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At elegant Signature Place in St. Pete, nothing classy about Unit 2403

One January evening last year, St. Petersburg police got multiple calls about "yelling and banging'' in an unusual location: a $500,000 condo in the luxury high-rise Signature Place.

Two officers quickly made their way to Unit 2403, where they found the door kicked in. On the floor inside, they saw broken glass, droplets of blood and several braids yanked from the head of a young woman brawling with two older men.

"All three parties were extremely intoxicated and difficult to keep separate,'' one officer later noted. "The most intoxicated'' was the unit's owner, Brian Jay Daly.

In the past three years, police have responded to 48 calls involving Daly and Unit 2403 — fights, crack use, guests flinging fireworks and clothing onto the street below.

Last year alone, Unit 2403 accounted for at least 30 calls to police. That was almost half the total number of calls to the 244-unit Signature Place.

"To have that many calls to a solitary downtown condo is extraordinary,'' said Michael Puetz, a police spokesman. "There are entire neighborhoods that don't generate that many calls for police service in a single year.''

Some of Daly's fellow condo owners charge that his "drunken and obnoxious behavior,'' as one Signature Place employee told police, is ruining life in one of the city's most desirable residences.

"There's constantly something going on, and I'm sick of it,'' says Dr. Nathan Hameroff, a radiologist who rents out a unit he owns next to Daly's. He said Daly already has cost him "a ton of money'' by driving off two tenants, one of them a woman who called police when she saw the 57-year-old retired teacher and basketball coach wandering naked through the hall.

Two other renters are about to move out. Some residents say they avoid getting on the same elevator with him.

Despite all of the police activity, Daly's only known arrest in Florida was on a misdemeanor charge that was later dismissed. Through his attorney he said Friday that he had no comment and wanted to be left alone.

Hameroff and other owners have complained to their condominium board, to little avail, they say. One board member, Ginnie Van Kesteren, acknowledges problems but says Florida law limits what can be done.

"It's his home, he is an owner, he has the right to come and go from his home, he has a right within limits to entertain in his home whomever he chooses,'' said Van Kesteren, a lawyer who lives two floors below Daly. "We can't just say, 'You're out.' ''

• • •

Brian and Cheryl Daly were among the first to move into Signature Place when the sleek tower with a dramatic six-story waterfall opened in 2009. The couple, who previously lived in California and Las Vegas, paid $390,000 cash for their unit, one of eight on the 24th floor.

Less than two years later, Cheryl Daly, 59, filed for divorce. She accused her husband of trying to smother her with a pillow and "head butting'' her hard enough to blacken her eye and bloody her nose.

She said he also threatened to commit suicide by jumping off their balcony. "He has demonstrated behavioral 'highs' and 'lows' along with a steady consumption of alcohol,'' she told police.

In a proposed settlement, she was to get one of the two houses the couple owned in Croatia, where they often spent months at a time. Daly was to get the other house and exclusive use of the condo.

After his wife moved out, he briefly dated a nursing assistant. In February 2012, she obtained a restraining order after alleging that Daly shoved her against a wall and tried to stop her from leaving the condo. He was arrested for violating the order, but the charge was dismissed after he completed a pretrial program.

Next to call police was a young single woman renting Hameroff's apartment. She had seen Daly naked in the hall, "extremely intoxicated'' and "out of it,'' she said. She told him to go back to his condo, which he did.

The next day, she said, Daly was waiting for her when she returned from exercising. He "stated that she was sweet and should take care of him,'' the police report said.

The woman complained to the condo board, which sent Daly a cease and desist letter. After he got it, she saw him gesturing at her door with his middle finger.

She immediately moved out.

Daly's erratic behavior wasn't confined to the condo tower. The manager of a Bank of America branch reported that Daly had become "loud and disruptive'' when a teller told him he lacked enough in his account to get a $100,000 cashier's check.

Ordered to leave and not come back, Daly was spotted in a nearby Publix parking lot "seeming to hide behind cars and bushes'' while watching the bank's entrance, the manager told police. He said Daly gave him "a feeling of danger.''

• • •

Since late 2012, many of the police calls have involved a woman known to Signature Place employees and residents as "Miss T.''

Trimetrius Denise Austin, 34, has a record that includes convictions for sale and possession of cocaine. At various times, Daly has described her to police and others as his fiancee, a friend and a "tough'' street person whom he feels sorry for and wants to help break of a bad drug habit.

One thing is certain: Theirs has been a rocky relationship.

On Feb. 2, 2013, Daly called police after the 5-foot-7, 200-pound Austin, looking for money to buy crack, kicked open his door and "took me down pretty good,'' according to a police report.

A week later, responding to calls about someone throwing fireworks from Unit 2403, police said they smelled a "strong odor'' of synthetic marijuana as they approached Daly's door. The handle, they noted, was gone.

When officers knocked, Austin peeked through the hole and returned 60 seconds later to let them in. They found Daly passed out on the couch and an empty carton of TNT brand fireworks by the trash along with a recently used crack pipe.

A man who had just left the condo was responsible for the fireworks, Austin told police. As for the pipe, Daly "has nothing to do with this,'' she said. "Take me to jail; it's mine.''

• • •

After more problems at Daly's condo last year, including the arrests of two guests with long criminal records, several Signature Place residents had had enough.

Hameroff, who said he had lost a second tenant because of Daly, took the lead in complaining to the condo board. He asked fellow owners to catalog any incidents involving Daly, along with their "fears, anxieties etc.,'' and share them with a lawyer Hameroff had hired.

Among those responding: an owner recalling the time Daly struggled to activate an elevator while "clearly, to me, under the influence of something.''

When the man tried to help, Daly became "extremely aggressive toward me. Due to my concerns about seeing him, my use of common areas such as the elevators, the lobby and the amenities was much more limited.''

Hameroff says the condo board "has done nothing to correct this situation" with Daly, a claim that board member Van Kesteren denies.

Besides the cease and desist letter, the board has sent Daly notices of violating condo bylaws. Under Florida law, condo associations can levy fines of $100 a day, up to $1,000, for such violations as "disrupting the enjoyment of the premises.'' Van Kesteren said she didn't know if Daly had been fined, but added "there are no financial issues with him'' currently.

If fines don't work, an association can go to court to get an injunction, but it "needs proof,'' Van Kesteren said. "It can't act on hearsay.'' She said that most residents who have complained about Daly have not followed through with written statements.

Aren't 48 police calls and reports proof of a problem?

"It seems to me that if you look at most of the cases, he's not the aggressor, he's the victim of these things,'' Van Kesteren said. "He gets beat up, he gets his door kicked in. I don't act scared of him, and he's perfectly all right with me.''

Of the 26 calls that generated full police reports, Daly made eight. Most of those involved quarrels with Austin in a three-month period last year. The rest of the reports stemmed from calls made by others, including a carpet cleaner who said Daly had "played games'' and refused to pay him.

Hameroff said some residents have been reluctant to put their complaints in writing because they are scared of Daly. The doctor said he is considering suing him for monetary damages now that a third tenant is about to leave because he hears Daly screaming obscenities at night.

"There's no reason in a such an expensive building anyone should have to live with this,'' Hameroff said.

• • •

Not a peep was heard this year from Unit 2403 until mid May, when Daly returned from several months in Croatia. Since then there have been four calls, including one on May 18, when Daly told police that he and Austin had quarrelled after he bailed her out of jail on drug charges.

"He stated that Trimetrius was his only friend,'' the officer wrote. "While she was in the apartment, she drank vodka, smoked crack and spice joints.'' Then she took $200 from his wallet and left.

The officer gave Daly a pamphlet on domestic violence and looked in vain for Austin.

Two weeks ago, Daly ran his Toyota Corolla into the gate of the Signature Place garage, causing no damage but riling other residents. The condo board sent him a violation notice. Police, according to residents, said they couldn't do anything.

He had been on private property, they explained.

Times researchers Natalie Watson and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at susan@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642.

At elegant Signature Place in St. Pete, nothing classy about Unit 2403 07/12/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 12, 2014 9:31pm]

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