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: Moon Lake man tried arson twice in same night

    Crime

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A man inside the mobile home awoke in the early hours of Tuesday morning, deputies say, to see Ronald Joseph fleeing from his yard.

    As the man walked outside to investigate about 2:45 a.m., Joseph jumped into a gold Land Rover and drove away, a Pasco sheriff's report states. The man found two pillows and cloth under his home set on fire. He grabbed a hose and put the fire out....

  2. Zephyrhills drug bust nets guns, cash, pills (w/video)

    Crime

    It was an elaborate fraud scheme involving prescription drugs, thousands of dollars and piles of guns. But Pasco sheriff's deputies were most disturbed that Mark Eisenberg brought small children to his deals with drug addicts.

    Eisenberg's scheme, detailed in a news conference Tuesday by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco and detectives, was to drive addicts to doctors' offices in Tampa where they were prescribed pills. Eisenberg, 55, would pay for the appointments in exchange for a majority cut of the pills....

    Authorities say Mark Eisenberg, 55, was paid with EBT cards.
  3. PHSC academy instructor, whistle-blower fired

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco-Hernando State College on July 17 fired its police academy's instructor coordinator whose complaints launched a recent Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.

    Patricia Maxwell began working at the college in March, hired on the same day as the new academy director, Charlie May. Her relationship with her co-workers quickly soured.

    Maxwell detailed some of her grievances in an email last month to PHSC president Katherine Johnson....

  4. Member of rampaging Dougherty gang sentenced in Pasco

    Crime

    DADE CITY — On Friday morning, three years later, Ryan Dougherty apologized for spraying a pursuing police car with bullets.

    It was the first stop on Dougherty's and his siblings' cross-country crime rampage and quick rise to infamy in 2011, when he and sister Lee Grace and brother Dylan were labeled "the Dougherty gang."

    The rampage started as an escape plan to Mexico when Ryan violated his probation for "sexting" an 11-year-old girl....

    Ryan Edward Dougherty, left, pleaded guilty Friday to attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, the event that set off his cross-country crime spree with brother Dylan Dougherty Stanley and sister Lee-Grace Dougherty. Dylan and Lee Grace are serving prison sentences in other states. Ryan, who is also serving time on a federal prison sentence, was sentenced to 40 years in Florida.
  5. Deputies: Man in Land O'Lakes jail stole other inmates' personal information

    Crime

    LAND O'LAKES — A man confined to his jail cell for 23 hours a day committed an elaborate fraud scheme over several months, deputies say, during his only hour of free time.

    Brian Michael Chipman, 30, was put in protective custody some time after his first arrest in January on 26 fraud-related charges. From then through July 17, while he was allowed just one hour a day to mingle in the jail's general population, he would go into other inmates' cells and collect their personal information, a Pasco Sheriff's Office report states....

    Brian Michael Chipman, 30, had only one hour a day out of his cell.
  6. Hudson couple, both 87, killed in U.S. 19 crash

    Accidents

    HUDSON — When everything stopped, Debra Boyd got out of her car and ran to the crushed Ford Taurus.

    She saw Vilma Miller, 87, slumped over her husband's chest. Boyd knew the woman had already died. Lee Miller, also 87, looked at Boyd from the driver's seat.

    "If you need to go," Boyd remembers telling him, "close your eyes and go be with your wife."

    Then, his breathing stopped....

     Two people were killed in a three-car crash Thursday (July 24, 2014) on U.S. 19 and Tower Drive in Hudson. The two who died were in a Ford Taurus.  [Alex Orlando, Times ]
  7. Bodies found in Hudson home appear to be murder-suicide

    Public Safety

    HUDSON — A Sheriff's Office report from last year foreshadows what detectives are calling a murder-suicide Monday night in Hudson.

    Rhonda Patterson and her boyfriend Robert Clark went out for beers and shared two small bottles of sake the evening of May 15, 2013, according to the report.

    Patterson and Clark argued when they got back to her home at 6601 Clark St,, she told deputies. Clark loaded his belongings into a car during the early-morning hours while Patterson told him to go away....

  8. 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. 
  9. 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....

  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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....

  14. 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....

  15. 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....

    The entrance to Paradise Lakes Condominiums in Lutz is blocked by law enforcement vehicles early Monday afternoon. Inset: Sylvia Rosalie Schmitt. [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times]