CLEARWATER — Ask any of the bailiffs, judges and lawyers who have dined at the Pinellas County Justice Center for years, or most anyone who has had lunch there while serving on a jury.
Most would likely confirm that Charlie Goodsell ran his corner of the courthouse like a chief judge. Mr. Goodsell was the chef behind the grill, the most crowded corner of the cafeteria.
Mr. Goodsell took orders two or three customers in advance. If you were anywhere near the front of the line, "You'd better be ready to spit it out," said defense attorney Richard Watts. ...
ST. PETERSBURG — Dan Bates wore his police uniform proudly, with extra starch in his shirts and a reflective shoeshine.
Police work was one of several interwoven callings he pursued simultaneously. Mr. Bates joined St. Petersburg police in 1975 and would become one of its foremost communicators, whether handling the press or clowning as McGruff the Crime Dog.
He helped businesses stay safe, from the new YMCA to Midtown and Tropicana Field, sharing his expertise on crime prevention....
ST. PETERSBURG — In his day, Hernán Molina played with some of the biggest stars in tennis. Bill Tilden, Jack Kramer and Tony Trabert knew Mr. Molina as an up-and-coming player, a former national 18-and-under champion in his native Argentina and a member of the national championship University of California at Berkeley team.
"He could go out on the court with any of them, he was that good," said John McQuillen, a longtime doubles partner of Mr. Molina's. "He could have turned pro but decided to be an architect. Pros didn't make much money then."...
CLEARWATER — A jury on Tuesday recommended that Richard Michael Cooper, 50, on death row for 30 years, be sentenced to life in prison instead.
Cooper was a participant in a brutal shotgun triple murder in 1982 and has been on death row ever since.
He was back in court last week and this week with a chance to save his life after a federal appeals court threw out his death sentence in 2011. The court found that evidence of the abuse Cooper suffered as a child should have been heard by a jury....
The cemetery was running out of room, but management had a time-tested solution.
For 25 years employees at the Los Angeles-area facility "at the direction of management routinely broke open outer burial containers and caskets and discarded human remains in a 'dump' area ... in order to make more graves fit in the cemetery."
Until last week, that was just an allegation in a class-action suit by more than 25,000 families against Service Corporation International. While denying any wrongdoing, the company settled the suit on Thursday for $80.5 million. It's not the first time it has faced allegations of desecrating its customers' graves....
CLEARWATER — During the worst years of a miserable life, Richard Cooper shared a single-wide trailer in Arizona with at least five older half-siblings, a violent, alcoholic father and a mother who enabled beatings almost every day by snitching on the kids when he came home.
Those were just a few of the horrors that, years later, according to Cooper's lawyers, led him to commit a grisly triple murder in Largo. Jurors who heard the stories Friday at a resentencing hearing for Cooper will determine whether he still should face the death penalty for those crimes....
LARGO — The state has called its last witness for now in the sentencing trial of Richard Michael Cooper.
Cooper, 50, has spent nearly 30 years on death row over his participation in the murders of Steven Fridella, 26; Bobby Martindale, 24; and Gary Petersen, 21. The three men were killed with shotgun blasts early June 18, 1982.
In 2011, a federal appeals court vacated Cooper's death sentence, saying that evidence of the childhood abuse he suffered should have been presented to the first jury....
LARGO — One by one, the masked intruders awakened each of three young men early on June 18, 1982, as outside a raging storm muffled sounds and flooded their rural street.
The gunmen then marched each of the housemates into their small living room, bound their wrists behind their backs with duct tape and ordered them to lie face down on the floor.
"Then the carnage began," said prosecutor Jim Hellickson, who set that scene for jurors Wednesday at the resentencing trial of one of the killers....
LARGO — A jury has been selected and opening statements are scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the resentencing of Richard Michael Cooper, who has been on death row for 30 years after being convicted in a triple murder.
A federal appeals court threw out Cooper's death sentence in 2011 after finding that a jury should have heard evidence of abuse Cooper suffered as a child during the sentencing phase of his trial....
CLEARWATER — Thirty years ago, a jury sentenced Richard Michael Cooper to death over his role in a brutal triple murder.
Cooper, 50, has been serving time on death row ever since.
Now he is back in court with a chance to save his life, after a federal appeals court threw out his death sentence in 2011. The court found that evidence of the abuse Cooper suffered as a child should have been heard by a jury....
TAMPA — For many years, William "Bill" Scheuerle led University of South Florida graduation processions holding the ceremonial mace.
Colleagues say the role suited him. "He liked that formality," said Richard Dietrich, 78, an emeritus English professor at USF. "That's the impression you got."
"He was the university marshal," said Sara Deats, 81, a retired English professor and department chair at USF. "I think he was as proud of that as anything he had done."...
A routine Pinellas School Board workshop played out as expected Tuesday — at least until a bombshell announcement by board member Robin Wikle that she plans to resign.
Wikle, who was elected in 2008 and 2012 and served as the board's chairwoman in 2012, told the board she will tender her resignation later this year. The delay allows her seat to be filled in the election and not through a gubernatorial appointment....
ST. PETERSBURG — A man drove erratically over eight blocks of Central Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, smashing into cars and taking down a lamppost.
The eastbound driver of an Artistic Pools van veered across two lanes of oncoming traffic before smashing into a tree in the 5000 block of Central, where flames from the engine spread quickly.
He was then rescued by two bystanders, who cut the man's seat belt and pulled him from the van seconds before it was consumed by fire....
BROOKSVILLE — His favorite place to be: suspended in the air, stomach rising as he looked through the mud-splattered windshield of his father's pickup, waiting for the cushioned crash.
You couldn't keep Scott Hosfeld away from events with names like Hog Waller and Horse Hole, destinations known to serious mudders, which certainly included Scott, his parents and his three siblings.
"If he knew there was one going on, he would beg to go," said Heather Hosfeld, Scott's mother....
PALM HARBOR — In the mid 1950s, Don Valk sold little packages of Tom's peanuts, candy and tobacco to mom-and-pop grocery stores in Rochester, Minn., the kind with a gas pump in front.
As he drove his route, Mr. Valk noticed gas stations and grocery stores were being taken over by large chains. It was the kind of observation that drove his life.
He moved his family to Clearwater, then Largo. In 1973, he established the first real estate broker's office in Palm Harbor, his family said. He and 13 other business leaders then formed the Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce in 1977, which in turn fostered a library, an art festival, a Rotary club and a YMCA....