Expansion of aquarium gets under way
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium broke ground on a $12 million expansion Friday that will add a dolphin stadium, more space for sea turtle rehabilitation and a four-story parking garage. Also planned for the Island Estates aquarium: better surgical suites, bigger viewing areas and more classroom space. Construction will take about six months. Planners say the work will help welcome the waves of moviegoers eager to see Winter, the aquarium's star dolphin, after the premiere of the movie Dolphin Tale in September. Leaders expect 4,000 visitors a day after the premiere, nearly double the aquarium's record.
Motorcyclist dies of crash injuries
A Safety Harbor motorcyclist who was injured in a crash in Oldsmar over Memorial Day weekend has died, authorities said. Cheryl Santucci, 54, of 266 Hamilton Ave., Safety Harbor, was ejected from a 1984 Harley-Davidson after she hit a curb on Forest Lakes Boulevard about 6:20 p.m. May 29. Santucci was not wearing a helmet. She was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where she died Wednesday. Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said they were notified of the death by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office on Friday.
Man arrested in thefts of checks
A Clearwater man is accused of stealing more than $17,000 in corporate checks from a dialysis center in a one-month span, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Benjamin C. Nichols, 25, who's listed in jail records as a transient from Clearwater, was arrested Thursday. He was charged with nine counts of uttering forged checks and one count of grand theft. Additional charges were levied last month. According to arrest reports, Nichols stole some checks and a rubber signature stamp from Gulf Coast Dialysis Center in Dunedin, then made checks out to himself. He then cashed the checks, ranging from $680 to $3,800, at various banks throughout Pinellas County and Tampa between April 20 and May 18, according to arrest reports. Nichols' mother works at the business, according to the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office had alerted local banks to be on the lookout for Nichols or the checks, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha. Nichols was located in May after an alert teller at a Clearwater bank called police. Nichols was charged with additional counts Thursday. On Friday, he was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $23,000 bail.
Volunteers needed for GED tutoring
Goodwill is seeking volunteer tutors to help former offenders prepare for the GED exam. Volunteers will work one-on-one with Goodwill corrections clients who are taking GED classes but need additional help to improve reading, math and other skills covered by the exam. Tutoring will take place at Goodwill's residential work-release center, 16432 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater. To learn more about volunteering as a GED tutor, please call the Goodwill Corrections Department, (727) 523-1512, ext. 1501.