Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Grandson held in 74-year-old Lutz woman's death

LUTZ — Early Monday, a neighbor watched as Brandon Machetto looked around outside his grandmother's home, appearing to make sure the coast was clear. Then Machetto began to drag something to his grandmother's minivan. The object was wrapped, but the neighbor saw feet dangling from the end and called authorities.

Hours later, Machetto, 18, was in custody, accused of killing his grandmother, Sylvia Rosalie Schmitt, 74. Her body was found in her gold Honda Odyssey, Pasco County authorities said, and there was blood, along with signs of a struggle, in her house in Paradise Lakes.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said his office was consulting with prosecutors about what type of murder charge Machetto will face. He said Machetto had been accused of domestic violence against Schmitt in 2012, but she dropped the charge.

After the neighbor called authorities Monday, a deputy spotted Machetto driving on State Road 54 about 10 a.m. The deputy tried to pull him over, but he just kept driving, authorities said, eventually ending up back in Paradise Lakes, a clothing-optional condominium community and adjacent resort. Inside the community, another deputy spotted him and pulled him over.

Deputies described him as expressionless and stoic. He said nothing and has not talked with investigators, Nocco said.

Betty Byrne, who lives in the community, parked near the front gate when she saw the crime scene tape and the news trucks stretched down the street. She asked reporters what had happened and learned that her dear friend was dead.

"I can't anticipate anything like this happening to her," Byrne said. "She was pretty low key."

She described Schmitt as a calming and approachable woman who spoke well of everyone. But Byrne didn't remember Schmitt ever mentioning her grandson in conversation.

As Byrne spoke, the reality of her friend's death began to overwhelm her, and she retreated to her car.

"I know it's going to hit me bad when I get home," she said.

Rain came and went like the patrol cars at the scene. Curious neighbors parked their golf carts and milled in the streets between houses with curtainless windows.

Ronnie Hall said he instructed Machetto in Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts) for seven years.

He said that Machetto was attacked by a group of teens when he was 14 or 15 and that they hit him in the back of the head with a rock. Machetto was taken to a hospital, where he nearly died. After that, he was never the same, Hall said; his emotional maturity stayed at the level of a 13-year-old's.

Hall said Machetto was spastic and childlike. His domestic violence arrest stemmed from an argument with Schmitt over his not taking his medication. When he played volleyball at the nearby resort, he was silly and laid back. Hall said it looked odd to see someone over 6 feet tall acting so childish.

He said Machetto's mother, Sheryl, worked too much to take care of him, so he often stayed with Schmitt.

Machetto was arrested twice earlier this year, records show: once in March on a charge of obstructing police and resisting arrest without violence, and in May on a charge of retail theft. Sheriff's officials could not find reports detailing the arrests.

Despite that, Hall said, Machetto was timid in class.

"Even when he was training in our school, he was never an aggressive-type fighter," Hall said. "He was always a let-somebody-come-to-me type fighter."

Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.


SPRING HILL — A Tampa man was arrested on DUI charges after mistaking a Bank of America drive-thru for Taco Bell, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.The branch manager of the Mariner Boulevard bank saw 28-year-old Douglas Jon Francisco...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
St. Pete police presence at MLK Day after-party raises concerns

St. Pete police presence at MLK Day after-party raises concerns

ST. PETERSBURG— Several people have complained about police patrols around the celebration in Midtown that follows the city’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, questioning whether a robust law enforcement presence this year was racially m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Clearwater Police are searching for a "man-bun bandit" who is seen stealing packages from a residence.Police on Thursday tweeted this video of the suspect, who is seen attempting to balance multiple packages while gathering them at a home on Majestic...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Captain of casino boat that caught fire says he’s no hero

Captain of casino boat that caught fire says he’s no hero

The captain of a casino boat shuttle that caught fire over the weekend in Port Richey says he’s no hero, despite quickly running his boat aground so that 49 passengers on the vessel could escape.One of those passengers, Carrie Dempsey, a 42-year-old ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Two treated at hospital after fire at Apollo Beach home

Two elderly residents were treated at a local hospital after a fire at an Apollo Beach home early Thursday morning.Hillsborough Fire Rescue crews, responding to the 600 block of Flamingo Drive around 4 a.m., found the home fully engulfed in flames.Tw...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Hernando deputy standoff fueled by day of drinking

William "Cole" Brinson drank all day and had been "trying to start things all evening" before barricading himself in his home north of Brooksville on Jan. 8, according to Hernando County Sheriff’s Office arrest records.It wasn’t the first time, accor...
Published: 01/18/18
‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

PORT RICHEY — The first call came into emergency dispatch at 4 p.m. on Sunday from shore, reporting a ‘giant’ boat on fire in the Pithlachascotee River."It’s urgent," the caller said.Others followed quickly, one woman crying as she described from her...
Published: 01/17/18
Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

GIBSONTON — A 46-year-old man was arrested Wednesday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on 50 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of promoting a sexual performance by a child.Authorities said they received several tip...
Published: 01/17/18

He still has nightmares: Deckhand recalls prior casino boat fire

Cory Byrd said he still has nightmares about the smoke. In them, he is back in the cabin of the Express Shuttle II, scrambling to reach the white rectangle of an open door. The smoke was so thick, he said, you could barely see an outstretched hand. ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

LARGO — For years, county sheriffs in the United States have faced a quandary when asked by federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in their local jails. They could continue to hold them for up to two days past the time they were legally fr...
Published: 01/17/18