Alex Orlando, Times Staff Writer

Alex Orlando

Alex Orlando covers crime, breaking news and features in Pasco County.

Orlando, who joined the Tampa Bay Times in 2012, is a second-generation Floridian who grew up in the city of Alachua. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he started his journalism career at the Independent Florida Alligator. He previously interned at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., the Tampa Tribune and the North Florida Herald in High Springs.

Phone: (727) 869-6247

Email: aorlando@tampabay.com

Twitter: @SAOrlando

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  1. East Pasco children get a glimpse of police academy training

    Public Safety

    DADE CITY

    It's Monday morning, and Pasco County sheriff's Capt. James Steffens is standing at the head of an auditorium in front of two rows of squirming children, trying to strike a balance.

    He knows that the children of the Boys and Girls Club have been told they'll get to see SWAT gear and guns and badges and handcuffs. He's already sold them on that part of the demonstration. But first, he wants to explain that there are two paths in life: right decisions and wrong decisions. This job has made him familiar with the effects of both....

    Silas Robinson looks at a rifle cartridge Monday at PHSC in Dade City. He and the other children at the event have been learning about career options. 
  2. FDLE responds to PHSC investigation

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement responded Friday to Pasco-Hernando State College's investigation of problems at its law enforcement academy, saying "there appear to be no sustained instructor violations that would require further action."

    Last month, academy instructor Patricia Maxwell raised concerns, complaining that instructors were "routinely" absent from classes. She also said the student guide for the academy was being used without approval by the college, questions were removed from tests to pass students who otherwise would have failed and shotgun firearms qualifications were being incorrectly scored....

  3. Veterans center opens in New Port Richey

    Military

    NEW PORT RICHEY

    The carnage Eric Brethen saw more than 40 years ago from his helicopter cockpit over the Vietnam jungle never left him.

    Even on the morning of his 65th birthday, as he spoke in front of about 50 other veterans and their families, he could still recall the vivid details.

    The way he'd internalized the human suffering made the rest of his life harder, he said. He feared crowds and failure. He hated himself for the deaths of his men. He never let anyone get close....

    Vietnam War veteran and keynote speaker Eric Brethen, left, speaks with social worker Michael Evans, who helped get Brethen started with veterans counseling, after a grand opening ceremony at the new Pasco County Vet Center on Friday.
  4. Dade City man acquitted in first-degree murder trial

    Courts

    DADE CITY — Linda Hiracheta's attention bounced back and forth Thursday evening between her cellphone and the courthouse's automatic glass doors.

    She dialed, then switched to speakerphone.

    Her Spanish flowed rapid fire into the receiver about her son, Carlos Perez. One word, she repeated: libre, which means "free."

    After a year and two months in jail, here at the end of his first-degree murder trial, that's what he was: free....

    After 14 months in jail, Carlos Perez is now a free man.
  5. Pickup plows through Hudson crash scene, killing two

    Public Safety

    HUDSON — On Sunday night, Terry Edwards' family was home watching TV when they noticed flashing emergency lights out the front window. The commotion on Hudson Avenue made it hard for Edwards' daughter Rebecca Miller to tell what was happening, but she could see her father's truck parked at the scene, its engine idling.

    Rescue workers first told her that Edwards, 72, had been an onlooker in the crash. She tried his phone but got nothing. That's when she knew what happened....

    The posted speed limit on this straight stretch of Hudson Avenue where Sunday’s multivehicle crash occurred is 45 mph.
  6. Whistle-blower points to problems in PHSC police academy

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A whistle-blower at Pasco-Hernando State College's law enforcement academy brought allegations last month that include questions being removed from tests, which allowed failing students to pass.

    The academy has been the target of criticism for the better part of a year now — mostly from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. This is the first time someone inside the academy has raised concerns about the quality of instruction and other issues....

  7. Pasco deputies: Mom left kids in car to shop in sex store

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — A woman was arrested Saturday after, deputies say, she left her two young children in her car while she went shopping at the Todd Adult Superstore.

    About 9:30 p.m., a passerby saw the children and waited by the car for 20 minutes before calling deputies, a Pasco sheriff's report states.

    Deputies arrived and found the children, ages 1 and 3, in the car. The doors were locked and the engine was left running. Inside the store, at 10831 U.S. 19, they found Ke'ala O Kea Kua Morgan Crocker, 22, who said she was helping a friend shop....

  8. Grandson held in 74-year-old Lutz woman's death

    Public Safety

    LUTZ — Early Monday, a neighbor watched as Brandon Machetto looked around outside his grandmother's home, appearing to make sure the coast was clear. Then Machetto began to drag something to his grandmother's minivan. The object was wrapped, but the neighbor saw feet dangling from the end and called authorities.

    Hours later, Machetto, 18, was in custody, accused of killing his grandmother, Sylvia Rosalie Schmitt, 74. Her body was found in her gold Honda Odyssey, Pasco County authorities said, and there was blood, along with signs of a struggle, in her house in Paradise Lakes....

    Officials found blood and signs of a struggle in the home of Sylvia Rosalie Schmitt, 74. 
  9. Hudson man recounts how trip to mental health facility led to rape accusation

    Crime

    HUDSON — Bryan Joachinson checked into a behavioral health center so something like this wouldn't happen.

    He says he made decent grades at Hudson High School where he played as a defensive lineman on the varsity team. He graduated in 2011 and moved on to Pasco-Hernando State College. There were some flareups with his mental health along the way. He'd gotten them under control.

    By April last year, he was 19 and on the final semester toward an associate's degree on a Bright Futures scholarship. But an ill-advised mushroom binge would be his derailment....

    Bryan Joachinson, 20, was arrested on April 24, 2013 on an allegation that he raped a woman while they were both patients at Medical Center of Trinity’s behavioral health unit.
  10. Report: New Port Richey woman told deputy she was high, tried to drive with kids

    Crime

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A 43-year-old woman was arrested Monday after, reports say, she admitted to being high then got in her car with two children and tried to drive away — all in front of a deputy.

    The deputy was at Gina Marie Rossel's home with child protective investigators who were looking into an allegation of child abuse, a Pasco sheriff's report states.

    The deputy smelled marijuana and wrote that Rossel was forthcoming and said she'd smoked pot in the last hour and a half. The deputy went outside to speak with investigators then watched as Rossel walked out of the home and got into her car with two children. The report does not specify her relationship to them....

  11. Deputies: Woman drank vodka on drive from Pasco to Orlando

    Crime

    ZEPHYRHILLS — The trip from Largo to Orlando would be close to two hours and she had two children in tow. Kelly Ortlieb told deputies she stopped for a bottle of vodka and downed it as she drove.

    Authorities came across Ortlieb, 33, half-conscious in her car at 39940 Pattie Road, a Pasco sheriff's report states. The children, ages 4 and 6 were in the back. A deputy smelled alcohol.

    When the deputy asked what she was drinking, Ortlieb held up the empty vodka bottle and mimed taking a pull, according to the report. Ortlieb told the deputy she'd been drinking before she got in the car and that she knew it was wrong with children riding along....

  12. Motive, time line emerge in grisly Holiday slayings

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — Witnesses say Christopher Lamarr Amy was so upset Friday night, he threatened to cut someone's throat. He left a friend's house on foot in a huff and came back about an hour later wearing only a pair of bloody boxers.

    On Monday, Amy was sitting in a Land O'Lakes jail facing two charges of first-degree murder. One victim had his throat slashed; the other died of multiple stab wounds. ...

  13. AVP beach volleyball tournament poised to stay in St. Petersburg

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Seconds before the first serve, while techno music wound up the crowd, the announcer with the orange microphone singled out a sore spot in the tournament's history.

    "We got you all riled up last year, and then we just walked away," he said, referring to thunderstorms that had canceled the event just before the finals. "We have unfinished business here."

    The weather held this time, thanks to a few minor adjustments, such as a change in scheduling, said Donald Sun, managing partner of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Now, he and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman both say the tournament is poised to stay....

    Kerri Walsh Jennings passes a ball Sunday during the AVP beach volleyball event at Spa Beach Park. Jennings and partner April Ross won the women’s title.
  14. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco seeks $5.8 million increase in budget

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco's constitutional officers released their budgets Friday with Sheriff Chris Nocco requesting the largest spending increase at roughly $5.8 million.

    Nocco's budget came in at $96 million, 6 percent higher than the current year spending plan.

    Most of that increase would be aimed at retaining deputies. The sheriff blamed an exodus of agency members in February on low salaries, saying many moved to other departments because of stagnant wages the past five years and a crackdown on overtime pay....

    Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco has proposed adding $2.6 million for salaries to help retain deputies.
  15. Authorities identify body found in Tarpon Springs as missing Homosassa man

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — A Homosassa man found dead Friday was known to his friends and fellow coin collectors as a nomad. Among flea marketers, it's a term that means in the search for rare coins, he followed the most valuable pieces.

    Billy Shuler was an active member of the West Hernando Coin Club, club president Guy Ventre said Tuesday, the day Pasco sheriff's investigators identified a body found during the weekend in Tarpon Springs as that of the 69-year-old Shuler. ...

    Anthony Maresca had worked with Shuler selling at area flea markets.