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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. Deputies in Pasco's new Environmental Crimes Unit look out for livestock — and much more

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES

    A white pickup truck bobs and rocks down a trail on a bright summer morning at the 4G Ranch. Pasco sheriff's Cpl. John Hayhurst is in the passenger's seat. He's listening to ranch manager Chad Sasser list the security breaches he has had in the past year.

    The week before, somebody dumped an old recliner near the 3,000-acre ranch's property line that runs along State Road 52. A hunting season ago, he caught some people firing a shotgun at some deer from their spot pulled off the road. A man wandered on to the property just a few days ago, looking to pick hallucinogenic mushrooms out of cow patties. And with the price of beef ramping up, Sasser says he's worried that people might fall back into the practice of stealing cattle....

    From left, Sgt. Troy Law, Cpl. John Hayhurst and Cpl. Scott Keener of the new sheriff’s Environmental Crimes Unit check on the welfare of horses at a Land O’Lakes residence as part of an ongoing investigation. The unit patrols tens of thousands of acres of Pasco ranchland.
  2. New PHSC law enforcement academy director settles into role

    Public Safety

    DADE CITY — Capt. Steve Hartnett hardly looks comfortable in his new desk chair. He leans forward, his hands resting on a marked-up calendar while he talks about improvement.

    First: himself. He's still working on this transition from patrol work in Tampa to a formal academic environment at Pasco-Hernando State College's law enforcement academy in the rural northeast Pasco hills. He asks for advice from instructor coordinator Kyle Hughes and executive director Charlie May who use the offices on either side of his....

    Steve Hartnett’s appointment ended a conflict between the college and the Sheriff’s Office.
  3. Neighbors remember boy, 12, killed in Hudson crash

    Accidents

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Neighbors were expecting Ernest Kelly knocking on their doors soon.

    This time of year was usually when the 12-year-old would be selling holiday cookie dough, a fundraiser for Athenian Academy in Port Richey where the sixth-grader attended.

    But Saturday, they saw news trucks parked in front of the family's house on quiet Sage Avenue. Word spread that there had been a crash....

    Ernest Kelly, 12, died as a result of Saturday’s crash.
  4. Lutz escape wasn't the first time, fugitive tells deputies

    Crime

    LUTZ — Back in jail after his Sept. 8 escape and subsequent manhunt, deputies say Jason Wayne Adams made a startling admission to them: This wasn't his first time on the lam.

    The 27-year-old state prison inmate first made news when he walked off a work crew in Lutz and was hunted overnight by scores of law enforcement officers. He ended his brief emancipation by riding a bicycle in broad daylight — and in sight of a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy....

    Jason Adams, 27, escaped from an inmate work detail in Lutz.
  5. Deputies: Holiday man pulls stick-up at bar, says he's just kidding

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A man with a hood and bandana over his face burst into the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club's bar Sunday night, pointed his gun at the bartender and announced that this was a holdup.

    "Let me at the register," Stephen Randall Koulias yelled, according to a Pasco sheriff's report. "Give me the (expletive) money! Hurry up!"

    But then he took a look around.

    When Koulias, 22, realized other people were in the bar, he dropped the act and pulled off his bandana and hood. He said he was just kidding....

    Stephen Koulias, 22, was arrested after deputies watched surveillance video from the bar.
  6. Adam Matos' story in Pasco quadruple murder backed by no one (w/ video)

    Crime

    HUDSON — Adam Matos, the only suspect in a grisly quadruple murder, floated a new theory during a jailhouse interview this week about who he thinks might be the culprit.

    Matos is at the center of the investigation into the deaths of ex-girlfriend Megan Brown, her parents, Greg and Margaret, and her new boyfriend, Nicholas Leonard. Their bodies were found Sept. 4 stacked on a hill near the Brown home....

    Adam Matos isn’t charged in the Hudson quadruple murder.
  7. Suspect in Hudson murders speaks from jail (w/video)

    Crime

    LAND O'LAKES — Adam Matos doesn't believe he can change any minds.

    After the bodies of his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her new boyfriend were found baking in the sun atop a hill in northwest Pasco County, authorities called him the only suspect.

    But in an exclusive interview Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times from the Pasco County jail, a despondent Matos said he's no murderer. He's a nice guy, actually. Easy to get along with. And he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time....

    Adam Matos was arrested at a hotel in Tampa after the bodies of his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her boyfriend were found.
  8. Escaped prison inmate caught in Hillsborough

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — In the end, Jason Adams made it easy for his pursuers.

    The 27-year-old prison inmate who walked off a work crew Monday afternoon in Lutz and was hunted overnight by scores of law enforcement officers ended his brief emancipation by riding a bicycle in broad daylight — and in sight of a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy.

    When the deputy confronted him about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Adams gave his real name, according to the Sheriff's Office....

    Jason Adams was found near the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College.
  9. Hudson slaying victim 'was scared for her life'

    Crime

    HUDSON — Adam Matos was drunk when Megan Brown came home after a night out with her new boss and new boyfriend.

    Matos, Brown's ex and the father of her son, demanded to know where she'd been. They argued, according to a criminal complaint filed in Pasco County court, and Matos grabbed a silver kitchen knife and backed Brown into a corner.

    He held the knife up to her neck and said, "I'll (expletive) kill you," according to the complaint....

  10. Debate over unaccompanied immigrant children comes to Holiday

    Nation

    HOLIDAY — A handful of the thousands of unaccompanied minors traversing the Texas border routinely wind up in a nondescript beige building in this working-class corner of Pasco County.

    There, 16 children eat hot meals and sleep in bunks before uniting with family members around the country. Their presence, hidden behind the shelter's high fences, has aroused many of the thorny aspects of the nation's larger immigration debate....

  11. Four people found dead in Hudson; autistic boy is missing

    Crime

    HUDSON — A week ago, Adam Matos showed up at the Get Hooked Grill, where he had worked as a dishwasher. Fired a few days earlier, he told a manager that he needed his last paycheck.

    Then he vanished.

    On Thursday, Pasco investigators went looking for Matos' 4-year-old son, Ismael "Tristan" Santisteban, who is autistic. What they found was carnage — four people dead on a hill — but no trace of the boy....

     Undated photo of Ismael Tristan Santisteban  Investigators checking on the welfare Thursday of a 4-year-old boy with autism discovered four dead bodies, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. The boy, Ismael Tristan Santisteban, was not among the dead. Nocco said in a news conference that the boy is believed to be with his father, 28-year-old Adam Matos, in a 1991 blue Ford pickup truck with the license plate number 244-JJN. He is considered armed and dangerous.  [Pasco County Sheriff’s Office]
  12. Deputies: Pasco teen who set house on fire texted mom an apology

    News

    PORT RICHEY — A 14-year-old seventh-grader is facing two charges of attempted murder after admitting to setting her family's house on fire early Thursday, authorities said.

    The girl told Pasco sheriff's investigators she soaked a towel and bedsheet with bleach and rum then set them on fire in the garage of the house on Hermitage Lane where her mother and 9-year-old brother were sleeping, according to an arrest report....

    A 14-year-old girl has been charged with one count of arson and two counts of attempted murder in an overnight fire that occurred at 1:43 a.m. at 9006 Hermitage Lane in Port Richey. Fire crews arrived on scene within six minutes and discovered heavy smoke and flames. (BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Times)
  13. Holiday bar owner charged with embezzling sales tax

    Public Safety

    HOLIDAY — The owner of LNT's Kickstand Saloon was arrested last week after, authorities say, she embezzled thousands of dollars of sales taxes.

    Nina Marie Novak, 54, collected sales tax from customers but did not send it to the state during various times between September 2012 through November 2013, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Revenue.

    The release says she amassed $9,800 in stolen sales tax at the bar, 2419 Grand Boulevard....

  14. Deputies: Pasco girl who set house on fire texted mom an apology

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — A 14-year-old girl immersed in violent Internet fiction and angry at her mother about household chores set fire to her family's house early Thursday, Pasco authorities said.

    While her mother and 9-year-old brother slept, the girl soaked a towel and bedsheet with bleach and rum and then lit them on fire in the garage, according to an arrest report.

    Later, the report says, she sent her mother a text saying, "Mom Im so sorry I dont know why I did it." She also asked if anyone was hurt....

    A 14-year-old girl is accused of setting her Port Richey home on fire with her mother and 9-year-old brother sleeping inside early Thursday. She told investigators she packed a bag and walked to a nearby park restroom, where she slept.
  15. After arrest, Lake County man sues Pasco sheriff

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A Lake County man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, saying he was arrested on driving under the influence charges for no reason.

    The complaint filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that Cornelius Caldwell was driving through Dade City at 6:04 a.m. on April 7, 2013, and "exhibited no manifestations of alcohol or drug impairment" when he was pulled over by Deputy Gene Smith....