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The five weirdest things that happened around Tampa Bay this week

We've all run late to work one time or another, right? Maybe some of us more than others? Denee Reed thought she'd found the perfect solution — she just told her boss she'd been carjacked. Why hadn't anyone thought of this before, right? One reason: When she reported the incident to Hillsborough deputies, they investigated and quickly unraveled the ruse, they say. She was jailed for making a false report and eventually released on $2,250 bail. On Tuesday, it was unclear whether she still had her job.

People do weird things in airports and on airplanes. Nobody knows why. But you'd expect a federal air marshal to know better, right? Not Adam J. Bartsch, apparently. Bartsch, who was licensed to carry an actual gun on an actual airplane, was observed using his phone to take pictures looking up the skirts of women boarding a Tampa-bound plane, according to Nashville, Tenn., police reports. Witnesses called it to the attention of flight attendants, who removed him from the plane. He faces a charge of disorderly conduct, and has reportedly been removed from duty with the Transportation Security Administration.

Deputies say Tara Dawn Crozier stopped at a Port Richey Publix only to cash a Western Union check on Friday before she steered an electric shopping cart out the door. She rode past the outer reaches of the store's parking lot, then off into the sunset. Deputies found the cart an hour later, abandoned at a street corner about a mile away, and soon found Crozier hiding in an abandoned trailer about a block away.

Hillsborough County trotted out its brand new automated garbage trucks this month, and quickly discovered a problem they'd overlooked: the trucks are too big for some rural roads. Automated arms reach out from the side of the new trucks to grab trash cans, and on narrow roads there isn't room for them to extend. Going back to the old trucks isn't an option, apparently, so collectors have found smaller automated trucks to use in problem areas.

Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies were among those on the lookout Friday for two convicted murderers mistakenly released from Franklin Correctional Institution in North Florida. One man presented a fake motion from a prosecutor and a forged judge's signature and was released on Sept. 27; a little over a week later, on Oct. 8, it happened again. One of the men's attorneys said he doubted it was part of a "cunning master plan," noting that his former client was "not smart enough to pull his ski mask down" when he broke into the home of someone he knew. Courts across the state scrambled to make sure no one else had been mistakenly released. One chief circuit judge pointed out something that could have served as a red flag: Prosecutors and judges almost never, ever ask for reductions in murderers' sentences.

Bonus headline of the week: The Reign of Squirrels: Who's really nuts here?

Got your own story to nominate? Leave it in the comments below.

The five weirdest things that happened around Tampa Bay this week 10/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:36pm]
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  1. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — The legal fallout from the city's sewage crisis is just about resolved.

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
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    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  3. Man taken into custody after live streaming drive along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police took a man into custody Thursday afternoon after, they said, he drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  4. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
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    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King today made his case for how economic growth and fighting climate change go hand in hand. His rivals for the Democratic nomination, Gwen Graham, …

    Winter Park businessman Chris King and his family