Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

More charges for Tampa mother accused of abusing, starving children

TAMPA — Authorities have filed additional charges against Jamie Hicks, the Tampa mother accused of starving and abusing at least seven of her children during the past eight years.

The latest medical reports confirmed allegations of abuse by Hicks' 12- and 13-year-old boys, Tampa police said.

The 13-year-old had bruises over his body "consistent with being hit and kicked," police said. The 12-year-old has permanent scarring on the roof of his mouth, which police said is due to Hicks repeatedly sticking her fingers down his throat to force him to vomit.

Last week, police arrested Hicks, 43, saying she starved her 16-year-old twin boys, forcing them to eat their vomit and punishing them for "stealing" food. She'd hit them with various objects, choked them to the point of unconsciousness, held their heads under water and fed them spoiled food, police wrote in an arrest affidavit March 27.

The twins were underweight, malnourished and had to be hospitalized, police said. They remained in the hospital Wednesday.

The state last week took protective custody of Hicks' eight children — the twins, boys ages 4, 7, 10, 12 and 13, and a 2-year-old girl.

It wasn't the first time such action was taken, Tampa police said Wednesday. In 1996 in Utah, Hicks' parental rights for three of her children were severed.

Those are different, older children than her eight in Tampa.

Police did not have more details and reports from Utah were unavailable.

Last week, the Florida Department of Children and Families said it had previously investigated Hicks' family, though the agency would not share details or say when the case was opened or closed.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman said that, in Florida, child protection investigators run background checks on parents, which can include histories from other states.

"If we know the parents live in another state and there may be concern of prior issues, the investigators will often reach out to that state's child welfare departments to obtain additional information on any prior reports or investigations," wrote DCF spokeswoman Natalie Harrell.

When it comes to Hicks, the department says it can't share many details due to state law. However, investigators reached out to child welfare departments "in all known states where the parents resided" in the previous DCF case, Harrell wrote.

"The information obtained was included in the investigation and taken into account," she stated.

Still, the DCF case was closed. Tampa police say they didn't get involved until March 25, when Hicks reported two of her children missing from her home, just north of Sulphur Springs.

Police saw "red flags" and investigated further. Seven of the children (each one except the 2-year-old) separately shared consistent stories of abuse, police said.

Neighbors said last week they didn't suspect abuse inside the four-bedroom, yellow concrete block house.

Hicks homeschooled her children and played with them in their well-manicured yard, though she'd never let them venture outside the metal fence at 1414 E Annie St.

Still in jail, Hicks now faces another count of aggravated child abuse, two more counts of child neglect and one count of child abuse.

Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony.

Authorities also initially charged the twin's stepfather, Vernon Courtney Lovell, 53, with two counts of child neglect.

Police say he knew of the abuse and never reported it.

On Wednesday, he remained in jail as authorities levied two additional charges against him — two counts of child neglect with great bodily harm, a second-degree felony.

Times news researchers John Martin and Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.


St. Pete officer suspended for month after pushing concert guard

ST. PETERSBURG — A police officer was suspended for a month after he pushed a security guard at a summer concert in Tampa, according to St. Petersburg police.It could have been worse: Chief Tony Holloway determined Officer Curtis Wright could have be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

Casino boat operator in fatal fire had maintenance, safety issues before earlier blaze

PORT RICHEY — The casino boat operator whose shuttle caught fire Sunday, leaving one passenger dead, says it does not know what could have caused the blaze.But federal records show the company, now called Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, had another boat...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

Hillsborough County firefighter gets the ax after investigators find ties to motorcycle gang

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials fired a Fire Rescue medic Tuesday after an internal investigation concluded he had "unwavering loyalty" to the Outlaws Motorcycle Club — the state’s dominant biker gang.Clinton Neal Walker, 33, of Bradenton is th...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Man shot, runs for help to Bahama Breeze with suspects following

TAMPA — Attackers shot a Tampa man Monday night as he sat in his car then chased him as he fled to a nearby restaurant to get help, Tampa police said.The victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening.The incident occurre...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Man pistol-whipped resisting home invasion in Wimauma

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office is looking for three men who broke into a Wimauma mobile home Tuesday morning, beat one of the residents with a pistol, stole cash and carjacked a vehicle to make their getaway.The incident occurred around 5:4...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

Here’s the backstory of the Pasco casino boat operator whose ship caught on fire

By Zachary T. SampsonTimes Staff WriterLong before a shuttle ship from Tropical Breeze Casino caught fire Sunday off the coast of Port Richey, leaving one passenger dead, the company behind the operation was a source of controversy.The casino operato...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Florida love triangle led to a murder-for-hire plot, police say. But the wrong woman was killed.

Heartbreak and jealously were the twin engines driving the scheme, police would later say. Ishnar Marie Lopez-Ramos was in love. The object of the 35-year-old Floridian’s affection, however, was tangled up with another woman. To solve her hear...
Published: 01/16/18

Florida boy, 6, dies of rabies contracted from a bat

ORLANDO — A 6-year-old Florida boy has died from rabies he contracted after being scratched by an infected bat.The father of Ryker Roque told NBC that the boy died Sunday at an Orlando hospital.Father Henry Roque said he had found a sick bat, put it ...
Published: 01/16/18

Pasco man fatally struck on Interstate 70 in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a Florida man died after he was hit by a car as he walked along Interstate 70 near Salina.The patrol says 35-year-old Cody Nordlund of New Port Richey died Sunday night.He was walking in an eastbound lane...
Published: 01/16/18
Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

Drone sightings sparking increasing concern locally

TAMPA — Shortly before Christmas, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s pilot Jason Doyle was flying a department helicopter over east Hillsborough when he saw the lights of a drone. It was about 800 feet below him and a half-mile away, and quite bright, sai...
Published: 01/16/18