t comply, the gunman shot her through the driver’s side window, Rodriguez said.

After she was shot, she put the car in reverse and_began to back up.

The gunman moved on to the next car. He shot at a Jeep traveling south on Lincoln Avenue. The vehicle was hit, but the driver sped away, Rodriguez said.

“He was acting real crazy,” Rodriguez said.

Next, the gunman turned to the owner of a sports utility vehicle parking in the lot. He wanted the car, but before he took it, he asked whether it was a standard or automatic transmission, Rodriguez said.

It was the owner’s lucky day. The car had a stick-shift, and the gunman wasn’t interested.
Just then, he saw a white Chevrolet Celebrity station wagon heading toward him on Lincoln Avenue. Inside, Angel Marteliz was heading home, listening to an afternoon radio talk show.

The gunman stepped from the curb as Marteliz came to a stop. He pointed his nickel-barreled gun at Marteliz.

“Take the car,” Marteliz told the man, as he stepped out.

“Thank you,” he replied.

“I knew to give him the car,” Marteliz said later. “I didn’t argue.”

Soon after—about 3:40 p.m.—Izquierdo barged into the home of Angela Vazquez, his sister-in-law, at 3023 Green St. The house, which faces Interstate 275, was a place he had stayed off and on over the last year.

Nely Rodriguez, 16, a longtime friend of the Izquierdo family, said she was the only one at the house when Izquierdo barged through the front door.

He was dressed entirely in white, as was his custom, and had an urgency Rodriguez found unsettling. She hadn’t heard a word about the shootings.

“Where everybody at?” he demanded, as Rodriguez sat on the couch, watching TV. She said she didn’t know.

“He looked weird. He looked paranoid,” she said.

“They in back?” he called to her, as he darted into a bedroom where he sometimes slept, now used by Angela’s daughters.

When he didn’t find anyone, he went to the kitchen sink and splashed water on his face.

He ran outside, then. The faucet was still running. He left the door wide open.

Rodriguez said she stood in the door frame, watching Izquierdo go toward a white station wagon. She dialed a number on the family’s portable phone.

Izquierdo suddenly wheeled around.

“He looked at me. Like paranoid,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe he thought I was calling the police.”

But he turned around, jumped into the car and drove off. Police cruisers stopped the car a few blocks away near Spruce Street and N. MacDill Avenue. The block is next to the city’s MacFarlane Park and around the corner from St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

Police Chief Holder said Izquiedro was calm immediately after his arrest: “It was just like someone had been stopped for a traffic violation.”

It was one of the deadliest days in Tampa’s history.

In July 1983, Billy Ferry Jr. firebombed a Clair Mel Winn-Dixie grocery store, killing five people and  injuring 13.

Newton Slawson murdered a family of two adults, two children and an unborn baby in Tampa in 1989.

Thursday’s rampage at the Radisson brought back sharp memories of Jan. 27, 1993, when a man fired eight months earlier from the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. office at Rocky Point walked into a cafeteria at lunch time and shot five company supervisors, killing three of them.

Paul L. Calden, 33, fled the scene and took his own life later that day with a revolver at Cliff Stephens Park in Clearwater where he often played Frisbee golf.

‘OH, MY GOD, THIS IS JUST AWFUL’

Soon after Thursday’s shootings at the Radisson, staffers, such as Dana Hagerman, streamed in for work. She had no idea about the shootings until she saw the mob of reporters and emergency workers.

“So that means George was in there? And Sam? Did any of the managers get hurt?” she asked, breaking into tears. “Oh, my God, this is just awful.”

Guests, many barefoot and in T-shirts, wandered teary-eyed and visibly shaken. They were told it would be two hours before they could get to their rooms.

Hotel employees, paramedics and guests received counseling from the Critical Incident Stress Management Team, a group of volunteer paramedics, police and mental health counselors. They plan to meet again next week after the shock of Thursday’s events have sunk in.

“A lot of guests were stepping over bodies,” said_Diane Fojt, director of the counseling team.

Thursday evening, relatives and family members of the victims walked out of the hotel crying and holding on to one another.

One woman wailed over and over, “Why Lord, why?”


'He Killed . . . for no reason'

St. Petersburg Times

April 18, 2002

An ex-hotel worker pleads guilty to five murders in '99 and is sentenced to life without parole.

TAMPA -- Even as he pleaded guilty Wednesday to the 1999 mass murder at the Radisson Bay Harbor Hotel, Silvio Izquierdo-Leyva wouldn't give those touched by his carnage the one thing they needed: an explanation.

What drove him to shoot to death four co-workers and a stranger? Speaking through his lawyer, Izquierdo-Leyva said he didn't know.

But the 38-year-old former hotel laundryman told doctors that evil voices bedeviled him, and that he thought co-workers laughed behind his back because they thought he was gay.

Six doctors agreed he suffered severe mental illness during the shooting rampage on Dec. 30, 1999, and the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office dropped its call for the death penalty in exchange for life in prison without parole.

Loved ones of the victims packed the courtroom, and several said they didn't hate Izquierdo-Leyva and would pray for him.

Coretta Perkins, the granddaughter of Jerline Dobson, a hotel worker who survived a gunshot to her liver, felt otherwise.

"This man is evil," Perkins said. "He killed people for no reason. He needs to die." Spontaneous applause filled the aisles as she took her seat. Later, people thanked Perkins for saying what they felt but lacked the courage to say in the courtroom.

A Cuban refugee who speaks little English, Izquierdo-Leyva had worked at the Radisson only a few months. Co-workers said they mostly left him alone.

But a persecution complex already was full-blown, doctors said. He told doctors a man he attacked in Mobile, Ala., in 1997 touched his buttocks, and voices in his head told him it had ruined his life. To quell his torment, he told doctors, he turned to Santeria, a religion with African roots that involves sacrificial rites.

When co-workers smiled or laughed, Izquierdo-Leyva thought they were enjoying a joke at his expense. On the day of the shooting, the hotel was bustling with noise, laughter, and good spirits: It was payday, the end of the year, and workers were getting off the clock.

"He got worse and worse, thinking they were laughing about him," said prosecutor Shirley Williams. "He said he felt like everything was closing in on him."

He took two guns from his car and stalked the hotel halls while unleashing a barrage of bullets. People ran and dived behind doors. He seemed to target people he worked with, rather than guests at the hotel on the Courtney Campbell Parkway.

He killed co-workers Eric Pedroso, 29, Barbara Carter, 55, Jose R. Aguilar, 40, and George C. Jones, 44, and wounded three others. He then drove to West Tampa, where he killed motorist Dolores Perdomo, 56, while trying to steal her car.

When investigators searched his belongings, they found Santeria artifacts and the names of two co-workers Izquierdo-Leyva had written down. One of them was Carter. Prosecutors said he intended to put the names in freezing water, a Santeria rite to "freeze out" perceived evil intentions against him.

Jerline Dobson, 55, who walks with a cane because of her bullet wound, said she had no idea why he targeted her. When they worked together, she said, Izquierdo-Leyva would call her "Mami" and ask her to translate terms into English for him.

She heard of Izquierdo-Leyva's delusions of persecution for the first time Wednesday.

"It's a strange reason," said Dobson, noting that co-workers generally ignored him. "I'm satisfied that he did give a reason, but the reason is not satisfactory to me." Still, she said, it was more of an explanation than she had before.

"Every time I can't tie my shoe, I think about it," Dobson said. "I can't get in the bathtub without help."

Beyond the five counts of first-degree murder, Izquierdo-Leyva also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, carjacking and attempted carjacking.

Sylvia Freeman, 30, said she had favored execution for Izquierdo-Leyva after losing her father,George Jones, in the shooting.

"I wanted him to burn," she said. But more than two years have passed, and she was satisfied with the life sentence handed down by Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett.

"He killed my father, the state kills him, the cycle just continues," Freeman said. "The killing needs to stop. He should just be in a one-man cell and stay there."

She doesn't think Izquierdo-Leyva was insane.

"To run somebody down like cattle, you mean to tell me that's insane?" Freeman said. "I don't think so. He knew who he wanted."

Katrease James, 31, who lost her fiance, Eric Pedroso, agreed: "I don't think he's crazy. Crazy people don't pick and choose their victims. I don't know what the reason was for it, but he meant to do it."

No one from Izquierdo-Leyva's family came to court Wednesday. Most of his family lives in Cuba.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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