Abbie VanSickle, Times Staff Writer

Abbie VanSickle

Abbie VanSickle covers crime in Hillsborough County. She joined the Times in 2004 after she graduated from Northwestern University. She first worked in the Times' Citrus County office and moved to Tampa in 2006.

Phone: (813) 226-3373


  1. Charges against Rays reliever dropped

    The Heater

    TAMPA — Prosecutors have dropped the criminal charges against Rays reliever Al Reyes.

    In April, Tampa police accused Reyes, 38, of an affray after an incident at a South Tampa bar.

    Police said Reyes, who was celebrating his 38th birthday, was drunk and disruptive at 2:30 a.m. at the Hyde Park Cafe. Police accused him of picking a fight and spitting blood at patrons of the club. He was twice Tasered. After the incident, Reyes issued a public apology. ...

  2. Fake cop uses threats and demands sex


    TAMPA — Investigators say Edwin Nieves pretended to be a police officer and threatened to take away a pregnant woman's children and notify immigration authorities unless she had sex with him.

    Nieves, a 38-year-old from Tampa, faces charges of felony kidnapping, impersonating an officer and aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, jail records show. He was held in lieu of $59,500 bail, records show....

  3. Not a typical office delivery in Tampa: It's a girl!

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Blood and childbirth make Beth Lentz queasy. When she prepared for her own children, she shied away from birthing videos.

    But Lentz surprised herself Monday when she helped deliver a baby at the Aetna office in Tampa. After a pregnant co-worker's water broke, Lentz realized it was too late for the hospital.

    "This baby was coming very soon," she said Tuesday. "I said, 'You know, we're not taking her anywhere. I'm going to call 911 because she's going to deliver.' "...

  4. Angelo Cacciatore built an institution with sandwiches

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Raised in Ybor City before the second World War, Angelo Cacciatore perfected the art of the Cuban sandwich, drawing lunchtime crowds to his Silver Ring Sandwich Shop on Seventh Avenue.

    Most folks knew him only as "Speedy Brown," the exuberant shop owner who loved snaring grouper and rarely missed a New York Yankees game.

    Mr. Cacciatore died Sunday from complications of an infection. He was 90. ...

  5. Saying 'That's enough' is guest's job, not bar's


    TAMPA — The family of a man who died after downing more than 20 vodka shots at a Seffner bikini bar may have a tough battle ahead if they pursue a legal case.

    Criminal or civil penalties in such cases are rare in the Sunshine State. Florida is one of only three states that do not have a dram shop law, which forbids bartenders from serving intoxicated people. The state places much of the responsibility on the customer, legal experts say....

  6. Attorney asks court to prohibit judge from case


    TAMPA — After a judge refused to recuse himself from the case, Williams Thornton IV's attorney promised to go to the next level.

    On Wednesday, Tampa lawyer Stephen Romine asked an appeals court to prohibit Citrus County Circuit Judge Ric Howard from participating in Thornton's case, saying that Thornton feared the judge could not be impartial.

    In August 2005, Thornton pleaded no contest in a car crash that killed a young couple. Thornton, who was 17 at the time of the crash, had no plea agreement in place, and the judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. ...

  7. Tampa grocery store manager stunned by Taser


    TAMPA — A man with a history of 50 arrests stunned a grocery store manager with a Taser wrangled from a police officer, Tampa police said Tuesday.

    Gilbert Morris, a 51-year-old construction worker, was arrested on charges of obstructing an officer with violence, battery on a law enforcement officer and depriving a law officer of protection, among other charges.

    At 8:46 p.m. Monday, Gary Washington, the 44-year-old manager of a Sweetbay Supermarket at 805 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., stopped Morris from leaving the store without paying for $229 of groceries, police say....

    Gilbert Morris, 51, faces numerous charges.
  8. Tampa police target Drew Park's adult businesses



    The high-profile arrests embarrassed successful men and splashed adult business names on the news.

    A well-known criminal defense attorney accused of exposing himself at the Playhouse Theatre. The general manager of a television station arrested at Fantasy Land Adult Video, accused of pleasuring himself in a circle of men.

    The arrests seem simple enough, but there's something larger going on here, a battle that has broiled in Drew Park since the 1980s that shows a schism between those who live there and those who come to play....

    Police arrest several people at the Playhouse Theatre on Hubert Avenue on Friday. Twenty people had been arrested as of Friday night at the business. Owner Dick Smith says if the city didn’t want him there, it shouldn’t have given him a license.
  9. Ex-boyfriend sought in woman's slaying


    TAMPA — Neighbors knew there was trouble between Iris Hernandez-Morales and her ex-boyfriend.

    They sometimes saw police cars outside the West Tampa house. They knew she had court protection against him. One man says he recently saw the ex-boyfriend peering inside the windows.

    Police have named the boyfriend, Jose Torres-Rodriguez, 55, as a person of interest in his ex-girlfriend's murder....

  10. FDLE to decide officer's fate in prostitute case


    TAMPA — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will consider the future of a Tampa police officer who resigned amid allegations of misconduct with a prostitute.

    Antonio Rosario, an 18-year veteran of the department, resigned in November during an internal affairs inquiry as officials investigated claims he let a woman go free, despite warrants for her arrest, after she exposed herself to him in a flea market bathroom....

  11. Porn trial more than a simple smut case


    TAMPA — Twelve local residents spent last week doing a dirty job for the rest of us.

    Jurors in the federal trial of Paul F. Little, a California man who known by the nom de porn Max Hardcore, watched hours of explicit, violent pornography to determine if, among other things, Little violated community standards.

    The case, which continues this week, has captured the attention of groups from New York City to California by raising larger questions about the legal standards for obscenity in an online world....

  12. Mom wants teen punished for cemetery vandalism


    RIVERVIEW — Images of smashed angels and broken headstones evoked outrage from hurt families and frustrated strangers.

    One voice rose above the others Tuesday to demand strict punishment for a boy accused of cemetery vandalism.

    His mom.

    "This has been awful," said Theresa Moore, 33, of Riverview. "I can completely relate and sympathize with the families that this happened to. It's devastating. I can't believe that my son would do something like this. As a parent, I feel like it's also an embarrassment on the family."...

    Jose Cohen grieves over his granddaughter’s grave site, one of many that was vandalized over the weekend at Serenity Meadows cemetery in Riverview.
  13. Woman charged in newborn's death 2 years ago


    TAMPA — Two years ago, an apartment maintenance worker reached in a Dumpster and tore open a garbage bag, hoping to learn the name of the person illegally dropping off trash.

    The worker, Kenneth Crisp, ripped through four layers of plastic bags. Inside, he found the lifeless body of a baby girl swaddled in a blood-stained towel.

    The circumstances of the child found May 9, 2006, remained a mystery for the Polk Sheriff's Office until this week, when investigators accused a Riverview woman of leaving the baby in the trash bin....

    Kami Sargent’s DNA was linked to the baby girl’s.
  14. Two child welfare workers faked visits to kids, DCF says

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Two state child welfare workers skirted their duties by falsifying reports to make it appear they visited children in the state's care, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    Andrew Joseph, 36, of Riverview and Robert Matthew Vilardebo, 34, of Brandon both face criminal charges of falsifying records, jail records show.

    Department of Children and Families officials are adamant that no children suffered harm from the pair's actions....

  15. Man shot by officer in Robles Park prostitution sting


    TAMPA — An undercover Tampa police officer shot and wounded a man early Monday during a prostitution sting in the Robles Park area.

    Officer Alberto Burgos shot Issac Rodriguez, 40, in the neck about 1:30 a.m. during a scuffle, police say.

    Rodriguez remained in critical condition late Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital. The officer suffered only scrapes and bruises, but it was an eerie scene for those who responded to help, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy....