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Pasco County crime stories left indelible marks

He bound her ankles and wrists. He stabbed her and strangled her. He beat her head to make her brain bleed and broke her skull from her spine. That's what Phillup Alan Partin did to 16-year-old hitchhiker Joshan Ashbrook from New Port Richey more than six years ago.

This year, finally, Ashbrook's family got some closure.

Partin was found guilty in a trial in March.

He was sentenced to death in December.

The end of the Partin case was a top headline in another year in Pasco County of isolated but eye-opening murder, mayhem and molestation.

In February, Jackie Lee Braden was charged with shooting his mother and his stepfather, then stealing nearly $200,000 of their money. He was arrested three days after the shootings at the Holiday Inn in Indian Rocks Beach.

In March, Lisa Marinelli, a substitute teacher at Mitchell High, was charged with having had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male student.

In June, Brian Michael Lane, a teacher at the Sugar Plum First Class preschool in Hudson, was charged with fondling a 4-year-old boy at the preschool and performing a sex act on a 10-year-old boy. He later pleaded guilty to attempted capital sexual battery and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

And in August, Joel Cupp, then a Trinity Oaks Elementary teacher, was arrested before the first day of school on charges of sexually soliciting children over the Internet.

No ticket for deputy

Readers throughout Tampa Bay reacted with fury in September when news came to light about two off-duty Pasco sheriff's deputies who were let go from a traffic stop in Pinellas County when they were suspected of driving drunk. A Pinellas sheriff's sergeant clocked the car going 98 mph and smelled booze on the driver's breath.

But Sgt. John Daniels didn't do a DUI investigation or even write a ticket for Deputy Jose Berrios. Investigations were opened by both sheriff's agencies after the fact. Berrios eventually was fired. His passenger that night, Deputy Kurt Hentschel, returned to regular duty but remains under investigation. Daniels received a one-day suspension.

In October, authorities snared one of their most-wanted suspects, arresting Luc Pierre-Charles. The 20-year-old was on the U.S. marshals' "15 most wanted" list. Authorities say he and an accomplice shot and killed two Wesley Chapel teenagers in July 2006 on an isolated road in Trilby. Pierre-Charles was found hiding in a relative's house in Brevard County.

In November, a purse-snatching in a shopping center turned fatal. Linda Roma was walking out of T.J. Maxx in Hudson with her daughter when a man walked past and lunged for her purse. They struggled, and Roma, 62, fell and struck her head on the pavement. She died the next day from bleeding in her brain.

Authorities found the man they say is the culprit and charged him with first-degree murder. Steven Cruz, 38, has admitted involvement in the incident, according to a sheriff's report, and Lisa Michelle Dillard, who is accused of driving the getaway car, was charged with strong arm robbery/accessory after the fact.

Later in November, Jacqueline Tyree walked into her son's room in their home in New Port Richey and found an unthinkable horror: Efrem, 9, a fourth-grade honor roll student, was hanging by the neck from two belts strung up in his closet. Authorities called his death a suicide.

Meanwhile, in courts this year, several people were convicted of killing someone close to home.

David Andrew White was found guilty of murdering his wife.

Sharon Sprout was found guilty of shooting her boyfriend of 29 years in the back of the head while he slept in their bed. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Jeremy James Kirkpatrick was convicted of beating to death his girlfriend's baby daughter. He, too, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244. Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco County crime stories left indelible marks 12/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:43pm]

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