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Aunt of man accused in Tampa police slayings won't get city job back

TAMPA — The aunt of Dontae Morris will not get her Tampa Police Department job back, a city board decided Friday.

Carolyn Riggins was fired in July 2010 after an internal investigation found that she had hindered the manhunt for Morris by not revealing that her daughter had a close friendship with him.

Riggins had worked as a civilian employee with the department for 10 years. Morris is accused of shooting and killing Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and Dave Curtis on June 29, 2010.

After listening to several hours of testimony and cross-examination, the city's Civil Service Board determined that it all came down to one thing: the fact that Riggins did not tell her superiors that her daughter, Alaina Riggins, might have been in contact with Morris.

"You needed to be forthright about that," said board member Charlotte Hursey. "The city had the right to expect that, and I don't think that can be forgotten."

At Friday's hearing, a city attorney played taped phone conversations between Carolyn Riggins and her daughter — bits of wire tappings police had come across during the four-day manhunt for Morris.

In one of the conversations, Riggins cuts off her daughter and says, "Alaina, see, we can't talk on the phone. That's all I've got to say."

She also tells her daughter that police who had been surveilling their house had gone. "Come home!" she tells her daughter.

Assistant city attorney Toyin Aina-Hargrett said Riggins shouldn't have warned those close to Morris about police whereabouts or alluded to possible phone taps.

Riggins' attorney said the city had no proof that Alaina Riggins had contact with Morris or had done anything criminal. If Carolyn Riggins had relevant information to divulge, she would have, her attorney said.

In the end, the board decided all those details were beside the point. Riggins should have told the department that her daughter was close to Morris, said board member Jimmie Keel.

Riggins left without comment. Police Chief Jane Castor said she took no joy in the woman's firing or the board's decision to uphold it.

"Carolyn Riggins was a trusted employee of the Police Department, and she betrayed us in our darkest hours," she said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Aunt of man accused in Tampa police slayings won't get city job back 10/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 10:15pm]
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