CLEARWATER — Matthew Lohoski had his ups and downs in life - a divorce, some trouble with alcohol. But his neighbors said they couldn't imagine him capable of what Clearwater police say he did Monday night.
While intermittently checking on his 7-year-old daughter, who was playing a video game inside the house at 1709 El Trinidad Drive East, the 33-year-old Lohoski went repeatedly to the back yard, where he attacked and finally killed his mother, Deborah Lohoski, 59, Clearwater public safety spokesman Rob Shaw said.
“It's like the biggest shocker in the world to me,” said neighbor Scott Greer, 52.
Court records show that Lohoski put his daughter in a bedroom and turned up the volume on her video game. Then he went outside and attacked his mother from behind, putting her into a choke hold until she was unconsciousness.
He went inside to check on the girl, Shaw said, and then back out. Seeing his mother breathing, he slashed her in the throat and armpit area with a box cutter, Shaw said.
Again, he went to check on his daughter, and then back outside, where he attempted to strangle his mother with a plastic zip tie, but it broke, Shaw said.
After checking on the girl one more time, he got a sledge hammer from a shed and hit the woman in the head at least three times, court records say.
Lohoski then drove his daughter to a friend's house before going to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to turn himself in, Shaw said.
Lohoski, a sometimes mechanic, admitted to slaying his mother at the home he and his daughter shared with her, Shaw said. He was being held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail on a first-degree murder charge.
Investigators did not reveal a motive. Lohoski's arrest affidavit shows he wasn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs, nor was he suffering from a mental condition.
Neighbors said he had an off-again, on-again drinking problem. And on Sunday, Shaw said, Clearwater police went to his door and gave him a drunken driving citation stemming from a minor wreck on Jan. 13 in which he struck a mailbox and a parked car.
“I know he's been struggling a little while with alcohol,” said Greer, a neighbor.
Greer said Lohoski on occasion would start a relationship with a woman, move out of his mother's house, then move back when the relationship didn't work out. “Grandma was the one raising the little girl and he would come and go,” Greer said.
In 2010, Lohoski divorced his wife, Tracey, the girl's mother, court records say. He received custody of the girl, and she got weekend visitation rights.
Deborah Lohoski filed a petition in January 2013 asking for temporary custody of the girl because Tracey had moved to Maryland and had little contact with the child, records show.
Tracey responded in court documents that she was ordered to leave the Clearwater house as part of the divorce. As a stay-at-home mother, she had no resources and had to move in with her ex-husband and their children in Maryland.
Her response noted that she didn't think her daughter's situation was good, as Matthew Lohoski dropped off the girl at his mother's house while he went out with various girlfriends. She also said he abused drugs and alcohol, had been in-and-out of rehabilitation programs and suffered from clinical depression. She wrote in February 2013 that their daughter was in a tug-of-war between Matthew Lohoski and his mother.
Deborah Lohoski withdrew the petition in August, court records show.
Shaw said the girl is in the care of the state Department of Children and Families.
“It's really bizarre to me,” Greer, the neighbor, said of the homicide. “I can't figure it out. I never saw him as a violent guy.”
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