Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

Two migrants slain on payday in Pasco

DADE CITY — The two migrant workers had wives and children back in Mexico, but came here to make the kind of money they couldn't at home.

They worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, tending to orange groves in eastern Pasco County. Santos De La Cruz, 33, and Quirino Velasquez, 46, each earned $373 a week, and sent much of it to their families.

The men lived in a squat, concrete block apartment with De La Cruz's cousin in Tommytown, a rough, impoverished area on the fringe of Dade City where crime and hope for change are both constant: murders and then marches for peace, murders and then church vigils. Outreach programs and dedicated advocates work hard to better an area that has been like this for decades.

After work on Friday, the men walked from their apartment to cash their paychecks and to wire money to their wives at a market a few blocks away.

They never made it.

Less than a tenth of a mile from their home, both men were shot at the corner of Hutchinson and Meredith streets. Their bodies were found in the road about 10 p.m. Friday.

Investigators won't say whether robbery was a motive.

So far, they haven't found any witnesses, even though the area where the men were killed is residential, with narrow streets filled with clusters of homes and residents who can often be found outside, milling around or on their porches.

"It's a mystery as to why these people were shot," said Doug Tobin, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "We are hoping someone steps forward."

Horacio Garza is the crew chief for Evans Harvesting, the company that employed both men.

He said they had been working here for about six years, though the men would leave for periods to go home to their families.

Garza is trying to find out if their paychecks were stolen because he wants to get that money to their wives.

"They were nice, hard-working guys," Garza said.

On Saturday, the company bus that carried workers to the orange grove left on time, as usual.

The season runs from November to June. Soon, many workers will leave to pick tomatoes in Georgia.

Saturdays are half-days, and by early afternoon, the men were back. About 20 of them gathered in the spot where De La Cruz and Velasquez were slain. They just stood there, quiet, their solemn eyes looking for answers.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4609.

Comments

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital.Deputies said the crash happened near 17928 Gunn Highway, close to the Keystone Recreation Center.The Sheriff’s O...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning battling a fire at a W Waters Avenue strip mall, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze started in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply at 2:45 a.m. The store is in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Published: 12/15/17
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Published: 12/15/17

Tampa bicyclist, 52, dies after being rear-ended by vehicle; no charges

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, according to Tampa police.The incident took place at about 12:15 a.m. Wayne Kersh, 52, was riding his bicycle in the eastb...
Published: 12/15/17
After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

TAMPA — A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of setting fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by arson at least two other times earlier this year.Two Tampa police officers spotted smoke from the vacant building at 1512 E Eighth Ave. a...
Published: 12/15/17

FHP: Overturned pick-up slowed traffic on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — A pick-up truck towing a car onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge overturned and crashed on the shoulder, causing back-ups for motorists trying to get to Tampa, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident was reported...
Published: 12/15/17
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Published: 12/15/17

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Published: 12/15/17

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Published: 12/15/17