Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Man faces felony murder charge in Valrico fire

VALRICO — The man had been pacing the street for hours. Nancy Ball first noticed him just after sunset Sunday as she sat inside her screened porch watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game on a small TV set. The man, she noticed, was carrying a hammer.

Ball, 68, clutched her phone, poised to dial 911, as the man approached her door.

"Can you please take me to the mental hospital?" the man asked.

Ball told him she couldn't help him. He walked away, but soon returned and asked again.

"If you need help," she told him, "I can call the police for you."

He stepped back.

"Oh, no," he said. "Please, don't call the police."

When he came back a third time, Ball was already on the phone with a dispatcher. Sheriff's deputies were on their way when Ball noticed a flicker of yellow light inside her neighbor's house. Soon, she saw smoke.

Firefighters clogged the tiny street in front of 133 Oakhill View Drive just after midnight Sunday as the tiny mobile home went up in flames. When the blaze was out, they walked inside and found a man's charred body.

Hillsborough sheriff's deputies detained 42-year-old Frank Stanley Chapman Jr., who stood nearby, still clinging to the hammer, and mumbling about setting the blaze, authorities said.

Chapman, who was booked in the Hillsborough County jail on an arson charge, was late Monday also facing a felony murder charge, the Sheriff's Office said.

Authorities identified the victim as Archie Ennis Carr, 72, who lived in the home. Investigators did not disclose a motive for his killing and did not say how he had died.

Ed Chapman was 30 miles away at his home in Lakeland when he heard about the fire on the morning news.

Just after 7 a.m., the 44-year-old hobbled up the cold asphalt in Oakhill Village Mobile Home Park in Valrico, his weight resting on a cane, to where the yellow tape and deputies' cars blocked the street.

In the parched, soot-scented air, he pressed a cigarette to his lips and watched firefighters pry through melted aluminum siding and crumbling wood framework. He stood silently as medical examiners wheeled a gurney into the back of a white van.

"I need to talk to a detective," he told a deputy. "I'm the suspect's brother."

The younger Chapman had apparently lived at the mobile home for about two weeks, his brother said. He had little money because he had no job and a hard time getting work because of his criminal history.

State records show Frank Chapman has run afoul of the law more than 20 times in the past two decades on theft, battery, drug possession and other charges.

He has done several stints in state prison, most recently for a 2011 conviction for grand theft. He also served about two years in federal prison, records show, the result of a 2003 mail fraud conviction.

But buried within the lengthy minutiae of Chapman's many brushes with the law are signs of what his brother says are behind his actions. Specifically, in 2005 he was found not guilty in a robbery case. The reason: insanity.

Frank Chapman has suffered for years from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, his brother said. Since his last release from prison in 2012, he has twice been committed to a psychiatric hospital.

He was supposed to be taking psychiatric medication, his brother said. But he didn't have money to get the treatment he needed.

"My brother talks out of his mind," Ed Chapman said. "He says things that don't make no sense. I tried to help him. But it seemed like wherever he went, no one would give him a chance."

As investigators picked apart what remained of the charred mobile home Monday morning, Frank Chapman was held in jail.

"My brother is not the animal that everybody makes him out to be," Ed Chapman said. "He's got a kind heart. He likes to please."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or [email protected]

Comments

Palm Harbor woman, 23, killed while crossing Seminole Boulevard

SEMINOLE — A Palm Harbor woman was killed Thursday night after she was struck by an SUV while crossing Seminole Boulevard.The incident occurred around 8:45 p.m. just north of 53rd Avenue N, deputies said.According to deputies, 23-year-old Kala Gombos...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida Missing Child Alert issued for Jacksonville boy, 2

Florida Missing Child Alert issued for Jacksonville boy, 2

A Florida Missing Child Alert was issued early Thursday morning for a 2-year-old Jacksonville boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Legend Jones is 3 feet tall and 33 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.He was last seen in th...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Crash downs power lines, closes N Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — A portion of North Florida Avenue is closed in downtown Tampa as TECO crews repair downed power lines after a crash late Wednesday night.The crash occurred around 11:35 p.m. at the intersection of N Florida Avenue and E Fortune Street, accord...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force

Pinellas sheriff disciplines deputies in arrest, but not for excessive force

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has suspended two deputies after an internal investigation found they violated agency policies during the arrest of a 25-year-old man that turned violent. The sheriff handed down 15 days to Deputy Alexander Edge, who G...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

ST. PETERSBURG — Police have arrested several people, including a son of a prominent flooring store chain’s late founder, as part of an investigation into the death of a 22-year-old woman whose body was found in an alley last year. The w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Published: 12/13/17
St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

St. Petersburg police sergeant demoted after throwing bullet at fellow officer

ST. PETERSBURG — A long-tenured St. Petersburg police sergeant and executive vice president of the local police union is being demoted to the rank of officer after he threw a bullet at another sergeant while on duty, the department said Wednesday.Jam...
Published: 12/13/17

Train strikes stalled semi, out spills frozen chicken, beef and fish

LAKELAND — Residents got some frozen treats the hard way Wednesday morning, hours after a CSX train struck a semitrailer truck, splitting it in half and spilling its load of frozen beef, chicken and fish onto the roadway.The train was traveling from ...
Published: 12/13/17

Highlands County students hurt when semi hits school bus

Four Highlands County school children and their bus driver were injured Wednesday morning when their school bus was struck by a semitrailer truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place just before 8 a.m. on U.S. 27 and Lake Pla...
Published: 12/13/17

Woman, 54, killed while walking across U.S. 19 in Hudson

HUDSON — A 54-year-old woman was struck and killed by a car while crossing U.S. 19 on Tuesday evening, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6:10 p.m.Patricia Lynn Pla was walking east across northbound U.S. 19 near Ba...
Published: 12/13/17