Monday, December 18, 2017
News Roundup

Murderer facing possible life sentence represents himself in Pinellas drug case

LARGO — Wandering through courtrooms in Pinellas County's Criminal Justice Center is like surfing the channels of justice. You can find cases of murder or shoplifting. A woman is ordered to pay a traffic ticket, a man is sentenced to death.

Even with all this variety, it's still really hard to find a felony trial in this building on 49th Street that doesn't change a single thing in anyone's life.

Yet in the Division D courtroom this week, a convicted murderer represented himself on a drug charge that in all likelihood will not affect one day of his prison sentence.

"Honestly, this is a farce," said Jorge Angulo, court-appointed standby counsel for the defendant, William Chad Routenberg, 37.

Angulo seemed pained to watch the untrained Routenberg attempt to defend himself against a cocaine charge: "He doesn't know what he's doing."

Prosecutors say the trial — which likely won't result in a longer prison sentence for a man already facing a life sentence — was a matter of principle.

Earlier this year, Routenberg was convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing his girlfriend in the neck. Shanessa Lynn Chappie was found buried in the couple's back yard.

He will be sentenced for the murder in June and could get life in prison.

When Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Keith Meyer sentences Routenberg, he may reflect on a previous case that led a different judge to say "you scare me to death" and prompted a prosecutor to call him "one of the scariest individuals we have ever had in this county."

That was after Routenberg, at age 14, was arrested for raping an 11-year-old in a St. Petersburg middle school stairwell. He was sent to the now-closed Dozier School for Boys, where he ultimately pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior after a boy there accused him of trying to coerce him into sex.

Now, decades later, Routenberg was in court again starting Tuesday, serving as his own attorney. Even though Routenberg faced up to 15 years in prison for the cocaine charge, there's a strong chance it would simply be folded into whatever sentence he gets for the murder.

So why go forward?

"Prosecutors have certain principles," Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said, and gave this background:

The State Attorney's Office offered to give Routenberg a concurrent sentence — meaning he would serve his drug and murder sentences simultaneously if he pleaded guilty. He refused.

Prosecutors also offered "time served" — meaning Routenberg's sentence on the drug charge would be over as soon as he pleaded guilty. He refused that, too, Bartlett said.

This presented another option: Prosecutors could simply drop the charge. No way, Bartlett said, not "in light of all the circumstances and all his history."

Bartlett said it was well worth it to have assistant state attorneys Ellen Germuska and Frank Piazza prosecute the case. And on Thursday afternoon, the jury had a verdict: guilty of cocaine possession with intent to sell.

"We just didn't feel that it was appropriate to just walk away from it," Bartlett said.


Updated: 9 minutes ago

Updated: 11 minutes ago

Updated: 12 minutes ago
Couple that provided video in Seminole Heights killings want a piece of the reward

Couple that provided video in Seminole Heights killings want a piece of the reward

TAMPA — It’s the Seminole Heights surveillance video seen around the world.A hooded figure calmly walks down East Frierson Avenue, appearing to flip a phone in his hand, on the night of Oct. 9. Then, moments later, the same person is seen running in...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Tampa lawyer accused of soliciting sex from inmate at Pinellas jail

Tampa lawyer accused of soliciting sex from inmate at Pinellas jail

A Tampa lawyer is accused of offering an inmate at the Pinellas County jail money in exchange for a sex act after exposing himself to her, according to arrest reports. Andrew B. Spark, 54, faces charges of soliciting for prostitution, exposure of sex...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Land O’Lakes teacher charged with felony child abuse

LAND O’LAKES — A special needs teacher at Oakstead Elementary School was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after she struck and kicked a 15-year-old child in her care over the weekend, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Christine Ketel...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies seek suspects who fired shots into crowded Northdale nightclub

TAMPA — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the suspects who fired shots inside a crowded nightclub in Northdale early Monday morning.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies patrolling the area heard shooting coming...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Another reason to buy a home in Tampa Bay? Down payments are lower here

Homebuyers in the Tampa Bay area don’t have to shell out as much on downpayments as buyers in many other places. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the median downpayment for a bay area home in the quarter ended in September was $13,750 compare...
Updated: 1 hour ago

First-Citizens Bank & Trust acquires Tampa-based HomeBancorp

TAMPA — North Carolina-based First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co. is acquiring Tampa-headquartered HomeBancorp, which operates HomeBanc. First Citizens Bank will pay $15.03 per share in cash, a Monday release said, and the deal is expected to close by mid...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Ruth: The CDC’s seven dirty words

Do you suspect the paper-pushers who run the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were channeling their inner George Carlin? You’re [email protected]!^&$ right they were!Years ago, the late comedian delivered a brilliant routine on the seven dirty words ...
Updated: 1 hour ago