Friday, October 19, 2018


Laura C. Morel

Laura C. Morel

Laura covers law enforcement and courts in Pinellas County. She joined the Tampa Bay Times in May 2012. Born and raised in Miami, she speaks Spanish and holds degrees from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston.

Devon Kreps and Justin Stange pour their first beer at 7venth Sun's opening in 2012.   [Douglas R. Clifford, Times]

7venth Sun Brewery co-owner accused of battering his former girlfriend

The co-owner of a local and award-winning craft beer empire has been accused of battering an ex-girlfriend.Justin Stange, 35, who co-founded 7venth Sun Brewery in Dunedin and Seminole Heights, has been charged with misdemeanor battery. The...
Updated: 2 months ago
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
 The Florida Bar, Tallahassee.

Lawyer running for Pinellas judge seat faces Florida Bar complaint

A medical malpractice lawyer running for a Pinellas circuit judge seat in the Aug. 28 election is facing allegations that he screamed at another lawyer during a meeting and was escorted out by security.The Florida Bar complaint stems from an...
Updated: 3 months ago
Eléonore Hamelin   |   Special to the Times
Lourdes Lisett De La Torre was trying to get to Houston, where her daughter live, but she says she didn't want to be denied asylum in the United States and has opted to stay temporarily in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Cubans build lives in Mexican border town while still dreaming of America

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Lourdes Lisett De La Torre arrived at the Gateway to the Americas bridge carrying nothing but a backpack and a phone.She had left behind her mother, her house and her country. A daughter and grandson waited for her in...
Updated: 3 months ago
A passerby walks past a sign of a vacant business in Laredo, Texas, that reads

Trump wants to build a wall, but border cities prefer bridges

LAREDO, Texas — Daniel Ramirez Davila learned English at his Mexican school, but perfected the language by watching American movies and the TV show Friends with subtitles.The 26-year-old attended Texas A&M International University and graduated...
Updated: 3 months ago
Lourdes Cruz and her 5-year-old son, Jorge Luis, arrived at the Frontera Digna shelter on Tuesday night after traveling from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Cruz is fleeing from gangs that threatened to kill her if she didn't give them half of her paychecks. [LAURA MOREL   | Times]

At a Mexican shelter, migrants who fled death threats prepare for ‘zero tolerance’ at the border

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — In Honduras, their lives were surrounded by death.Lourdes Cruz had just started a new job when the maras, the deadly gangs plaguing Central America, demanded half of her paycheck. She quit her job, but they...
Updated: 4 months ago
Wesley Chapel family law attorney Don McBath is running for a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge seat. He acknowledged to the Tampa Bay Times that he has made deragatory comments about Muslim and LGBTQ communities on his social media accounts. Despite his personal beliefs, McBath said he can still treat those litigants fairly from the bench. [Don McBath campaign / Twitter / Facebook]

A Tampa Bay lawyer tweets ‘never trust a Muslim.’ Now he wants to be a judge.

A family law attorney running for a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judgeship said he can be impartial on the bench to Muslims and LGBTQ people — despite the derogatory social media posts he has written about both groups.Donald McBath logged onto his...
Updated: 5 months ago
From left, Ashley and Aleesha Mance were 6 years old when Jessy Joe Roten fired into their father's St. Petersburg home, killing Ashley and wounding Aleesha. [Courtesy of Yahaira Valentine]

A white supremacist killed her twin. Why did she forgive him?

As a fifth-grader, Aleesha Mance wrote an essay about her sister’s killer, explaining how peer pressure and drugs led the 17-year-old to make a deadly choice.In high school, she searched for his name online. She read news articles about a teen...
Updated: 5 months ago
Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Joey Wendle, left, tags out Kansas City Royals' Jon Jay during the first inning of the Rays' 5-3 win on Wednesday, sweeping the Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The Daystarter: St. Petersburg man is first vaping death; MacDill addressing AirFest traffic woes; Romano on how gun law really protects lawmakers; can Lightning even it up?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Sick of all the rain? Too bad. More moisture is forecast.
Updated: 5 months ago
A former Pinellas County Sheriff Office deputy was charged with shooting a handcuffed man during a traffic stop at John's Pass in 2015. Timothy Virden, 62, pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter and was sentenced to three years probation, avoiding a prison sentence. The incident cost him his job as a deputy. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

A former deputy faced five years in prison for shooting a handcuffed man. He got probation.

A fired Pinellas sheriff’s deputy charged with shooting a handcuffed man during a 2015 traffic stop in Madeira Beach will spend no time in prison.Timothy Virden, 62, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted manslaughter. He faced up to five years in...
Updated: 5 months ago
The Florida State Prison in 2011. Times files

Criminal justice reform advocates call for lawmakers to reconsider prison budget cuts

ST. PETERSBURG — From the confines of an Ocala prison, Taylor Lawrance wrote a letter to her mother after her 18th birthday."I don’t know anything about the real world," wrote Lawrance, who is serving a 10-year sentence for a home invasion...
Updated: 5 months ago