And, the band played on.
In her honor.
“We played our hearts out,” said Joe Murphy, clarinet player and publicity chairperson for the New Horizons Band of Gulfport that had a rehearsal at the Senior Center on Tuesday evening, February 13.
Caroline Morton-Hicks, 59, of St. Petersburg, was a trombone player with the local band along with other music groups in Pinellas County.
Morton-Hicks was scheduled to perform with the Second Time Arounders Marching Band on Tuesday for the Dunedin Mardi Gras Parade, said Pippa Francq, a clarinet player for New Horizons.
“She was the heart and soul of our trombone section,” said Francq. “She was also an outdoorswoman, a kayaker and camper. Last weekend, Caroline kayaked to and camped overnight on Shell Key where she said, ‘The stars were fabulous.’”
Just before 9:55 p.m. on Monday, February 12, after rehearsing earlier with the Pinellas Park Civic Orchestra at that city’s Performing Arts Center (PAC), police say Morton-Hicks “was involved in some sort of altercation in the adjacent parking lot between the PAC and City Hall.”
According to police reports, after the argument, Morton-Hicks ran from the parking lot but was chased by her assailant who then shot her in the street in the 5100 block of 78th Avenue North.
She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police reports.
ABC Action News reports that after interviewing witnesses, police believe the shooter “left the scene in an unknown vehicle.” Police also say they “do not believe the public is in danger” and they “think the shooting is an isolated incident because it occurred in a high-profile area not known for violent crime.”
In a news report published by the Tampa Bay Times, “fellow musicians had already left at the time of the altercation. Two witnesses who were working on a vehicle nearby told police they heard an argument, then saw Morton-Hicks being chased, then heard gunfire.”
Sergeant Mike Lynch, public information officer for the Pinellas Park Police Department, told the Times on Tuesday, February 13, “What we don’t have is that piece of the puzzle of when she left. Was there anyone waiting for her, did she get into a vehicle, was there someone in her car?”
Lynch also told the Times, investigators do not currently have a named suspect, they don’t know the sex or race of the shooter and they don’t know if multiple assailants were involved.
Detectives are investigating Morton-Hicks’ death as a homicide and are “not releasing any additional information at this time,” said Lynch in a police report on February 13 at 10:23 p.m.
Morton-Hicks, originally from Weston-super-Mare, England, was president of FRIBRI, Inc., a Florida corporation owning 15 residential properties in St. Petersburg according to Pinellas County property records reports.
“She loved the band,” said Murphy. “She was a very accomplished trombone player.” Often, “she would hold rehearsals for small groups at her house.”
Morton-Hicks joined the New Horizons Band about 10 years ago when it was located at Eckerd College, said Mike Wilson, tuba player and member of the board of directors.
The band relocated to Gulfport in 2016.
“She was just a fun, sweet woman,” said Wilson. “She was over to my house on Sunday. She used to come over all the time and practice on Sundays for various groupings of trumpet, trombone and clarinet. She was a very active person and active in music.”
According to her New Horizon band mates, Morton-Hicks also played in the Masonic Band of St. Petersburg and the South Pasadena Community Band.
“We are pretty numb, astounded and devastated,” said Francq after the New Horizons Band finished their Tuesday rehearsal at the Gulfport Senior Center. “She had a great sense of humor and was outspoken. She will be sorely missed.”