Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Patrol Operations Bureau
Investigative Operations Bureau
- Robbery & Homicide Unit
Support Services Bureau
- Forensic Science Division
Joshua D. Russell (Arrested- Driver)
Address: 8035 34th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
Vehicle: 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan
Charges: One count of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Disabled Adult
John M. LaPointe (Deceased- Victim)
Address: 12986 96th Avenue North, Seminole
Detectives assigned to the Robbery & Homicide Unit have arrested a man for Aggravated Manslaughter in the death of a disabled man left in a sweltering minivan.
The incident occurred at about 5:35 p.m. on May 9, 2019.
The suspect was arrested at about 9:50 a.m. on September 20, 2019.
Deputies were called to the area of 82nd Avenue North and Oakhurst Road in Seminole.
The incident occurred at a residence located at 13864 Bermuda Drive in Seminole.
According to detectives, at about 5:35 p.m. on May 9, 2019, deputies responded to the area of 82nd Avenue North and Oakhurst Road in Seminole, for a report of an unresponsive male in a vehicle.
When deputies arrived, paramedics were already at the scene and pronounced 35-year-old John LaPointe deceased. Detectives say LaPointe had Down syndrome, was non-verbal, had the cognitive ability of a 1-year-old, and was unable to care for himself.
Deputies learned that the driver of the vehicle, 26-year-old Joshua Russell, left the area on foot and was in possession of a gun. Deputies located Russell nearby with a gun and he told deputies he was going to kill himself.
Russell was arrested for Carrying a Concealed Firearm and was transported to the Pinellas County Jail.
Through the course of the investigation, detectives learned that Russell worked at the Crossroads of Pinellas group home where LaPointe lived located at 12986 96th Avenue North in Seminole.
Detectives say Russell drove LaPointe to a doctor’s appointment in the group home’s 2006 Toyota Sienna minivan at about 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. After leaving the doctor’s appointment, Russell decided to stop by his house located at 13864 Bermuda Drive in Seminole.
Russell left LaPointe seat-belted in the back of the van while he went into his home. Russell told detectives that while inside his home, he ingested two packages of Kratom, a substance made from a tree that is sometimes used as a recreational drug.
Detectives say Russell returned to the van and was driving back to the group home when he began feeling tired and nauseous. Russell returned to the residence, parked the van in the driveway and turned the van off.
Russell told detectives he took a nap in the van while LaPointe was still seat-belted in the back seat.
About two to three hours later, Russell awoke in the hot van covered in sweat. Russell noticed LaPointe was slumped over and unresponsive.
Detectives say Russell unsuccessfully tried performing CPR on LaPointe and then went back into his home and got a gun, with the intention of killing himself.
Russell told detectives he called his mother who also worked at Crossroads of Pinellas, he told her what happened and said he was going to kill himself.
Russell began driving in the van with LaPointe still in the back of the vehicle.
Detectives say Russell’s mother convinced him to pull over and stop the van near 82nd Avenue North and Oakhurst Road. Russell’s mother responded and called 911.
Detectives conducted their investigation into the circumstances surrounding LaPointe’s death and estimated the temperature inside the van at 125 degrees Fahrenheit when LaPointe died.
The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office determined that LaPointe’s cause of death was hyperthermia.
Detectives arrested Russell at about 9:50 a.m. on Friday, September 20, 2019.
Russell was transported to the Pinellas County Jail and charged with one count of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Disabled Adult.
Video from Sheriff Bob Gualtieri's press conference can be seen here: https://youtu.be/2dZjhQAo9tA
The investigation continues.
Joshua D. Russell
Non Emergency Line: (727) 582-6200 | In an Emergency call 911ADA info