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,
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,
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
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
Gunman seemed to have a grudge, Tampa
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
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
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,"
Police later confirmed Aguilar was one of the five
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
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
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,
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,
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
There were indications today
that only hotel workers were the gunman's
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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,
Izquierdo has been charged with five counts of first-degree
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
“At this time we don’t have a motive for the shooting,”
Holder said. “Apparently he’s not concerned about what happened. He’s
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
“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
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
Diana Izquierdo said she could not fathom a motive. “My uncle snapped,”
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,”
The man didn’t say a word, but his expression said
“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
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
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
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,
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
“Thank you,” he replied.
“I knew to give him the car,” Marteliz said later. “I
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
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
“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?”
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
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
"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
"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
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.