Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco death row inmate's mother rejoices over his new trial

After 17 years of hope and prayer, everything changed Friday with an 8:30 a.m. phone call.

"Guess what," a voice told Mary Lewis, "today is the best day of the rest of your life."

And just like that, the 70-year-old was happier than she'd been in a long time.

The Florida Supreme Court had ordered a new trial for her son, Michael Peter Fitzpatrick, 51, sentenced to death for a 1996 fatal stabbing in Pasco County.

Justices found that Fitzpatrick had ineffective help from his trial attorney, who should have consulted with experts on the DNA and other forensic evidence used against him.

"I'm walking on air today," Lewis said. "It was just the start of a beautiful day. "

Fitzpatrick was accused of raping and killing 28-year-old Laura Romines, found naked with a slit throat on the side of a rural Land O'Lakes road in August 1996. She died two weeks later.

Fitzpatrick has claimed his innocence throughout.

"I did not kill or cause any harm to Laura Romines," Fitzpatrick said in a hearing in 2001.

Lewis remembers the day of his conviction. "I absolutely went numb," she said. "It was beyond my comprehension."

Despite the pain and shock of losing her firstborn, she never got depressed. Instead, she wanted to fight. She visits him once a month, but always wished she could spend real quality time with him.

She's getting older, and even though her health is good, she knows she doesn't have that much time left, and so much has changed.

Fitzpatrick's grandmother and stepfather have both died. His stepfather especially, she said, wanted to live to see Fitzpatrick's conviction overturned.

Today, she told him.

"I had a tearful moment with my husband this morning," she said. "I went down to the cemetery before work and talked to him. It was really important to me that he knew there was a chance for Michael's reprieve."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229 [email protected]

Comments
Authorities say motive in deputy killings may never be known

Authorities say motive in deputy killings may never be known

TRENTON — Investigators in Florida say they may never know why a man - a recluse from a rural farm community who rarely ventured into town - killed two sheriff’s deputies while they sat in a Chinese restaurant. John Hubert Highnote, 58, of Bell casua...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Shaquem Griffin is about to join a long line of NFL draft picks from Lakewood

Shaquem Griffin is about to join a long line of NFL draft picks from Lakewood

ST. PETERSBURG — Former Lakewood High coach Brian Bruch started each season with the same spiel. He cautioned his players about not becoming obsessed with a professional football career, reciting statistics to emphasize the difficult the odds o...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28. Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish per...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts today

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts today

High school students from around the Tampa Bay area are participating in the National School Walkout today commemorating the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and calling for gun law reform.A large group of students from St. Petersburg High ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man gets life sentence in Freedom High student’s 2015 shooting death

Man gets life sentence in Freedom High student’s 2015 shooting death

TAMPA — After David Brunson murdered an 18-year-old Freedom High School senior, he told a witness the victim was "just some ghetto kid nobody will miss."But people do miss Eion Gustitis.More than two years after Gustitis was shot in the head in a rem...
Updated: 2 hours ago
One injured, suspect in custody in Ocala school shooting

One injured, suspect in custody in Ocala school shooting

OCALA — One student shot another in the ankle at a Florida high school and the suspected shooter is in custody, authorities said Friday.The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported that the shooting happened Friday morning at Forest High School, which...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rowdies prepared to press on without defender David Najem

Rowdies prepared to press on without defender David Najem

SAINT PETERSBURG — When describing the loss of defender David Najem, Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell and the player who will replace Najem chose the same word.Gutted.That settled over the Rowdies last weekend, one that was bad enough based o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Flight attendants say ‘appalling’ Southwest flight photo confirms it — you’re not paying attention to the safety demo

Flight attendants say ‘appalling’ Southwest flight photo confirms it — you’re not paying attention to the safety demo

Mario Nunez called it a "huge shaking my head moment" when the photo inside the cabin of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 appeared on his TV.The story was about a terrifying emergency landing after an engine exploded 20 minutes into a trip from New Yor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of 'online terrorism'

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of 'online terrorism'

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house." Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps ...
Updated: 2 hours ago