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Pasco survived a frightful year in crime

One of the most shocking crimes of 2009 happened on April 8, inside the Port Richey home of an 89-year-old woman. Three masked men broke into her house, beat her in her own bed and sexually assaulted her. One tried to smother her with a pillow, pressing it on her face, asking the others: "Is she dead yet?" The rapists ransacked her home on their way out.

The woman survived. Deputies flooded her Palm Terrace Gardens neighborhood searching for those responsible. Neighbors talked of moving and slept with hammers next to their beds.

The massive manhunt ended with three arrests that made the crime even more sad: Luis Reyes, then 14; Carlos Fernandez, then 15; and Johnathan Rodriguez, then 20. All are still held at the Pasco County jail. Reyes and Fernandez are charged as adults.

Unfortunately, this type of crime is not new to Pasco County.

Bobby Black, 20, went to trial in April in one of two rape cases in which he is accused. Authorities said that in March 2007, Black and a friend broke into the home of a 66-year-old woman in Zephyrhills. She testified that they held her at knifepoint, dragged her out of her bed and raped her.

The jury, presented with DNA evidence that Black was the attacker, took just 45 minutes to convict him. He was sentenced to life in prison but still faces trial in a similar assault on another older woman.

Another attack on a senior citizen happened on April 14. Eleni Kalogianis, 71, was pistol-whipped in the parking lot of a Ross Dress for Less in Trinity by a man who tried to force her into his car. After beating her, the man stole another car in the parking lot.

Authorities say he and another person then tried to rob the Medicine Shoppe, a pharmacy at State Road 54 and Duck Slough Boulevard. The pharmacist, Ben Benoit, fought off the robbers and wrestled for control of their shotgun. The pharmacist's wife chased the thieves out of the store with her own gun, shooting at their getaway van. The suspects remain at large.

This year, the Zephyrhills Police Department dealt with the death of one of their own. On Aug. 6, a police dog died after being hit by a car while chasing a burglary suspect across Gall Boulevard. Gunner was the first officer with the agency to die in the line of duty. His memorial service was packed with community members, officers from the area and surrounding counties, as well as other police dogs.

The year also saw one double murder and several murder-suicides.

On Oct. 23, the remains of a couple who disappeared from a Dade City home were found buried in Hernando County. Authorities say Michael McAdams, 47, confessed to shooting his wife, Lynda McAdams, 46, and her boyfriend, William R. Andrews, 37, and burying them. Michael and Lynda McAdams had been married for 24 years, though Lynda asked for a divorce shortly before her murder, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. Michael McAdams faces two charges of first-degree murder.

On May 2, the bodies of Terry Wayne Scott, 59, and his wife, Veronica, 48, were found in the garage of their Dade City home. Authorities believe Terry shot his wife and then killed himself. She had filed for divorce 10 days earlier.

On July 18, the bodies of Richard Owen, 62, his mother Joan Owen, 87 and their pet chihuahua were found inside their New Port Richey home. Authorities believe Owen killed his mother and their dog, then shot himself. No note was left behind.

And on Aug. 20, the bodies of Melissa Howard, a 30-year-old nurse practitioner, and her fiance, David Jon McQuiston, were found inside a locked bedroom in Howard's Lake Padgett Estates home. Authorities say McQuiston, 36, shot Howard with a rifle before turning the gun on himself. The motive for the tragedy remains unclear.

One of Pasco's most high profile double-murder cases came to court this year.

In Dade City, Luc Pierre-Charles went to trial for the what authorities called the drug-related execution of two Wesley Chapel teenagers. Derek Pieper and Raymond Veluz were found dead on July 27, 2006, in Trilby. Pierre-Charles, now 21, was sentenced to life in prison.

The day of reckoning came for Charlton Oliver, a driver found guilty of DUI manslaughter and manslaughter by culpable negligence in a 2003 crash that killed his date. But Oliver's driving already had taken two other lives, and the families of all his victims appeared and spoke at his sentencing. He received 15 years in prison — the maximum.

Lisa Marinelli made a deal with prosecutors, avoiding trial on charges she had sex with a 16-year-old student at Mitchell High School, where she was a substitute teacher. Marinelli, whom authorities say was looking for a boyfriend for her daughter when she became involved with the teen, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. She received probation, including a year of house arrest. The married mother of two is now a registered sex offender.

Also in west Pasco, Joseph and Cynthia Clancy went to trial in a 2005 case of grand theft against the elderly. Authorities said the couple moved in with Eloise Mudway in New Port Richey to be her caregivers. But over time, they mistreated her, kicked her out and stole her house. Mudway, now 92, testified against them, and the pair received 10 years in prison.

The year ended with perhaps the biggest case of all: the murder trial of neo-Nazi John Ditullio, accused of stabbing two people in a hate-fueled rampage, killing one. With offensive tattoos on his face and neck covered with makeup, Ditullio took the stand and firmly maintained his innocence. Jurors were able to question him themselves, and after deliberating for almost 10 hours on Dec. 11, they ended in a deadlock.

Ditullio, 23, is set to face trial again in March.

fast facts

Unsolved murders

• Clint Wilson was shot twice in the head at 11:30 p.m. April 21 as he closed his tattoo shop. He died the next day. Wilson, 40, was the owner of Cherry Bomb Tattoos & Piercings, 7618 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. Anyone with information about the crime can call New Port Richey police Detective Jason Engel at (727) 841-4550 ext. 129. Anonymous tips can be left at (727) 816-1130.

• Shamir Garnelo, 21, of Plant City was found dead in a bathroom at an American Legion Hall at 1750 Arcadia Road in Holiday at 1:46 a.m. Oct. 31. The aspiring rapper and DJ was performing at a Halloween costume party/birthday party. Authorities have not released the cause of death. Family members said he was stabbed. Witnesses saw two slightly built men wearing motorcycle helmets, dark clothes and black gloves join the party about 1 a.m. About 30 minutes later they were seen running from the bathroom where Garnelo was found.

• David Cutshaw was found the night of Nov. 3 by the fire pit outside his Hudson home in the woods. The 66-year-old man who walked with a cane was described by those who knew him as quiet and tender-hearted. Authorities have not said how Cutshaw died. The woman who found him – a neighbor coming that night to bring him cold medicine – said he had a massive head wound.

Anyone with information about the deaths of Garnelo or Cutshaw can contact the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Leave anonymous tips at pascosheriff.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-706-2488. A reward is offered through Tampa Bay CrimeStoppers for information leading to an arrest and conviction in either case. That number is 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).

Pasco survived a frightful year in crime 12/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 8:03pm]
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