ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Police officers responding to a medical emergency around 9 p.m. Sunday found a 53-year-old man shot in the chest and arrested the victim's elderly aunt on a homicide charge.
According to St. Augustine police, the wife of John Rice found her husband shot in the chest in his bedroom of the home on John Street, which is between U.S. Highway 1 and King Street. St. Johns County Fire-Rescue personnel pronounced him dead at the scene.
Police said Rice was shot while lying in his bed. A .357 magnum handgun was found at the scene and placed into evidence.
Amanda Rice Stevenson, 96, was found in a back bedroom and arrested. She was booked into the St. Johns County Jail.
At her first appearance before a judge Monday morning, Stevenson said she was the victim's aunt. Police initially said she was his mother but later confirmed she was his aunt.
Channel 4 learned Stevenson lived in the home with Rice and has at least two prior arrests.
The Florida Department of Children and Families said an employee had visited the home last week to check on her living conditions. DCF cannot say why because it is an open investigation, but a spokesman said that "at that time, there was no reason to take any action."
"They were concerned and doing a welfare check," said Mark Samson, of the St. Augustine Police Department. "I'm not sure who made the phone call to them. They were nervous about going to the house. They had heard possibly she could be violent."
Neighbors and police said Rice had problems with his aunt and that there had been arguments in the past. Police said Rice may have recently asked her to move out of his home.
According to police, next-door neighbors told investigators they thought they heard a loud noise around 6 p.m. Sunday and thought it was the sound of a car door being slammed.
"Just heard a noise. It was like a banging noise," neighbor Karen Soukiasian said.
Soukiasian said Rice had taken his aunt into his home several months ago, but there had been problems.
"I mean, we knew they were trying to get help to get her out to find a place for her, but nothing was working," Soukiasian said. "Social services had been there a number of times. Cops had been there a number of times. They asked for help and they just weren't getting it."
Rice was an employee at Flagler College in St. Augustine, where students and faculty joined together Monday to hold a prayer vigil on campus.
"It's sad. It's just sad you know?" Soukiasian said. "You try to do the right thing and this is what happens. It's sad. He didn't deserve it. He was a great guy."
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