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Morning briefing: Highs in the 70s, a likely Rays deal and a look back at the failures that led to 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck's death

Phoebe Jonchuck 2014. Phoebe was 5 years old when she was murdered by her father January 7. Her father dropped her from the Dick Misener Bridge just before midnight on January 7, 2015. [Photo courtesy of Melody Dishman]

Phoebe Jonchuck 2014. Phoebe was 5 years old when she was murdered by her father January 7. Her father dropped her from the Dick Misener Bridge just before midnight on January 7, 2015. [Photo courtesy of Melody Dishman]

Partly cloudy again today, according to 10Weather WTSP, with highs in the mid-to-upper 70s and scattered showers.

• Two pedestrians were killed last night in accidents on bay area roads, one on Ulmerton Road in Largo and another crossing U.S. 19 in Holiday.

• The long wait for justice for the families of three young women brutally murdered in the bay area in 1986 ended late last night. Serial killer Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. was executed Thursday night, three decades after his crimes. Bolin, 53, was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m. Afterward, the mother of Teri Lynn Matthews, whom Bolin killed when she was 26, thanked a key witness: Bolin's half-brother Phillip Bolin. He testified that in 1986 he watched Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. brutally beat a woman wrapped in a sheet. It was her daughter.

• A Philadelphia police officer ambushed by a man while sitting in his marked cruiser was in stable condition this morning after being shot three times in his left arm, officials said. The suspect ran away, but was quickly apprehended by other officers. Ross said there was no apparent motive for the attack.

• While there is no timetable in the search for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fifth head coach in nine years, general manager Jason Licht described offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as a "very strong candidate." Several teams — reportedly the Dolphins, Eagles and 49ers — have asked for permission to interview Koetter, 56, and the Bucs are obligated to let him speak to those teams while they consider him for their opening. Sports columnist Tom Jones calls team owners Joel, Bryan and Edward Glazer the Moe, Larry and Curly of the NFL, but says this time they bungled their way into the right decision.

• The Lightning hits the midpoint of its season tonight against the Oilers (9 p.m.; Fox Sports Sun, 970-AM). But considering the team is out of a playoff position after 40 games, desperation is finally sinking in. "We're running out of time," coach Jon Cooper said.

• Are you wondering why former Buc and popular sportstalk host Ian Beckles is no longer on WDAE? Here's the answer.

Chinese stocks rebounded today amid volatile trading while Europe and other Asian markets were moderately higher a day after a sell-off in China rattled global investors. We've got a Q&A explaining the underlying reasons for the turmoil: a weakening yuan and perceptions China's leaders are bungling their handling of the economy.

• For months, U.S. employers have steadily added jobs even as global growth has flagged and financial markets have sunk. Today's jobs report for December may provide some hints of whether that trend can endure. Most economists are optimistic.

• Authorities said yesterday that two people with ties to the Islamic State have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in California and Texas, including a refugee from Syria who is charged with lying to federal investigators about his travels to the civil war in that country.

• A year ago, a man drove to the top of a bridge, held his 5-year-old daughter over the side and let go. It was a horrifying act that left a community shaken. He must have been crazy — that was the only way it made sense. No one could have predicted this, his family said. And yet, for years, police had documented violence between Phoebe Jonchuck's parents, and child protection workers had visited their home five times. Seven times, people called the abuse hotline, fearing for her safety. And still, no one stopped it. Read The Long Fall of Phoebe Jonchuck by Lane DeGregory, and look for it in your paper on Sunday.

• Hours after the city releases details of a proposed deal that would allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore for a new stadium outside of St. Petersburg, the Tiger Bay Club hosts an interesting event at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Starting at 11:30 a.m., St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will drop by. Joining him will be Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The two mayors, grinning, side-by-side? This must be a big moment. Check out our coverage this afternoon.

• A Brussels apartment was likely used to make bombs for the Paris attacks, and one of the plotters also hid out there after escaping a police dragnet, Belgian prosecutors said today.

• From first-person essays about guns to an analysis of the five reforms that could improve how Tallahassee works, read "For A Better Florida," our preview of the issues facing the Legislature. Hear what insiders think, read our columnists and learn about water, education, health and business policy. Stories are publishing this morning at

• Long before Uber and Lyft arrived in Tampa Bay, car-sharing services were rolled out as a possible highlight of future transportation. The programs have been slow to catch on in Tampa Bay, writes Justine Griffin, but should be expanding in the next couple years, especially at Tampa International Airport.

• The Times has launched an interactive tool that uses previous years' data to help parents gauge their chances in Pinellas County's annual lottery for magnet programs, fundamental schools and high school academies. Check it out before the application period for these programs ends on Jan. 15.

• One of the world's greatest living playwrights will be in the audience in Tampa tonight and participate in a post-show discussion when Jobsite Theater puts on Israel Horovitz's play Lebensraum. Tampa Bay Times performing arts critic Andrew Meacham talked with Horowitz about his craft and his "soft spot" for Jobsite. The show runs through Jan. 31 at the Shimberg Playhouse at Tampa's Straz Center.

• You'd be hard-pressed to find an expert who doesn't consider Ben Simmons one of the smartest, most versatile freshmen in college basketball history. If he remained at LSU another year or two, he'd be mentioned in the same breath as Shaq and Pistol Pete Maravich. But alas, he'll never be in the same conversation as those guys. NBA wealth actually DOES come with a price — college glory. Look for the story by lunchtime at

• Plan your weekend! Our critics have lots of recommendations, from a Jaws screening with Richard Dreyfuss on hand to talk about it, some new pizza and burger joints to check out, a toy piano festival to make Schroeder proud, new gallery shows and lots of things to do with kids. Check it all out on our weekend planner page.

Morning briefing: Highs in the 70s, a likely Rays deal and a look back at the failures that led to 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck's death 01/08/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2016 11:57am]
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  1. Roosevelt Blvd closed at I-275 after truck hauling crane hits overpass


    ST. PETERSBURG — A truck transporting a construction crane hit the Interstate 275 overpass at Roosevelt Boulevard Tuesday.

  2. One Pasco County student arrested for bringing weapons to school, another for threatening shooting


    Two Pasco County students from different schools were arrested Tuesday, one for having weapons on school grounds and the other for threatening a school shooting.

  3. It's official: Hillsborough high schools move to 8:30 a.m. start time, elementary schools to go earlier


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County high schools school will be in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. starting in 2018-19, the School Board decided Tuesday in a 6-0 vote.

    The Hillsborough County School Board has decided to end a compressed bus schedule that caused an estimated 12,000 children to get to school late every day. Under the new schedule, high schools will start at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Elementary schools will start at 7:40 a.m. and middle schools at 9:25 a.m. [Times files]
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. The topic will be neighborhoods as Kriseman, Baker debate one more time


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, in a candidate forum on Wednesday hosted by the influential Council of Neighborhood Associations.

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and former Mayor Rick Baker during a September forum. The two will will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, during  a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th St. N. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]