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Florida man found in burned home bought fireworks

May 8, 2014
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A man found dead with his wife and two teenage children inside the million-dollar home they rented bought $650 worth of fireworks days before the house was destroyed in what authorities called arson.

Fireworks were found inside the five-bedroom home, located in an exclusive neighborhood north of Tampa, but police weren't saying what role, if any, the fireworks played in the blaze. They also haven't said who may have started the fire or offered any motive.

Detectives stopped short of calling the case a murder-suicide, but they said Thursday they were not looking for any suspects.

The father, Darrin 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 mom, according to her father, Gordon Lambie.

The family moved to Tampa more than a decade ago so Darrin Campbell could take a job with a glass container manufacturer. He worked for several other companies, and they sold their home in 2012 so their children could be closer to Carrollwood Day School, Lambie said.

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

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

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski described the fire as unusual and said there were "various fireworks" throughout the home. She said an accelerant was used, but she didn't say what it was.

Two victims suffered upper-body trauma, but Lusczynski didn't indicate which ones or provide other details. No weapons had been found, she said.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said autopsies were being performed Thursday.

Darrin Campbell bought six packages of firecrackers and about the same number of aerial 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 of them was smaller than an aspirin, he said. A store manager, Rocky DiRoma, said there was nothing unusual about the $650 purchase.

"He was just an average Joe," DiRoma said.

Neighbors described hearing the fireworks go off as the house burned.

"Geez. What is that popping noise?" a man said on a 911 call.

Another 911 caller, a security manager for the gated community, told dispatchers the fire was in the house's garage.

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

They had lived in San Antonio, where Darrin Campbell was an executive with Pearl Brewing Company, before they moved to the Tampa area around 2001 so he could take a job with Anchor Glass Container Corp.

At some point, he became senior vice president at PODS, the mobile storage company, and left there in 2007. He was later a vice president at IVANS, an insurance company, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Campbells sold their Tampa home in 2012 for $750,000, according to property records. A neighborhood newsletter said the family was known for their extravagant Christmas decorations.

Darrin Campbell was chief operating officer at Vastec, and had worked there for the past six months. The company said in a statement that "this is a difficult time for all involved and we are trying to cope with this information."

Kimberly Campbell's father said the family wanted to live closer to the children's school, so they signed a two-year lease for a home owned by former tennis star James Blake. That home was close enough for the teens to walk to school, Lambie said.

The moved in at the end of 2012, but it wasn't clear exactly when their lease was up. Neither deputies nor the Department of Children and Families had been called to the home, officials said.

A former neighbor, George Connley, said Kimberly Campbell was "sophisticated and classy."

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

Friends of the teens expressed grief in online photos and tweets. Some students gathered Wednesday evening and released balloons with messages on them as a remembrance. The school said it was providing grief counselors for students, faculty and families.

Blake bought the 6,000 square-foot home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, 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.

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Schneider reported from Orlando.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

 
 

 

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