Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office owes public answers about Kelly Garrison’s murder

A Hillsborough County woman who had been terrorized by her ex-husband moved out of her apartment, obtained a court order, left her job, fled the state and still wound up dead. Kelly Garrison’s murder by her former husband in Georgia, which left her 2-year-old daughter orphaned, shows how difficult it is to remain safe from a determined predator. It also raises a frustrating string of unanswered questions about what more law enforcement could have done to protect her.

Garrison’s nightmare is chronicled in her own words in a petition she filed for protection from Kelley James McDonald Jr., whom she married in 2011. Five years into their marriage he was threatening and trying to control her. Garrison wrote that McDonald, 39, had put a tape recorder in her purse, hacked into her bank accounts and email and showed up unannounced at Corbett Preparatory School in Carrollwood, where she worked as an elementary teacher. Their daughter was endangered at times by McDonald’s actions. Garrison, 35, wrote that he twice left his gun within the child’s reach. As she was packing her belongings to move out of their townhouse, she wrote that McDonald told her, "I’ll get you back for this when you least expect it. You just wait."

Their divorce was finalized in October, but the threats didn’t stop. He tampered with her car, stalked her and called and texted dozens of times a day. Late on Dec. 30, when Garrison walked into her apartment after visiting a neighbor, McDonald emerged from the darkness, slammed her into a wall and started choking her. She broke free only because the neighbor heard her screams, burst in and pulled McDonald off of her. A warrant was issued for his arrest and Garrison obtained a court injunction ordering McDonald to stay at least 300 feet away from her and to surrender any firearms to the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. Then McDonald disappeared.

Four months passed with no arrest. Earlier this month, McDonald showed up with a gun at the home of Garrison’s sister in Georgia, where Garrison had been staying since February. Authorities say McDonald fatally shot his ex-wife and her sister before turning the gun on himself. He also injured a 16-year-old girl in the house.

How hard did authorities look for McDonald? It’s not clear. The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office says it pursued McDonald "consistently" and enlisted the help of the U.S. Marshals task force. Citing closely held investigative techniques, sheriff’s spokesman Danny Alvarez wouldn’t elaborate. "Anywhere he left a mark that was public, we would go look for him," Alvarez said.

That’s deeply unsatisfying given the case’s tragic outcome. Garrison did everything she could to escape her ex-husband. Many victims of domestic abuse return to their abusers, continuing the cycle and endangering themselves. Garrison left. She sought help from the police and the courts. McDonald still got to her. Law enforcement surveillance isn’t a top government secret, and a community alarmed by the murder of a mother by a documented abuser deserves more answers.

Comments
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

The Rev. Al Sharpton misfired when he suggested Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was influenced by racial considerations when he decided not to arrest Michael Drejka for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot ...
Published: 08/06/18