Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Drunk driver gets 15 years for 2011 crash into Riverview family

TAMPA — A drunken driver refused a plea deal early Thursday that would bring 15 years in prison for killing 5-year-old Lilly Mills in 2011. But an hour later Rolando Rojas, 53, returned to court, accepted the sentence and begged forgiveness from the Mills family.

"The moment I heard baby Lilly had died, believe it or not, I felt a stabbing, dying pain," Rojas told the family. "I know you felt it, and I apologize for such sadness I have caused."

Earlier in the morning, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta had set an October trial date after Rojas declined the prosecution's offer of 15 years.

The Mills family left the courtroom in tears.

But then Rojas returned and the family regathered. He pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter for the crash he caused.

He was driving on U.S. 301 at Bloomingdale Avenue on July 1 last year when he tried to squeeze his truck between cars stopped at a light.

His Ford sideswiped both cars before hitting the Mills' Chrysler van, which was turning onto Bloomingdale Avenue on a green light.

The family was returning home to Riverview from a Brandon mall.

All six occupants, including four children, were taken to Tampa General Hospital. Lilly, who was sitting on the side of the van struck by the pickup, was removed from life support the next day.

Lilly's father, Paul Mills, 29 at the time of the accident, and her sister, Audrey Mills, 7, were seriously injured.

Her mother, Samantha Populin, 25, and passengers Sophia Mills, 2, and Kayla Mills, 10, suffered minor injuries.

"Paul and I lost our first child together in our loving family," Samantha Populin told Rojas on Thursday. "We live the unbearing reality we will never see her grow up. We are all victims of your crime. I find it almost impossible to find any joy in life without Lilly."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or [email protected]

Comments
Pope begs forgiveness for ‘irreparable harm’ from sex abuse

Pope begs forgiveness for ‘irreparable harm’ from sex abuse

SANTIAGO, Chile — Pope Francis begged for forgiveness Tuesday for the "irreparable damage" done to children who were raped and molested by priests, opening his visit to Chile by diving head-first into a scandal that has greatly hurt the Catholic Chur...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Some fear Spa Beach billowing net sculpture could catch birds and storms

Some fear Spa Beach billowing net sculpture could catch birds and storms

By WAVENEY ANN MOORETimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — International artist Janet Echelman may have fulfilled her $75,000 feasibility contract with the city and previewed her billowing, parasol-inspired sculpture for Spa Beach, but for some, key ques...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Updated: 2 hours ago
North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea’s official news agency responded Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s controversial "nuclear button tweet," describing it as the "the spasm of a lunatic," according to AP."The spasm of Trump in the new year reflects the desperate mental st...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

Forecast: More warm weather, but frigid conditions are returning to Tampa Bay

The sunny skies and warmer temperatures that took hold on Martin Luther King Day will extend into Tuesday across Tampa Bay.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area They will last only a day, however, as the region will see a shor...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The Daystarter: Boat fire claims 42-year-old mother of two; cold kills fish, attracts vultures, Licht on Bucs’ ‘brutal’ year; warm returns, for a day

The Daystarter: Boat fire claims 42-year-old mother of two; cold kills fish, attracts vultures, Licht on Bucs’ ‘brutal’ year; warm returns, for a day

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• It will actually warm up just a tad before another cold front arrives and sweeps east across the Gulf coast. Tuesday’s highs will be in the 70s but expect cooler temperatures...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pasco plans industrial site on utility property

Pasco plans industrial site on utility property

DADE CITY – Commissioner Jack Mariano remembers the message from economist William Fruth.Just seven months after Mariano joined the commission in 2004, Fruth, of Palm City, told the county’s elected and appointed officials that Pasco should explore d...
Published: 01/16/18
From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

When I first made this soup, Florida was in the grips of a cold weather snap, the likes of which rarely happens in this part of the state. We’re talking a whole week of lows in the 30s. The 30s! It was everything I ever wanted and more — the rare win...
Published: 01/16/18
Help wanted: Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has 250 jobs to fill

Help wanted: Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa has 250 jobs to fill

TAMPA — Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is holding a hiring event next week to fill more than 250 positions. The event will take place in the Hard Rock Cafe from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 24. Available positions include culinary, beverage, hotel, spa, ...
Published: 01/16/18