St. Petersburg, Florida -- A convicted drug dealer has been charged with the beating death of a Safety Harbor mother who was attacked in her home in front of her two young boys, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office reported Friday night.
Daniel Patrick Welch, 37, formerly of 2347 Moore Haven Drive East, Clearwater, was charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary in the brutal attack of Niccole V. Halpin, 34, on January 9th, 2004. She died of her injuries two days later.
Investigators say the victim had arrived at her home at 15 Clearview Drive and became aware that something was suspicious. She called her boyfriend, Christopher Catuogno, asking him to remain on the line while she looked around.
"As Catuogno listened, the victim encountered the suspect in a hallway and was chased into a bedroom where she was physically attacked with a blunt object," the sheriff's office reported. "During the attack Catuogno called 911 on another telephone to summon help for the victim. Following the attack the suspect fled the scene and returned to his home in Clearwater."
The victim was seriously injured in the attack that was witnessed by her sons, who at the time were ages 7 and 9. The boys reported that the suspect was dressed in dark clothing and wore a mask. The victim was transported to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg where she died on January 11, 2004.
A county grand jury indicted Welch on Wednesday.
Welch has been in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections at a facility located in Lake Butler, Florida, serving a 3-1/2 year sentence for a drug conviction unrelated to the Safety Harbor murder.
He was transported back to Pinellas County Friday to face the new charges of first-degree murder and armed burglary.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office