Murder victim's car found abandoned; search for person of interest continues

- A grieving family wants answers after a grandfather was found dead inside his Tampa home last week.

Monday, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives got a break in the case, finding his car abandoned miles away at a truck stop in Sumter County.

The victim's daughter, Michelle Gutierrez, said she's glad it was found, but her family wants to know who drove it there. 

Michael Stephey, 66, was found dead inside his Sligh Avenue home on Sept. 6. Earlier that day, family called for help after not hearing from Stephey..

His daughter said her father will be remembered for his generosity. She told Fox13's Briona Arradondo that her father's death did not sink in for days.

"He loved his family. His grandkids were his life," said Gutierrez.

She said he was a kind man.

"He does give places to people who we know, like if they are in a hardship whatever, then he does let them stay but never a stranger," Gutierrez said.

Deputies said Sara Rose Dearman, 29, is a person of interest in the case but can't be found. Gutierrez said her father might have befriended her and offered Dearman a place to stay. 

"He didn't have much himself, but he didn't mind helping people who needed help. That's why I think he opened his doors to this woman even though he didn't know her," said Gutierrez.

Dearman is someone deputies want to question about the case.

"We want answers. We don't even know how he died because they can't tell us," Gutierrez said.

Her family hopes finding Dearman will give detectives the answers they need.

"Now, we don't know where she is. We just have to hope and pray that someone who knows something will reach out and call the police," said Gutierrez.

The family, now frustrated and hurt, said they hope he didn't suffer.

"I have a 10-year-old that won't be able to know his grandfather like my daughters did," Gutierrez said.

Investigators haven't yet said how Stephey died. His daughter said jewelry, a television, wallet and cellphone are all missing from the house.

Detectives hope his car can give some clues while they continue looking for Dearman. 

Anyone with information related to this case, or who knows where to located Sara Rose Dearman, is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200. To be eligible for a cash reward, call Crime Stoppers first at 1-800-873-8477, or report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com.
 

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