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Robert I. Ashenfelter1

b. 15 December 1940, d. 5 March 2002

Father John Harvey Ashenfelter1 b. 18 February 1910, d. 27 July 1988
Mother Henrietta H. Mercer1 b. 5 March 1913, d. 11 November 2002
Pop-up Pedigree

Family Maria S. Larrea b. 23 May 1934
Child  1. John Robert Ashenfelter b. c 1972

Marriage*   Principal=Maria S. Larrea2 
Birth* 15 December 1940  PA1 
SSN* 5 March 2002
First Name: Robert
Middle Name: I
Last Name: Ashenfelter
Name Suffix:
Birth Date: 15 December 1940
Social Security Number: 179-32-0287
Place of Issuance: Pennsylvania
Last Residence: Broward, Florida
Zip Code of Last Residence: 33068
Death Date: 5 March 2002
Estimated Age at Death: 62
Collection: United States Social Security Death Index1 
Death* 5 March 2002  Fort Lauderdale, Broward Co., FL1,2 

More than 10 years ago, Robert Ashenfelter went on a shooting and kidnapping rampage on Las Olas Boulevard.

On Tuesday, he turned violent again, taking his own life.

Ashenfelter, 61, began a standoff with Broward County sheriff's deputies by making an 11:15 a.m. phone call to 911, claiming he had kidnapped two girls and was going to harm them and himself.

During the next three hours, Ashenfelter, who suffered from mental illness, fired up to two-dozen gunshots inside and outside his house at 7400 SW 13th St.

Deputies, meanwhile, evacuated surrounding homes and hostage negotiators tried to talk him into putting down his gun and getting help, law enforcement and fire officials said.

"He had come out of the house at least two or three times," at least once to have a cigarette, Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman Hugh Graf said as a rescue helicopter circled overhead to airlift Ashenfelter to North Broward Medical Center. "It appeared he was trying to bait police into shooting him."

Shortly after 2 p.m., as a growing crowd of neighbors milled behind police barriers in his quiet working class neighborhood and SWAT team members evacuated more houses, Ashenfelter left his home, walked into a swale area and shot himself in the upper left chest with a handgun, the Sheriff's Office said.

A subsequent search of the house revealed no one else inside. Despite Ashenfelter's initial phone call, deputies said early on there appeared to be no children involved.

Medics were able to temporarily revive him at the scene, but he was dead on arrival at the hospital, Broward County Fire Rescue spokesman Todd LeDuc said.

Ashenfelter owned a pool cleaning company, Rainbow Pool Services & Repairs Inc., but the number did not work Tuesday.

In 1991, he took two men hostage at Plaza Liquors on Las Olas Boulevard off State Road A1A after becoming upset at seeing his former pool business partner cleaning the pool at one of his previous accounts.

"I didn't know it at the time, but I was in the midst of a full-blown psychotic breakdown," Ashenfelter told a court in 1992 before being handed a three-year prison sentence and 10 years' probation for aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.

Leonard Suppes, 82, of Fort Lauderdale, was one of the men Ashenfelter took hostage inside Suppes' liquor store in December 1991 during a bullet-riddled police standoff on the beach.

"He got mad and fired a shotgun right through the window," recalled Suppes. "He was one of those guys who just went berserk."

Suppes said Ashenfelter told him he was on Prozac and kept saying: "'I don't want to hurt you.' He actually never hurt any of us."

News of Ashenfelter's last confrontation Tuesday left Suppes shaking his head. "Nothing surprises me anymore," he said.

Tuesday's drama unfolded in a neighborhood called The Fountains, north of Tam O'Shanter Boulevard, just east of Silver Lakes Middle School. The development, built in 1980, is comprised mostly of modest single-family homes worth about $125,000 and a smattering of duplexes.

Norman Simon, 79, stood behind roadblocks for at least two hours while he waited for the event to play itself out.

"When I heard those first shots, I see the cop hid behind his door and I figured I better get out of the way too," Simon said.

Neighbors like Harold Hadden, who lives several houses away from Ashenfelter's, described him as quiet. Hadden knew about Ashenfelter's history 10 years ago, but he said he hadn't presented any problems in the neighborhood.

Hadden was amazed to return from a morning of volunteering at the Honda Classic to find access to his home denied and a crush of news reporters and cameramen standing outside. "My first impression is that I was in the wrong neighborhood," he said.

While police cruisers and fire trucks clogged the streets and neighbors openly pondered who could be responsible, North Lauderdale Elementary School and Silver Lakes Middle School students were placed on lockdown during the standoff, said Broward School's spokeswoman Nadine Drew.

Parents were allowed to pick up students from the elementary school at 1:45 p.m., as usual, and buses departed on schedule, but students who usually walk home had to stay at the school until officials got the all-clear from the Broward Sheriff's Office at 2:15 p.m., Drew said.

Attorney Bruce Lyons, who represented Ashenfelter after the December 1991 incident, said he kept in touch with him and thought he was doing well.

Lyons said Ashenfelter had emotional and drinking problems in 1991 that contributed to his behavior. Ashenfelter had tried to kill himself with a twisted soda can after being arrested in 1991, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

But, Lyons said, he had completed several treatment programs while at the Broward County Jail and in prison. Lyons also said Ashenfelter's wife, Maria Ashenfelter, stuck by him and was very supportive.

"This breaks my heart because he was doing very well," Lyons said.

Ashenfelter was placed on probation on Dec. 28, 1994. He was supposed to be on probation until Oct. 27, 2004, but Broward Circuit Judge Joyce Julian ended the probation early on Oct. 6, 2000.

"I do know he had done well since leaving prison," Lyons said. "I know he was under all kinds of psychiatric care."

Published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) - March 6, 20022 

Last Edited 10 Apr 2012

  1. [S129] SSDI Death Index,.
  2. [S323] News Bank.

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