04/22/14 Human Interest
NEW PORT RICHEY — The charred heap behind Tom Loughlin's house, where a busy little toy shop once stood, is still there.
Blackened beams and melted band saws and planers are scheduled to be hauled off by cleanup crews next week. Now comes the rebuilding, and people from Spring Hill to St. Petersburg and all the way out to Lake Worth have offered to help.
Bill Coccia, president of the ToyMakers of New Port Richey, has taken 10 to 15 calls a day since news broke that the nonprofit organization's main workshop on Casey Drive burned down last Wednesday from an electrical short. People are asking him where they should make out checks and offering different pieces of woodworking equipment. He calls it "pleasantly overwhelming."...
04/18/14 Public Safety
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco-Hernando State College and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office are now in their fourth week of negotiations on jointly running a law enforcement academy, brokered by a powerful mediator: Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.
The Wesley Chapel Republican said he spoke with both entities in recent weeks and urged them to forge an agreement.
"It is in the best interest of Pasco County to have a well-functioning and cooperative relationship between Pasco-Hernando State College and the Pasco County Sheriff," he said in an email. "I am simply supporting a fair outcome to this dispute. However, I have communicated separately to both sides that failure to reach a solution is not an option. I am confident that a resolution can be reached."...
04/18/14 Public Safety
NEW PORT RICHEY — Approaching what's left of the toy shop, the ground becomes black and uneven. What feels like charred gravel underfoot, Tom Loughlin points out, are actually tiny wheels. Thousands of them.
Those wheels were intended to be fitted to little wooden trucks and planes and pull-along puppies with leashes made of string. Then they would have been donated to children in hospitals, care centers and ambulances around Tampa Bay. For years, in the shop behind Loughlin's house, a group of mostly retirees turned blocks of donated wood into the intricate trinkets....
04/17/14 Public Safety
HUDSON — Three gray-haired men stood among the black piles of debris Thursday morning, poking through with shovels for anything salvageable.
Each had his own eulogy to the three-story home that overlooked a vast swath of sawgrass and the Gulf just beyond the trees.
"It was a beautiful home and a beautiful view," said Bob Washburn, who lives across the street. "That's for sure."...
04/16/14 Public Safety
SPRING HILL — At first, he thought it was a warning shot.
Derek Friedhoff and his girlfriend, Jennie Manera, both nurses, went to the Cobb Grove 16 theater in Wesley Chapel on their day off, Jan. 13. Friedhoff said he remembers hearing bickering during the second preview before the movie Lone Survivor was supposed to start. He and Manera were a few seats away from where Curtis Reeves and Chad Oulson were having an exchange over texting. A shot sounded....
NEW PORT RICHEY — The woman's relationship with William "Bill" Tooker had been over for a week, deputies say, when she came home early Monday morning and found him in her house.
She told him to leave, a Pasco sheriff's report states, but he stayed and made "jealous statements." He threw a ring, hitting her in the abdomen. She told him she felt threatened.
"You're not going to have to worry about it anymore," Tooker, 34, told her, according to the report. "You're not going to live much longer."...
HOLIDAY — A former record-setter on high school football fields across Pasco County was arrested Monday on charges of cocaine possession and sale.
Adrian "Bubba" Golden, 21, once held the Pasco County record for season yardage in 2008 playing as a running back for Gulf High School. That year he was also named North Suncoast Offensive Player of the Year. But after graduating in 2010, something changed....
04/09/14 Public Safety
Authorities continued the search Wednesday for Theodore Weiss, the 74-year-old pilot who disappeared last weekend somewhere over the Withlacoochee State Forest.
Weiss' Sonex experimental kit plane left the Dunnellon/Marion County Airport on Saturday afternoon, bound for Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. The plane disappeared from radar in a dead zone over the forest.
Dave Fortuna, a 63-year-old pastor in Louisiana, said he built the plane by hand in the early 2000s....
04/08/14 Public Safety
Authorities were searching Tuesday for a Zephyrhills pilot last seen Saturday leaving Dunnellon/Marion County Airport.
Theodore Weiss, 74, was bound for Zephyrhills but never reached his destination, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
A representative from the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport confirmed that Weiss never arrived but declined to comment further.
Weiss was reported missing Monday....
HOLIDAY — Two months ago, Jaime Velez burst into a chiropractor's office carrying a .45-caliber pistol.
The chiropractor, Lenny Linardos, gunned him down on the office floor in what deputies would later call self-defense.
On Friday, after weeks in a hospital and surgery and rehabilitation and turning himself in on an aggravated assault charge, Velez was booked into jail and photographed wearing a back brace....
NEW PORT RICHEY — In a sudden about-face, the Pasco Sheriff's Office and Pasco-Hernando State College are now on the road to an agreement on jointly running a law enforcement academy.
For the better part of a year, Sheriff Chris Nocco cited numerous reasons why he wanted to sever ties with the college and start a new academy with the Pasco School District.
Nocco has accused the college of not meeting ethical standards, using favoritism in hiring, and employing disgruntled former Sheriff's Office employees who pass on bad morale to prospective recruits. The sheriff's attorney also said the academy's equipment is sparse and training facilities are dilapidated. In January, he proposed opening a new academy with the school district at Marchman Technical Education Center in New Port Richey....
03/25/14 Human Interest
HUDSON — The tiny mobile home office at Holy Ground hasn't changed since cancer took Grandma Jean away from it two weeks ago.
Almost every personal effect left behind harkens back to a different era. Crooked cigarette butts still poke out of a glass ashtray on the work desk that's barren of a computer. There are no typed documents to be found. A neat stack of reports from Timmons' clients marked in pen sits next to a reading lamp. "MOM" is scrawled on a fan in the corner. A sign on the wall reads, "I'm retired, but I work part-time as a pain in the butt" and it makes Grandma Jean's daughter laugh through her tears....
DADE CITY — Deputies say the fight started over a man's daughter.
The father didn't like Rene Loenzo Catalan-Mendez making advances at her, a Pasco sheriff's report states. During the dustup Sunday evening, Catalan-Mendez wielded a golf club.
His first stroke caught the other man in the shin, hard enough to snap the head off the club, the report states. Catalan-Mendez then used the fractured end to stabb the other man twice in the back....
03/24/14 Public Safety
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco-Hernando State College named a new director and instructor coordinator to its embattled law enforcement academy on Monday.
Charlie May, who retired last year as the Pasco sheriff's chief forensic investigator after 25 years with the agency, will be the new director of public service programs. Patricia Maxwell, who worked as an assistant law enforcement instructor at Hillsborough Community College, will be the new instructor coordinator....
03/18/14 Public Safety
NEW PORT RICHEY — In the latest escalation between Pasco-Hernando State College and the Pasco Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Chris Nocco has forbidden his employees from teaching at the college's law enforcement academy.
In a memorandum, Nocco listed "negativity and disreputable incidents that have been an ongoing issue at the college" that affect members of his agency and said he will "not allow it to continue."...