Legislation addressing abuse at unlicensed religious children's homes passes House after failed attempt to strip it down04/25/13 Blog
A bill addressing some of the problems exposed by a 2012 Tampa Bay Times investigation into abuse at unlicensed religious children’s homes passed the Florida House on Wednesday.
But not without an attempt by a Tampa Republican to strip it of proposed reforms applying to the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies, the private, nonprofit accreditor of homes that have chosen to take a religious exemption from licensing....
The jurors had started to talk it out.
Some thought Patrick Evans should die for what he did to his estranged wife and the man he found in her bedroom — shot him in the neck, then, as she cried for help, pulled the trigger again.
But in a Pinellas County jury room on Nov. 10, 2011, some could not agree that the murders deserved the death penalty. One woman cried, remembers juror Quentin Davis. He asked the rest to find out why, and remembers one man saying he didn't care, that it wouldn't change his mind....
ORLANDO — After two days in Orange County, a Hillsborough County judge was able to accomplish what he could not back home:
Seat a jury that could be fair to one of Tampa's most notorious defendants, Dontae Morris.
Tuesday evening, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on 12 jurors and three alternates to transport to Tampa on Sunday, where they will be housed in a hotel for an expected four days of testimony, which starts Monday....
ORLANDO — They didn't want to go to Tampa.
But that didn't matter.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente needed jurors who had never heard of Dontae Morris, the subject of the most massive manhunt in Tampa history. The judge had tried and failed to find them back home.
So he moved jury selection to Orange County, where Monday, he asked 150 of its citizens to lay eyes on the defendant....
03/03/13 Public Safety
Jeremy Bush kneeled outside the home that now marks the tomb of his older brother. He laid flowers, bowed his head, blew a kiss.
Then, an hour later Sunday morning, a backhoe began to tear apart the concrete-block house at 240 Faithway Drive where a sinkhole opened Thursday night and swallowed Jeffrey Bush, 37, into the earth.
It was a delicate demolition.
Efforts to find the buried man have ceased. There were "no environmental conditions inside the sinkhole that could sustain human life," the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday after conducting a death investigation....
TAMPA — Citing concerns of a "media circus" and vigilantes still looking to "gain justice" for the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, attorneys for her mother, Casey Anthony, successfully argued Tuesday to keep her bankruptcy case in a federal courtroom in Tampa.
Two of her creditors wanted the case relocated to Orlando.
"The debtor is once again playing the role of the victim," Attorney R. Scott Shuker said, "and not playing by the rules."...
FORT PIERCE — Despite a list of state findings that includes, most recently, bizarre punishment and a broken bone, a self-titled "colonel" and his unlicensed Port St. Lucie military academy can continue to house and discipline boys for 16 more months with no oversight.
On Thursday, St. Lucie Circuit Judge Robert Belanger gave Southeastern Military Academy until June 30, 2014, to gain the accreditation of two state-recognized organizations. That is a "drop dead" date, the judge said. If it lapses, he would grant the state's request to shut down the academy....
FORT PIERCE — Alan Weierman, the self-titled "colonel" of an unlicensed military home with a yearslong track record of abuse findings, went to court Wednesday to defend against a state effort to shut him down.
The Department of Children and Families presented evidence that in the past year, child protectors have verified that Weierman broke one boy's arm and subjected another to bizarre punishment, shackling him overnight. They are still investigating whether a staff member punched a boy in the face....
02/14/13 Human Interest
A married couple and their two college-age sons sat together in a room in a government building, awaiting the moment they'd come a long way to experience.
Eleven years ago, the family left everything behind in Colombia, except two pieces of luggage and each other.
Thursday, they were becoming American citizens.
Pink balloons and hearts filled the large room at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This was a special Valentine's Day ceremony, for 28 couples representing 15 countries....
After years of allegations ranging from extreme discipline to rape, a Christian girls' reform home in the Panhandle is shutting its doors.
Lighthouse of Northwest Florida, in the tiny town of Jay, has returned all of its teenage residents to their parents, and at the end of the month, its bucolic 9.7-acre grounds will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
In October, the Tampa Bay Times reported allegations of abuse and mistreatment by recent residents, who recounted a system of control in which girls were tackled to the ground by their peers, sat on for extended periods of time and banished to the windowless "Room of Grace" for almost every waking hour for days, forced to listen to recorded sermons....
TAMPA — For the murders of his wife and her daughter, Khalid Pasha should die, a jury recommended 11-1 on Tuesday.
The jury decision comes more than a decade after the Aug. 23, 2002, murders of 43-year-old Robin Canady and her 20-year-old daughter, Ranesha Singleton, whose bodies were discovered in a remote cul-de-sac at the Woodland Corporate Center on Waters Avenue, throats slit. Pasha was found nearby, their blood on his face....
TAMPA — In a Hillsborough courtroom Monday, during a busy docket call, all side conversations came to a halt as a bailiff emerged with the inmate.
Matthew Wong, 51, was slumped in a wheelchair, his head bandaged, his ears deformed, his flesh so profoundly burned that his once-brown skin was now pink.
A woman in the audience whispered, "Oh, my God."
Wong was there to answer to a charge of attempted murder, that on the morning of Feb. 6, 2012, he tried to set his wife on fire, but instead engulfed himself in flames....
TAMPA — As her father lay on his death bed, Georgia Fonseca remembers a promise her mother's boyfriend made to the dying man. He would take care of her, and her sister, and her mother.
Alexander Cote-Ferrer broke that promise in the worst way.
On Aug. 8, 2010, he killed the mother, 50-year-old Danitza Fonseca, in front of her two teenage daughters. He used a machete.
Georgia, who was 16 at the time, remembers him smirking....
TAMPA — A jury had already decided Lawrence Dickey was guilty of murder when he stood over his sleeping wife with a baseball bat and delivered three fatal blows to her head.
Thursday's court hearing was about a much broader question:
Where did his depraved act fit in with the rest of his life?
Was Dickey a bad person? Or a good person who had done a bad thing? How should he pay?...
TAMPA — Police have identified the 8-year-old girl stuck by a car Sunday morning while crossing Busch Boulevard as Jayla Shubbar.
The girl was in surgery late Sunday afternoon.
Tampa police said Shubbar was previously listed in critical condition after being struck while crossing Busch near N Brooks Street.
Police said the girl and her 12-year-old sister, who has not been identified, were on their way to a gas station convenience store when they crossed without using a crosswalk....