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Friday 19 September 2014

Family 'shot' before mansion blaze

Published 09/05/2014 | 02:17

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A family was found dead after a fire at a mansion in Florida

A man, his wife and their two teenage children were shot before the million-dollar Florida home they were renting from a former tennis star burned down in what investigators called arson.

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Authorities added that the blaze was perhaps exacerbated by fireworks and petrol.

Post-mortem examinations were still being completed to determine how they died, but investigators have said they are looking into the possibility of a murder-suicide.

Authorities recovered a gun at the home registered to Darrin Campbell and he bought an "exceedingly large amount" of fireworks and petrol cans days before the fire, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Colonel Donna Lusczynski said.

Investigators still have not positively identified the bodies, but the family has not been accounted for and a relative said they were inside the home when it burned.

As flames shot through the roof on Wednesday morning, neighbours reported explosions, presumably hearing fireworks go off inside. Authorities have not indicated who may have started the fire or why.

Mr Campbell bought 650 US dollars (£380) of fireworks on Sunday and authorities said fireworks were found throughout the five-bedroom home. But it was not clear what role the fireworks might have played, though Col Lusczynski said they could have been used to ignite the fire or keep it going.

Mr Campbell had been an executive for several high-profile businesses. He was currently working at a records management firm and volunteering as treasurer at his children's private school. His wife Kimberly was a stay-at-home mother, according to her father Gordon Lambie.

The family moved to Tampa more than a decade ago. They sold their home in 2012 for 750,000 dollars (£445,000) and signed a two-year lease for the 6,000 square-foot home owned by former tennis pro James Blake. He bought the home in the Avila community in 2005 for 1.5 million dollars (£88,107), according to property records.

Avila is known for its mansions, heavy security, country club and golf course. Many well-known athletes have called the community home over the years.

Mr Lambie said the family wanted to move closer to the children's school, Carrollwood Day School.

Nineteen-year-old Colin Campbell was a talented baseball player who planned to graduate from high school next month. His teenage sister Megan was a ninth-grader who made an honour roll and took dance lessons.

Mr Lambie said from his home in Michigan: "I've lost my entire family. It's very tough right now because I'm 1,500 miles away."

Mr Campbell bought six packages of firecrackers and about the same number of fireworks designed to shoot into the air, said William Weimer, vice president of Ohio-based Phantom fireworks. He described them as backyard fireworks someone might set off on the Fourth of July.

He said the fireworks could have started a fire but it would have spread slowly. The amount of powder inside each one was smaller than an aspirin, he said.

A shop manager, Rocky DiRoma, said there was nothing unusual about the purchase. "He was just an average Joe," Mr DiRoma said.

Mr and Mrs Campbell met in Lansing, Michigan, when they both worked as aides in the state legislature, her father said. Mrs Campbell had graduated from Central Michigan University and Mr Campbell had an MBA from the University of Michigan.

They lived in San Antonio, where Campbell was an executive with Pearl Brewing Company, before moving to Tampa.

At some point, he became senior vice president at PODS, the mobile storage company, and left in 2007. He was currently chief operating officer at Vastec, where he worked for the past six months.

A former neighbour George Connley described Mrs Campbell was "sophisticated and classy".

"We know nothing of any problems," Mr Connley said. "The kids were outstanding children. This is very difficult to put our arms around."

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