Sunday, May 20, 2018
News Roundup

In 2012, Pinellas logged most domestic homicides in two decades

LARGO — The Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force recorded 13 homicide cases in 2012 — the highest number the group has logged over the nearly two decades it has collected data.

Eighteen people died, because five of the homicide cases were murder-suicides — also an unusually high number in a county that typically sees only one or two a year.

The statistics frustrate task force members, who have no idea what caused the sudden spike, said Frieda Widera, chairwoman of the fatality review subcommittee.

It could take as long as six years to figure out the reason for the increase, because task force policy is to study cases after they've been cleared by the criminal justice system, when police and prosecutors are more willing to share details that might otherwise jeopardize prosecution.

The task force also gathers information from the county health department, clerk of court, domestic violence centers, probation officers and legal aid, among others.

"Behavior is hard to predict and, with domestic homicide, we're always trying to look at the past to prepare for the future," said Widera, a victim advocate at the Largo Police Department. "But sometimes it takes years upon years of data to see a significant trend."

The statistics are included in the most recent study by the Pinellas task force, which has tracked trends in 114 fatal domestic violence cases countywide since 1996.

Until last year, Widera said, the highest number of domestic-related homicide cases was 10, recorded in 2001.

Among 2012's Pinellas killings, as described by authorities:

• Sharon Byrd, 46, in September stabbed her 44-year-old husband, Russell, in their St. Petersburg apartment after he answered a phone call from another woman, police said.

• According to reports, Eugene Agbebaku, 33, shot his 32-year-old estranged wife, Ingrid, and himself in Clearwater, where she and their children were staying with a relative. The couple had been scheduled to appear in divorce court the day of the June 5 shootings.

• In April, authorities said, James Wolski, 35, of Largo turned the gun on himself after shooting to death his 40-year-old wife, Stacie, in a Walgreens parking lot, orphaning the two paramedics' 4-year-old daughter.

• In August, police accused Luis Antonio Santiago, 48, of running over his 36-year-old girlfriend, Belinda Joyce Thomas, as she fled their Pinellas Park home. Thomas' elementary school-age children witnessed her death.

All five of the Pinellas murder-suicides in 2012 were committed by males, police said. At least two of the couples were in the process of divorce. In two other cases, baffled loved ones told reporters they saw no warning signs.

The domestic violence report shows that drugs or alcohol played a role in 74 percent of the 114 cases. In 42 percent of cases, the perpetrator had been previously arrested for domestic violence, yet a judge had ordered batterer intervention in only 25 percent of cases.

But most disturbing, the task force says, is that in 70 percent of cases, friends, family, co-workers or neighbors knew about the relationship's violent nature, yet did nothing.

"For this report, we tried to make it much more user friendly … and give the individual person in the community specific ideas on what they can do," Widera said. "When somebody is telling you something is happening, believe it's happening, be willing to act, and know the resources to give the individual."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153, [email protected] or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers.

Comments
For starters: Rays at Angels, with Romo again as “the opener”

For starters: Rays at Angels, with Romo again as “the opener”

The Rays were so pleased with how their Saturday night experiment went with veteran reliever RHP Sergio Romo pitching the first inning – as "the opener" – before giving way to LHP Ryan Yarbrough that they are going to do it again today.Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

By David Nakamura, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled the endearing qualities of some of the victims of Friday’s mass shooting at a Texas high school, as authorities on Saturday released the names of the 10 killed. Eight ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Softball: Scouting the Academy at the Lakes vs. Lake Worth Christian semifinal

Softball: Scouting the Academy at the Lakes vs. Lake Worth Christian semifinal

Academy at the Lakes (24-4) vs. Lake Worth Christian (10-3)Where: 11:50 a.m. Monday at Historic Dodgertown, Vero BeachHow they got thereAcademy at the Lakes defeated Seacrest Country Day 11-1, defeated Canterbury 5-1Lake Worth Christian defeated...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Playing .500 ball is obviously no goal, and the Rays certainly know that.But given where they came from, that terrible 1-8 start that oozed into 3-12 and 4-13, climbing back to the respectability of .500 would be an accomplish...
Published: 05/20/18

Up to two tons of fertilizer spilled into channel leading to Tampa Bay, Kinder Morgan reports to state

TAMPA — As much as two tons of fertilizer accidentally spilled into a channel that leads to the upper part of Tampa Bay, according to a report sent Friday night to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Mil...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The first part of the Rays' new and unusual pitching plan worked so well Saturday, as game "opener" RHP Sergio Romo struck out the first three Angels hitters, that the Rays will do it again on Sunday.That's right. Romo will st...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Gam...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

TAMPA — Dan Girardi knew where the puck was heading. It was heading to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer on net, so Girardi did the only thing he could do. He blocked it.With his rump."It hit me right in the cheek," said Girardi, the Lightning defe...
Published: 05/19/18