05/24/08 Human Interest
Ajabu Brown is the fifth of 10 children of a single mother, a narrow little thing with skin the color of coffee with heavy cream.
The 11-year-old lives in public housing, a place of rusty fences and broken glass. Gunfire at a block party once had her hiding in a closet. "That's how it be around here, and I don't like it,'' she says. "You could get killed or shot or raped or something."
One minute she acts like she has all the sense in the world, the next she's hitting and yelling. She has an old-soul bitterness that sometimes breaks with a playful eye roll, rarely with a smile.
Leaving Just Elementary School one day, a classmate yells, "Ajabu. You 11 in third grade? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.''
She could haul off and smack the girl, but it's Monday.
And on Mondays, Ajabu is a lady. ...
05/03/08 Human Interest
TAMPA — Maria Alexandra Betancur donned a sparkling tiara on Saturday. There were champagne toasts, lots of food, presents, a tiered white cake and music.
Maria's parents, aunts, uncle, cousins and caregivers all gathered in an apartment complex clubhouse to celebrate her quinceanera — a rite of passage for Hispanic girls presented to society in celebration of their 15th birthday....
The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved boundary adjustments for Doris Ross Reddick Elementary School. Scheduled to open in August of 2008 in the Valencia Lakes subdivision in southern Hillsborough County, the school is being built to provide crowding relief for Cypress Creek and Wimauma elementary schools. The board also approved boundary adjustments between Ruskin and Cypress Creek elementary schools in southern Hillsborough County to provide crowding relief to Ruskin....
TAMPA — Last month, more than 100 worried parents filled a school cafeteria with vociferous concerns about boundaries changes that would send their kids to a school with a perceived gang problem.
And just a few weeks ago, another group of parents protested the proposed busing of low-income students to their suburban schools, and planned a meeting to voice their outrage.
Both groups sent angry e-mails and made many phone calls....
NORTH TAMPA — Tuesday will be a day of reckoning for New Tampa and North Tampa families concerned about school boundaries.
Going before the board for approval is a proposal to move hundreds of students from crowded inner-city schools to the suburbs, and attendance boundary line changes that will shuffle students at five middle schools.
Parents have met both proposals with contention....
03/27/08 Public Safety
TAMPA — Whether 5 miles away, down the block or just next door, if a new neighbor is a registered sex offender or predator, citizens can now be notified via e-mail alerts.
The free service provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement allows citizens to create an account that will send an e-mail alert within 24 to 48 hours of an address change for offenders and predators in the state's registry....
03/27/08 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Bill Nesmith won't face criminal charges stemming from a domestic dispute with his wife this month, but he will be suspended for violating county rules.
When Pinellas County sheriff's deputies investigated the domestic call at Nesmith's home in Indian Rocks Beach, they found a semiautomatic pistol in Nesmith's county-issued vehicle. County Administrator Pat Bean suspended Nesmith for two days without pay for violating a county policy prohibiting employees from possessing firearms on county property....
Clark Elementary School parents have scheduled their own town hall meeting to publicize their grievances regarding the possibility that University area students will be moved to Clark and Hunter's Green elementary schools.
The meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the West Meadows Community Club, 8401 New Tampa Blvd.
Organizers oppose the Hillsborough County School District's proposed busing plan, which would move hundreds of students from Shaw and Witter elementaries, crowded high-poverty schools, into the two New Tampa schools, which are under capacity. ...
TAMPA — For the second time in four years, Filda Rivera was robbed Monday in her home day care.
This time, the 64-year-old grandmother was punched in the head and knocked unconscious, Tampa police said. Three toddlers in her care were with her at the time.
The robber, who got away, took her watch and $50, police said.
"I can't understand how a man would attack a woman taking care of kids like that," said neighbor Dolores Campese, who called the situation unbelievable....
03/19/08 Public Safety
TAMPA —Things could've ended badly: A kindergartener, left alone Friday at the wrong school bus stop, got into a car with a stranger. The man, who had a criminal record, drove for 45 minutes.
As it turned out, Jamal Ashley, 6, had found a good Samaritan in Marcus Burney, 23, who helped the boy find his way home.
But now Jamal's parents, fearful over dangers he could have faced, want answers from the Hillsborough School District....
TAMPA — The family of a grandmother and son shot to death this week have established a fund to help with funeral expenses and the medical expenses of a family member injured in the attack.
Donations can be made to the Myrick Family Fund at any Bank of America.
A joint service for Susan Myrick, 35, and her son Laurier Myrick, Jr., 17, is set for 2 p.m. March 22 at Deeper Life Christian Church, 3300 N Nebraska Ave. A wake is scheduled for Friday at Stone Memorial Funeral Home, 5016 N 22nd St., from 4 to 8 p.m. Both are open to the public. ...
03/13/08 Bizarre News
Forget what you always thought about little old ladies. Dottie Casper's one dirty
At 81, this Northdale grandmother of 11 is blazing a trail as a standup comic, and she's not afraid to venture into mature themes.
Her stage props include cataract glasses and K-Y Jelly, hysterical for shock value alone.
"How did you sleep last night?" she recalls asking a girlfriend, who replied, "I slept like a baby & I wet the bed." ...
TAMPA — Hillsborough sheriff's officials want to speak with a convicted drug dealer about Tuesday's double-murder in a north Tampa apartment.
Kito Felton, 31, has been convicted of multiple counts of cocaine possession and sales since 1997 and has served jail time, according to Florida records. His last known address is 3104 E 8th Ave.
Authorities wouldn't say why they are looking for Felton....
Before the doors of the Carrollwood Cultural Center opened on Monday for class registration, people were waiting.
Ten years in the making, the center was ready.
Pottery wheels were ready for clay and creative hands.
Dance rooms were squared away for swinging.
Pianos were prepared for pupils to practice.
Eleven of the center's 35 classes begin Monday. .
While scheduled registration for the first six-week session of courses ends today, registration for many other classes is ongoing, center executive director Paul Berg said....
TAMPA — Their qualms are many, their complaints harsh and frequent.
Many parents living in suburban Bay Crest are dead set against a proposal by Hillsborough school officials to send their children to Webb Middle School, a predominately Hispanic school in Town 'N Country.
At least 40 parents have sent caustic e-mails to school officials. Eleven families representing 19 Bay Crest children have signed a petition of protest....