Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

Cause of fire that killed 81-year-old Ruskin man still unknown

RUSKIN — Filiberto Morquecho liked tending to the shrubs and vines outside his house and seldom turned down a neighbor needing a place to stay.

Early Sunday, a fire raced through his small, light-blue house, trapping the 81-year-old man inside. Two men staying with him made it out just ahead of the smoke and flames.

One man singed his scalp and hair, a neighbor said. The other apparently emerged unharmed.

Deputies and a fire rescue unit arrived at the house, at 208 SE Fourth Ave., about 6:45 a.m. After they extinguished the fire, they found Morquecho's body inside, close to the front door. The men who escaped had apparently rented rooms from him.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Members of Morquecho's family drove up from their homes in Sarasota to await more details and sift through the debris.

The home's corrugated-metal roof was partially collapsed and several walls had fallen in. Singed chairs, mattresses and other furniture were piled outside.

"We're all really devastated," Mahely Morquecho, one of his granddaughters, said. "My dad, his son, it's hard seeing him cry. He's always been the tough one in the family. It's hard."

Another granddaughter, Maria Alvarez, 25, drove up with her mother, Alejandrina Gaytan, 49. Sheriff's deputies had knocked on their doors about 11 a.m. Sunday to deliver the news.

Alvarez remembered her grandfather as a generous man, renting rooms at little and sometimes no cost to help people. They came courtesy of social service agencies or simply showed up at night, knocking on the door.

Morquecho moved to Florida in the early 1980s from north central Mexico. He had worked two or more jobs for as long as Alvarez could remember. He was quiet, soft-spoken and traditional.

Often during planting and harvesting seasons he could be found in the fields. More recently, he worked in a warehouse, she said. He had diabetes and varicose veins and a doctor had advised him to slow down.

When not working, he liked tending to his flowering vines. They crept up the live oaks that shaded the house and the Chevrolet pickup and Suburban sport utility vehicle parked on the sandy driveway. Next to the driveway sat five, blue half-barrels in a row. They served as containers for more shrubs and flowers.

Neighbors said Morquecho seemed nice, always waving and smiling as they walked by.

Sarah Blaisdell, 31, said she was awakened about 6:30 a.m. when her eldest daughter rushed in to warn her about a fire next door. She called 911 and got her six children out of the house.

"It took them about 10 minutes to get here, but it seemed longer," she said. "I called them back, kind of cussed and said, 'You need to get out here. There's someone still inside.' "

Alvarez said her grandfather never talked much. He was reserved, she said. On Sundays, he liked visiting flea markets to hunt for tools and other items.

This Sunday would have been different, though.

It was his daughter's birthday.

Staff writer Elizabeth Behrman contributed to this report. Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 661-2454 or [email protected]

Comments
Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

NEW PORT RICHEY — A motorcyclist and pedestrian both died in a crash Saturday night near Palmetto Road and U.S. 19, police reported.About 10:30 p.m., a St. Petersburg man, 41, was riding a 2012 Honda motorcycle north on the highway, according to the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

TRENTON, N.J — Shooting broke out at an all-night art festival in Trenton, New Jersey, early Sunday, sending people stampeding from the scene and leaving one suspect dead and 20 people injured, a local prosecutor said. Many of the 20 injured were tre...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market will be closed throughout the weekend after a warehouse fire broke out Friday.A St. Petersburg Police officer noticed smoke coming from the market at 22nd Ave. N around midnight Friday, said St. Petersburg F...
Published: 06/16/18
A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

TAMPA — Loueita Hargens had known for years how her son Bradley Dykes would die. She had seen him cycle through drugs of choice, had lost track of the number of times he’d wound up in the hospital or prison.A recovering alcoholic herself, she cut him...
Published: 06/16/18
Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies identified a body found in Frierson Lakes in Hudson on Thursday as a 74-year-old New Port Richey man.Kress Luebke’s kayak was seen overturned in the water on Thursday night, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.A resident living along Fri...
Updated: 5 hours ago
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe he’s connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Published: 06/15/18
Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA — One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Published: 06/15/18
Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

TAMPA — Maria Pena-Lebron, 83, was walking out of Fresco y Mas with her groceries in May when she was approached by a woman wearing a straw hat, who pleaded with her for help. The stranger claimed to be an undocumented immigrant and therefore unable ...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Jeremy Finney was, by all accounts, a model firefighter — until he lost his cool. The outburst cost him two ranks.Finney has served nearly 16 years in the department and was a member of the Tactical Medical Response Te...
Published: 06/15/18
Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

DAYTONA BEACH — Two roller coaster riders fell 34 feet (10 meters) when their car derailed and was left dangling from the track, and firefighters used ladders to pull eight others to safety high above the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. "The front car which...
Published: 06/15/18