Murder, suicide leaves Anna Maria shocked
By Rick Catlin
Outwardly, Les and Lisa Young of 221 Oak Ave. in Anna Maria appeared to be the perfect couple, often bicycling around the neighborhood with their 7-year-old twins, a boy and girl. Neighbors said they always appeared friendly and happy.
But just before 9 a.m. the day after Christmas, something went terribly wrong in the Young household.
In what police are calling an apparent murder-suicide, Leslie "Les" Young, 50, shot and killed his 40-year-old wife that morning in the couple's home, then turned the gun on himself. The twins were in the house at the time, but were not hurt.
It was the first murder in Anna Maria that some residents who have lived in the city more than 50 years could remember.
Young was a successful businessman and the owner of Young's Landscaping Services on Longboat Key. His wife also worked at the company, a business associate said.
Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Dave Bristow said the deaths appear to have been a murder-suicide, but he could offer few details.
He said the husband apparently shot his wife in the kitchen several times with a .22 caliber handgun, then walked into the living room and shot himself.
The children ran next door to a neighbor, who investigated, then called 911.
Bristow said John Sgt. Kinney of the MCSO office in Anna Maria responded within a minute of the original call at 8:54 a.m. and found the couple inside the house, then called for assistance. Both the husband and wife were dead when Kinney arrived, Bristow said.
"This is just terrible the day after Christmas," he said. "We now have two children without their parents. It's very sad."
Bristow said there have been no prior calls to that address by the MCSO in response to any complaints.
The children were taken to a neighbor's house while the MCSO was contacting next-of-kin, he said. The children were being counseled by MCSO victim's adovcate volunteers. "But obviously they are distraught. They're only 7 years old. They are traumatized."
The children attend Anna Maria Elementary School. They will be placed in the care of relatives, Bristow added.
Police had no known motive for the shootings, and MCSO deputies were scouring the area interviewing neighbors and potential witnesses.
"We don't know what led him to do what he did," Bristow said. "This is normally a peaceful community."
He couldn't remember any prior homicide in Anna Maria in the 17 years he's been with the MCSO.
"This may be a first for Anna Maria."
Former Anna Maria Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh, who was an Anna Maria police officer during the 1960s, said he could not recall any murder in Anna Maria when he was on the force, and he was not aware of any prior murder in the city.
Residents along Oak Avenue said the couple always appeared pleasant and Les Young was a volunteer coach at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
"You would always see them out riding their bicycles and they seemed very nice," said Jim DePorre. "It's something you would never believe could happen in Anna Maria. They seemed like a perfect couple and family."
But one nearby resident, who asked not to be identified, said the couple had some marriage difficulties lately, but he declined to be specific.
Bristow confirmed that the MCSO investigation had revealed some recent marital problems. "But we may never know what set him off that morning."
The couple were married in August 1992, and had lived in Anna Maria for the past 11 years.
According to on-line records at the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court Web site, Young was divorced from his first wife in 1987, but was arrested for spousal battery against her in February 1988. In July 1992 he was arrested for domestic violence against another woman who was an employee of his.
Young had a 19-year-old son from his first marriage, another neighbor said, but the son did not reside at the Anna Maria house.