CLEARWATER — It's a nursery crime that's been around for ages — the one where the Big Bad Wolf is accused of flattening homes and making ham sandwiches out of a pair of pigs.
But after a jury of five listened to the evidence, they decided that, contrary to popular folklore, the Big Bad Wolf wasn't so bad after all.
Eighteen local youngsters, ages 7 to 14, served as jurors, witnesses and lawyers in a mock trial Friday afternoon at the Clearwater Courthouse. They were supported by dozens of friends and family members as they presented the case of The People vs. the Big Bad Wolf.
The notorious fairy tale character was charged with two counts of malicious destruction of property and two counts in the murders and Ann and Bob Pig.
But as in any good bedtime story, there was a surprise twist at the end.
The courtroom drama was the idea of Bridget Yurecka, 41, of Clearwater.
"I'm just a crazy mom who wanted to do something fun with the kids over the summer and let them learn something about our legal system," she said. "My husband is an attorney, and I realized our sons had no idea of what their father did."
To prepare, she held a three-day workshop in their home to help her sons and their friends understand court proceedings and the law. Her husband, Phil Yurecka, served as the judge.
The trial was unscripted, with witnesses given facts not shared with the other witnesses. Only the attorneys knew the particulars so they could prepare their cases.
The infamous wolf was played by Bob Mast, a 55-year-old music teacher from Largo. He wore a pair of hairy latex gloves as he sat in the defendant's chair and flashed fanged teeth at the jurors.
Devin Radford, 12, of Seminole and Rebecca Scordino, 9, of Clearwater were the lawyers for the prosecution. Their strategy was to prove that witnesses had seen Big Bad at the scene and heard the squeals of pigs and Big Bad's obnoxious threats to "huff and puff" till he blew their houses down.
Hannah Walser, 10, of Seminole and Ana Kuykendall, 10, of Belleair defended the hairy creature.
They produced witnesses who said the houses of sticks and straw were "flimsy," that Big Bad had already eaten dinner, and that other wolves lurked in the neighborhood.
The defense called its star witness, Snack the Pig, played by 11-year-old Zane Yurecka. He said he was walking in the neighborhood and saw a wolf standing on the sidewalk in front of Ann and Bob's house.
"He was about the same color and size as Big Bad but the markings on his face were different," Zane testified.
But prosecuting attorney Devin laid doubt when he pointed out that it was late afternoon, there might have been shadows, and Snack was 100 yards away.
"That's quite a distance," the 12-year-old said.
The jurors convened for five minutes before reaching their verdict.
Prosecutor Rebecca said she hoped Big Bad would be convicted on all four counts so "he might stop eating pigs."
Defense attorney Ana said she wished she had pointed out that Snack the Pig had really good eyesight.
Then jury foreman Daniel Bryan, 11, read the verdict: Big Bad was guilty on only one count, the malicious destruction of Ann's home.
It left some in the audience scratching their heads.
It was an "inconsistent verdict," the judge said afterward.
But Ana was relieved.
"We did a pretty good job keeping their minds on the idea of innocence," she said.
Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected] tampabay.rr.com.