PORT RICHEY, Fla. - 94-year-old Ann Parlato was rooted in her community. An avid gardener, she planted an oleander years ago in front of her New Port Richey church.
Pastor Bob Panariello said, "She was such a blessing for us here at the church, she would bring cuttings and rootings to the church and dig up stuff and bring it here and have us keep it going."
Pastor Panariello first met the sweet woman about 25 years ago. Her positive presence inspired many.
"She was just a positive influence, prime example of trust and acceptance, and we thank God for her," Panariello said.
Panariello said besides gardening, Parlato loved to read and cook. Sometimes she would feed strangers.
"She was an independent spirit, she loved living at home and loved the home," Panariello said.
Panariello also says her independent spirit may have contributed to her death. One that investigators are still trying to figure out.
Al Nienhuis, with the Pasco County Sheriffs Office said, "We're not going to rest until we get this person or persons in custody."
On Thursday, a friend from Covenant Christian Church went to check on Parlato and made a disturbing discovery.
While deputies say someone killed her, they will not say how or who they are looking for.
Even if an arrest happens, long time friends are devastated.
"It's so horrendous as to something to happen to such a precious person at her age."
Parlato has two daughters that both live out of state. Her husband, John, died years ago.
Copyright (c) 2009 HGTV and Scripps Howard News Service