Man who helped stray cats at Mayport kills family, self

Date: 2002-10-21

Man who helped stray cats at Mayport kills family, self

By Dana Treen
Times-Union staff writer

A former Jacksonville man who once worked with his wife and children to save wild cats at Mayport Naval Station apparently killed his family and then himself yesterday in a small west Massachusetts town.

Richard Kolenda, 49, a retired Air Force major, called state police about 5 a.m. yesterday and said he had killed his family, said Sgt. Dennis Donovan of the Westfield Police Department.

Police who went to the family's home found Kolenda's wife, Gienia Kolenda, 50, and their two 11-year-old children, Anatoli and Yana, dead of knife wounds. Donovan said it isn't known if the three were stabbed or cut.

Shortly afterward, Richard Kolenda was found dead of a gunshot wound in front of the City Hall, just blocks from the family's home.

Police found a gun with Kolenda, Donovan said.

He said police didn't have a motive for the killings.

The Kolenda family lived in Jacksonville between at least 1994 and 2001. Between 1994 and 1999, Richard Kolenda operated a General Nutrition Center franchise at Hodges and Atlantic boulevards. In a story reported by The Florida Times-Union, Kolenda closed the store and sued GNC, saying the company used unfair practices to undermine the franchise in favor of company-owned stores.

In July 2001, Kolenda again was in the newspaper when he, his wife and the two children worked to care for and rescue cats at the naval station at a time the Navy was changing its policy toward loose and wild cats.

Kolenda and his family went to the base with other volunteers to feed the cats and told the Times-Union they spent an estimated $5,000 toward veterinary visits for the strays.

Donovan said there were 10 cats in the Kolendas' house when police went to the scene.

The Springfield Union-News reported the Kolendas moved into the house in July 2001 and that the children were adopted.

People who knew the family told the newspaper the couple's daughter liked to sing with the choir.

Staff writer Dana Treen can be reached at (904) 359-4091 or via e-mail at dtreenjacksonville.com.

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