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Island jolted by news of bizarre fatal shooting

(Week of June 30, 2011)
, Photo: Home at 9455 Periwinkle Drive where fatal shooting occurred.

A 21-year-old man died in the wee hours of Sunday morning after being shot in the chest during a confrontation with a homeowner, according to the Indian River Sheriff’s Office.

Barrier island residents often skim over news stories which start like that, turn the page, and thank their lucky stars violent crime doesn’t happen in their neighborhoods. 

But this worrisome incident – the first fatal shooting on the island in recent memory – happened on a quiet, rutted gravel road within earshot of the ocean.

It happened on a street dotted with pastel-painted beach cottages and stilt houses reminiscent of Key West. It happened in Summerplace.

The man carried away in a body bag was a white male with only one citation for getting caught with a beer at 19 years old on his record, and no Indian River County arrests.

Despite the unlikely place and unlikely perpetrator, it happened. As a result, a young man is dead, and a family is being investigated and asking the media to “please respect our privacy.”

Neighbors who never really locked their doors before wonder if Sunday morning’s tragedy was a random, aberrant event or something else.

Meanwhile at the home where the shooting took place, on Monday a wide-open side door and a canvas tote bag packed for the beach with a bottle of sunscreen atop it did not convey the sense that the residents inside were  shell-shocked from what must have been one horrific night.

Deputies responded at 2:36 a.m. to a possible “burglary in progress” at 9455 Periwinkle Dr. in the Summerplace subdivision – less than a half mile north of the Disney Resort – and found Jack Newstedt lying near the home’s front door.

The homeowner told the deputies Newstedt came to his front door and banged on the wall. He said he didn’t know what the man wanted so he took a handgun from his safe and opened the door to talk with Newstedt.

Indian River County property records indicate the home at 9455 Periwinkle Dr. is owned by Claiborne P. Rowe III and Eleanor Cummings.

Rowe told deputies Newstedt lunged at him as he stood inside his house. He said he staggered back and fired one shot at Newstedt, hitting him in the chest. Newstedt crumpled to the ground.

Rowe’s blue single-story, wood-frame house sits on a small lot of less than 1/5th of an acre.

How did Newstedt get to the house? Was he looking for someone? Was he looking for another house? Was he looking for help?

Summerplace resident David Cox told Vero Beach 32963 that he approached two different deputies at 4:45 a.m. and around 8 a.m. to find out what happened, but they were fairly “tight lipped” about the details.

“I don’t know whether he was banging, beating, kicking, or what-not on a door,” Cox said. “He is definitely dead. I saw them carrying the body bag away.”

“My husband saw the deputies out there when he was going for his early morning bike ride, and from what police said it was essentially a home invasion,” said Lorraine Heisler, Cox’s wife. “The man of the house basically heard something, went to check, got a gun, and the perp came at him.”

“He shot and the guy was killed,” she continued. “It happened about 3 a.m. and I’m four doors away.”

A neighbor said he saw a wrecker haul a vehicle away, but he didn’t know where the vehicle had been parked. The sheriff’s office was unable to provide any information about a vehicle as of press time.

Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Deputy Jeff Luther said Monday afternoon investigators were obtaining a search warrant for the house and for records, cell phones or anything else that might help them piece together the events that led up to the fatal shooting.

“This neighborhood is a place where people still don’t lock their doors,” Heisler said. “It is really a shock. It is certainly the safest neighborhood I’ve ever lived in.”