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

  1. After years of work, man's dream home in Hudson burns down

    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."...

    Tony Peak, 68, sifts through the charred rubble of his three-story home in Hudson that was destroyed by a fire Wednesday. His neighbor, Jack Leishman, right, helped with the search for salvageable possessions Thursday morning.
  2. Nurses awarded for trying to save Pasco movie theater shooting victim

    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....

    Registered nurses Derek Friedhoff and Jennie Manera receive plaques Wednesday from Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, right.
  3. Deputies: New Port Richey man snuck into ex's home, pointed gun at her

    Crime

    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."...

    William Tooker, 34, of New Port Richey told deputies he was playing with the gun, a report says.
  4. Former Pasco high school football star arrested again

    Crime

    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....

    Adrian Golden, 21, was charged with sale and possession of cocaine.
  5. Authorities still searching for missing Zephyrhills pilot

    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....

    Theodore Weiss was flying a Sonex experimental kit plane when it vanished from radar in a dead zone over the Withlacoo­chee State Forest.
  6. Authorities search for missing Zephyrhills pilot

    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....

    Theodore Weiss, 74, was last seen Saturday leaving the Marion County airport.
  7. Man accused in chiropractor's office shooting arrested, then dies

    Crime

    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....

    Jaime Velez died hours after leaving jail, where he had turned himself in in the February incident.
  8. PHSC, Pasco sheriff forging agreement on law enforcement academy

    College

    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....

  9. Epilogue: Jean Timmons, co-founder of Holy Ground homeless shelter, dies at 79

    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....

  10. Deputies: Dade City man stabbed another with golf club

    Crime

    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....

  11. PHSC hires new law enforcement academy director and instructor coordinator

    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....

  12. Pasco sheriff forbids employees from teaching at PHSC academy

    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."...

    Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco sent a memo to Sheriff’s Office employees, ordering any who teach at Pasco-Hernando State College’s law enforcement academy to quit.
  13. After fire, state takes children from Spring Hill couple

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Two young Pasco County boys with cognitive disabilities were flown early Friday to Tampa General Hospital, where nurses examined them after their rescue from a mobile home fire.

    Because of what the nurses found, the boys will not go home with their parents, a judge decided Monday.

    The boys were treated for smoke inhalation. But as nurses looked the boys over, they noticed more problems....

    A doublewide at 18815 Old Shady Hills Road burns to the ground Friday morning. Five adults and two young boys escaped.
  14. Deputies: New Port Richey woman sent girl to stay with man she knew molested her

    Crime

    NEW PORT RICHEY — When deputies executed a search warrant at the home of a man accused of having 337 images of child pornography, they found him still lying in bed. Beside him, a 5-year-old girl slept.

    Detectives called the girl's caregiver, Crystal Lynn Hodgson, 26, who told them she brought the girl to stay with Clarence Dingler last year. Between March and April, reports state the girl said, Dingler sexually molested her. An 11-year-old boy was also found in the home, though detectives do not suspect he was abused....

  15. Two young boys badly hurt in Spring Hill fire; eight animals unaccounted for

    Fire

    SPRING HILL — Jamie Smiley's phone rang before dawn Friday.

    It was his sister. Her home was burning with most of the family inside. She said to come quickly.

    Smiley raced less than a mile to find the double-wide mobile home on Old Shady Hills Road engulfed in flames. The front gate stood open from where his brother-in-law burst through it in his pickup truck to get the family out. Fire rescue crews were already there dousing the flames....

    An early morning fire consumes a Spring Hill home which  is located behind a used car dealership that sells propane tanks.