Kathryn Varn, Times Staff

Kathryn Varn

Times Staff

I cover breaking news and public safety in Pinellas County. That includes police and fire departments, hurricanes and any other topics in the death and destruction arena. In other words, I’m really fun at parties. Before coming to the Times in 2015, I was a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. I picked the major as a prerequisite for law school, but once I started covering crime for my college newspaper, I couldn’t get enough. When I’m not sweating under deadline, I’m singing with my rag-tag adult A Cappella group, Weird and Wonderful, or hanging out with my fat cat, Rose.

McMullen Booth Road reopens in Clearwater after gas leak

A chunk of McMullen Booth Road reopened early Tuesday morning after it was shut down due to a gas leak.

‘Salvage Santa’ redoubles holiday efforts to help storm-ravaged Panama City

Mike Jones, also known as Salvage Santa, repairs bikes and toys to give children on Christmas in Panama City. His home and workshop were damaged in Hurricane Michael, so he is collecting donations from others this year. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Normally the retired cop gathers enough over the year to help 800 to 1,000 kids. But this year, he’s partnering with Bay District Schools to stock enough toys for 14,000.

Trial date set in Clearwater parking lot shooting: August 2019

Defense attorney Bryant Camareno (left) talks to his client, defendant Michael Drejka (right), during an October pretrial hearing. Drejka’s case grabbed national attention after prosecutors charged him with manslaughter three weeks after he shot and killed a 28-year-old man in a parking lot on July 19. Drejka said he was acting in self-defense. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
The state and defense also signaled that each side will bring up the past of the defendant and shooting victim during the manslaughter trial of Michael Drejka.

Phone scam hits Audibel Hearing Center, and thousands of unsuspecting residents

Hearing instrument specialist Charlene Boyd, of St. Petersburg, left, examines the right ear of Gloria Smith, 90, of Oldsmar, on Thursday at the Audibel Hearing Centers corporate headquarters in Clearwater. Mike Wheeler, president of Audibel Hearing Centers, said he realized the company had fallen victim to a telephone spoofing scam on Monday as hundreds of people called the headquarters wondering why the hearing aid company had called them once, twice, sometimes up to six times, offering cash vouchers. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Hearing aid company Audibel Hearing Center was caught in the middle of a popular scam practice called "phone spoofing."

Mom of slain 7-week-old takes to Facebook: 'I've lost everything.'

Mariah Samon, 26, holds her baby, Gwendolyn Eydelman. The baby’s father, Artem Eydelman, is accused of beating the 7-week-old to death, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. [Facebook]
Pinellas sheriff's detectives accused Artem Eydelman of fatally beating the infant girl, Gwendolyn.