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Former Buc helped raise 16-year-old rape suspect

TAMPA — The teen accused in two rapes grew up with a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer as a father figure, but court records indicate it was not a happy home.

Kendrick Morris, 16, who was formally charged Tuesday with a rape in June at a day care center, told child protection investigators last year that his mother and former Buccaneer defensive end Steve White whipped him repeatedly with a belt. An investigator found more than 60 marks on the boy's body.

Sheriff's officials investigated, and charged Morris's mother, Lisa Stevens, with two counts of child abuse. She later pleaded guilty to lesser charges. No charges were filed against White, who has no Florida criminal record.

To investigators, Morris described White as his stepfather, but it's unclear whether the couple ever married. A sheriff's report from 2000 says they were engaged. They have a biological child, an 8-year-old girl.

White, 34, and Stevens have spent five years in a custody case that appears unresolved. In court documents, Morris' mother describes White as "a father figure" to him for the last decade.

White, contacted at his Westchase home Tuesday, declined to comment on Morris or his court battles with Stevens, and refused to name his lawyer. His attorney of record, Nancy J. Neaves, could not be reached.

Deputies arrested Morris last week, accusing him of sexually assaulting a teenage girl outside a Brandon library. On Tuesday, they added a second rape charge involving an attack last summer at Children's Lighthouse Day Care Center.

A thick court file gives clues to the abuse allegations the teen made against his mother and White including a child protection medical report. The dependency file on the children, which may contain more information, is not a public record.

A financial affidavit filed in 2003 in the case gives a glimpse into White's lifestyle at the time the custody case started. He listed his annual income as $1.2-million. He drove a Cadillac Escalade and a Mercedes S55.

After allegations of abuse surfaced regarding Kendrick Morris, an investigator with the Hillsborough County Child Protection Team interviewed the boy in February, 2007.

In a medical report, the investigator asked Morris, "Why are you here today?"

"I have scars from my step-father and my mother when they would whip me," he said, according to the report.

"With what?" he was asked.

"A belt," Morris said. The boy said the last whipping occurred a couple of months before. He said he usually got in trouble for late homework.

The investigator noted marks on his chest, both arms, shoulders, back and upper legs, six still healing, the report notes.

"Physical findings of today's examination are indicative of INFLICTED, NON-ACCIDENTAL injuries," the investigator wrote, emphasizing some words with in all capital letters. The report says Morris began seeing a psychiatrist at age 10.

At a hearing in June 2007, an assistant attorney general asked that both children be placed with White, who offered to take them in to keep them together.

"We feel that that is an appropriate safe placement, in that, it is in the best interest of the children," said Assistant Attorney General Jill Adams.

The children were placed with their grandmother at one point, but it is unclear who has custody now.

Stevens, now 36, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to probation. She completed parenting and anger management classes, records show.

White played football for the University of Tennessee before beginning his NFL career in 1996 with the Philadelphia Eagles and then moving to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He the Bucs after the 2001 season left for the New York Jets.

A University of South Florida spokesman said in 2005 White briefly helped coach the Bulls football team. He stepped down for personal reasons, according to Times files.

He also spent a year as a volunteer football coach at Alonso High School three years ago, Hillsborough schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

Stevens declined to comment on the abuse allegations or on her son's case, referring questions to his attorney, who did not respond to a call.

Morris' grandmother insisted he was innocent and suggested that authorities had arrested "the first black man" they could find.

"Kendrick did not do it," she said, voice sharpening with anger, in a brief interview Tuesday afternoon outside her Clair Mel home. "They need to go out and find the maniac that did it."

Staff writers Letitia Stein, Rebecca Catalanello and Thomas Lake and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 813-226-3373.

Former Buc helped raise 16-year-old rape suspect 04/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:01am]
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