NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - A woman was shot and killed as she was laying in bed with two sleeping children inside a New Port Richey home. The sheriff said it appears the suspect, who has not been found, was targeting her and knew the layout of the house.
Deputies remained at the home most of the night. The front door was completely knocked off its hinges and was seen resting inside. A lone red skeleton decoration was still on display in the front window the morning after Halloween.
According to Sheriff Chris Nocco, deputies received a report of the shooting around 12:40 a.m. The home is located on Menifee Court.
Based on preliminary evidence, the sheriff said a second woman was sleeping on a couch in the front room but woke up when she heard knocking on the front door. That door was kicked in by the suspect.
Then, the unidentified suspect entered and pointed a gun at her before walking to a bedroom. He flips the light switch inside the room, Sheriff Nocco described. The victim was sleeping in a bed along with both kids.
She woke up and sees the suspect, who pointed the gun at her, the sheriff said.
Pasco deputies remained at the New Port Richey home after sunrise where a deadly shooting occurred.
"She said, 'Don't shoot me,'" Nocco described, adding that the suspect fired one round at her.
The victim fell off the bed and the suspect fired another round at her before walking out of the home and fleeing in an unknown vehicle, the sheriff said. The suspect is described as a man with a "large build" and is around 5'10 feet tall. He was last seen wearing a black skull mask and dark clothing.
When deputies arrived, they began rendering aid to the shooting victim, officials said. She was taken to a hospital where she passed away.
"For these young kids, I can imagine they were out last night trick or treating. But to be woken up, to have a suspect walk in, turn that light on and shoot the person in the bed with them. It’s horrific. It’s the only word I can think of," Sheriff Nocco said during an early-morning press conference. "We need your assistance. For the public to know, it looks like the suspect knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew exactly who the targeted person was."
The sheriff said mental health counselors will be provided to the children – who were both under the age of 12 – and the second female in the home. He did not specify their relationship with the victim.
"Everyone can believe could this be a domestic relationship. That’s one of the things we are investigating," Nocco said. "If someone is coming into a house right now, and they look suspicious, please let us know. Maybe that person is the person who is involved in this."
Deputies have not publicly identified the victim. They said they are asking for anyone to provide surveillance video in the area.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Pasco Sheriff's Office Tips Line at 1-800-706-2488 or report tips online at PascoSheriff.com/tips.