Body found in New Port Richey ID’d as Kathleen Moore, Pasco sheriff says

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  • Kathleen Moore
    American lighthouse keeper

A body found in New Port Richey Tuesday has been positively identified as Kathleen Moore, a 34-year-old Pinellas woman who has been missing for more than a week.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said during a news conference Tuesday that Moore’s body had been found earlier that day and that it was positively identified via identifying tattoos. The news comes a day after Nocco announced the arrest of Moore’s boyfriend, 30-year-old Collin Knapp, in Moore’s death.

Nocco said a person who was out on a walk found Moore’s body around 11:30 a.m. It was found under some brush about 50 yards from Knapp’s house on Carmel Avenue. Moore was last seen in the area around 1 a.m. Nov. 29.

Knapp faces a second-degree murder charge.

A handful of Moore’s friends attended the press conference Tuesday.

“We were kind of holding out hope,” said Noelle Custodio, 38, who knew Moore from their time working together at Applebee’s. “But now, it is closure.”

She said Moore was the “life of the party,” and she liked to cook steak and watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians with Custodio’s niece.

Custodio knew Moore for about six or seven years. Sometimes, she said, Moore would show her text conversations with Knapp. Based on those texts, Custodio said she knew Knapp didn’t treat Moore right.

The investigation began Nov. 30, after the sheriffs’ offices in Pinellas and Pasco counties started a missing person report for Moore, according to a criminal complaint. Investigators talked to several people who said they saw Moore leave her home in Largo with Knapp sometime after 10 p.m. Nov. 28.

Moore’s friends told authorities they had been trying to contact her by cellphone since the evening of Nov. 28. A friend told investigators how unusual it was for Moore not to be responding, the complaint said.

One friend called Moore’s cellphone multiple times on Nov. 30, and a man experiencing homelessness picked up and said he found the phone in a Walgreens dumpster in Pasco County, authorities said.

The man told Pasco detectives he was living in a small camp behind Walgreens, and he found the phone in the trash around 11 a.m. Nov. 30. The man said he turned on the phone and its mobile data, and later got a phone call from a woman — Moore’s friend — saying the phone belonged to a missing person.

The man then gave the phone to a member of management at the Walgreens location. Detectives later learned there were no surveillance cameras facing the Walgreens dumpsters.

Detectives interviewed Moore’s roommate, who told them the last text Moore sent to him said she was “being accused of things I’m not,” and she wished she could find a nice guy to be with, according to the complaint.

The roommate told authorities Moore regularly used her Facebook page, and it was unusual she hadn’t posted since Nov. 28.

Pasco detectives spoke with Knapp on Nov. 30 and he told them he was with Moore and some friends the evening of Nov. 28. He said he returned to his house in his 2006 black Cadillac with Moore that night, according to officials, and confirmed the two were in a relationship and planned to stay together that night.

The two arrived at Knapp’s house after midnight and got into an argument about what to eat, he said. Knapp told detectives he and Moore both were intoxicated and Moore said she wanted to go home. Knapp said she left his house on foot, and he didn’t know where she went, according to documents.

Authorities say Knapp told them that, after Moore left around 12:30 or 1 a.m., he went back inside to play his Xbox. He said he didn’t leave his house.

The detectives noticed a strong smell of cleaning chemicals in Knapp’s home, the complaint said. Knapp allowed the investigators to walk through the house, except for two rooms he said belonged to a roommate.

Detectives found no evidence of a struggle and didn’t see any cleaning supplies, the complaint said. One detective mentioned how clean Knapp’s house smelled, and he replied that it was his day off and he spent it cleaning.

Surveillance footage from Knapp’s neighbors shows a black Cadillac driving west on Carmel Avenue around 12:15 a.m. Nov. 29. The Cadillac was seen again at 12:21 a.m., like it had circled the block, the complaint said. The car was seen for the third time traveling east on Carmel Avenue around 1:20 a.m.

The footage corroborates Knapp’s account of when he returned home, but it refutes his claim that he did not leave his home again, officials say. There is no surveillance footage showing Moore leaving on foot, according to the complaint.

Detectives returned to Knapp’s home again around 10:30 p.m. Nov. 30 for another interview. Knapp allowed detectives to search his home and both his vehicles, and he consented to have information from his cellphone downloaded.

Knapp told detectives he played Xbox online with a man in the morning of Nov. 29, after Moore had left.

He then said he left around 1:15 a.m. to go to his place of employment, Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse, to inventory their meat before returning home.

Detectives found inconsistencies in Knapp’s story, according to the complaint. Knapp previously told detectives he was too drunk to drive Moore to McDonald’s before she left on foot. But, they said, he could drive to his place of work at 1:15 a.m. He also made statements that an unknown person picked up Moore, not that she left on foot, as he initially told them.

Knapp said Moore was wearing a light blue “Rugrats” sweatshirt, black pants and black shoes, according to the complaint. Moore is seen wearing this sweatshirt later in a Snapchat video from her cellphone, authorities said.

Detectives watched footage from Harold Seltzer’s that shows Knapp arriving at the restaurant in his Cadillac after 1:27 a.m. Nov. 29. The footage is grainy and makes it hard to see specific movements, the complaint said. Knapp is seen going inside the restaurant and staying there until 1:53 a.m.

Detectives searched the dumpster, which is only used by the restaurant, and found black bags that were different from the mostly clear trash bags inside the dumpster. In the black bags, investigators found a black-and-gray bed comforter, a red bedsheet and a white mattress cover, all stained with what looked to be a significant amount of blood, according to the report.

Several other items believed to belong to Moore were found in the trash bags, including a debit card, car keys and a “Rugrats” sweatshirt, detectives said. Investigators also found a pair of brown work boots, a gray shirt and men’s gray cargo pants with blood on them, the complaint said.

Three different pillowcases that matched pillowcases photographed while searching Knapp’s house also were found.

Detectives interviewed Knapp again at the District 1 office building. Knapp confirmed and identified photos showing what he and Moore wore while out at bars on Nov. 28, detectives said. He also identified himself at Harold Seltzer’s, wearing gray cargo pants. Knapp agreed that the photos of the pillowcases and bedding found in the trash matched photos of bedding taken inside his home Dec. 1.

Knapp grew upset with the line of questioning, the complaint said, and left the building. Detectives followed Knapp’s movements using a court-allowed tracker that was placed on his car, the complaint said. Detectives followed as Knapp drove north, out of the state.

On Dec. 6, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst made a positive identification of Moore’s blood on the gray cargo pants that were found in the dumpster and identified by Knapp.

The Sheriff’s Office then got a warrant for Knapp’s arrest, and he was taken into custody and booked in the Pasco County Jail on Monday. He is facing second-degree murder charges in Moore’s death.

Sgt. Michael Rosa, who is heading the investigation, said Knapp was initially cooperative, though inconsistent with the information he provided, but he has now refused to speak with deputies. Rosa said the time and manner of Moore’s death could have not yet been confirmed.

Times staff writer Natalie Weber contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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