TAMPA — A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy who was shot three times in 2011 while responding to a domestic violence call took the witness stand Tuesday to describe the attack by a former Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Four years after the shooting, Deputy Lyonelle De Veaux recounted how she had arrived at a Carrollwood apartment complex on Sept. 30, 2011, to find a frightened woman waiting for her in the parking lot. After placing the woman in the backseat of her patrol car, she turned and saw a young man walking toward her. It was dark, but De Veaux said she could tell something was off....
TAMPA — On the morning of his trial for attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, Matthew Buendia holed up with his attorneys and debated an eleventh-hour offer from the state.
The former Marine was facing a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. He had rejected Hillsborough prosecutors' previous offer of 25 years, but they were making a second attempt to avoid a trial and had come back with a better deal: 15 years prison time. With credit for time served and good behavior, he could be out in 10....
TAMPA — A woman accused of attempting to kill her 12-year-old daughter accepted a plea deal Monday that will put her in prison for two years, followed by five years of probation.
In May of 2013, neighbors noticed smoke pouring out of a Citrus Park home and rushed in to find Nancy Lowe, her daughter, and suicide notes left for others to find.
Investigators initially believed the pair's story that, desperate to get away from Lowe's abusive ex-husband and the girl's father, they had made a suicide pact and set their garage on fire....
TAMPA — By the time she was 17, Lolita Barthel was living a double life: schoolgirl on weekdays, armed robber whenever she and her friends needed cash.
Now 38, Barthel admits she was a cocky teenager with a history of emotional problems, a mother addicted to crack cocaine and an absent father. She was also in love, or thought she was, and felt compelled to hold on to her girlfriend's affections by buying her the most fashionable clothes and the latest Air Jordans....
TAMPA — A lawyer for the man accused of fatally stabbing a former University of South Florida football player argued Wednesday for his client's release from jail, saying he had been trying to defend himself.
Hillsborough prosecutors have charged Randolph Graham, 23, with the murder of Elkino Watson, 23, who was stabbed early Sept. 6 in Ybor City outside of the Orpheum nightclub and died shortly after. Graham also is facing an attempted murder charge for stabbing another USF student and friend of Watson's, Desmond Horne. Both men were at the club for a post-game celebration after the USF-Florida A&M University football game....
09/15/15 Human Interest
DUNEDIN — It's an idea worthy of a summer blockbuster: seven juvenile delinquents racing across the Atlantic Ocean in one sailboat.
But for Tyler Howell, an 18-year-old from Dunedin who has spent the past several years bouncing from one juvenile justice program to another, it's about to become reality.
Howell — and six other "high-risk" juvenile offenders from across the country — have been chosen to take part in a five-month sailing boot camp that pitches itself as an alternative to incarceration. Founded by a college student from Sarasota, the organization called SailFuture plans to train the crew of teenagers for several weeks in Baltimore before entering them in a 2,700-mile international race called the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers....
TAMPA — In the days before she was sentenced, the former scientist packed up her Belleair Beach house and made arrangements for her teenage son to live with a neighbor.
"I beg you, just give me more time to spend with him," Anastasia Bogomolova pleaded with a federal judge Thursday. If she could only postpone her imprisonment until next June, she could see her 13-year-old graduate from middle school. ...
09/09/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Years after other states began clearing their backlogs of untested rape kits, thousands of exams are still sitting on evidence room shelves across Florida, potentially holding answers to some of the state's most violent crimes.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Pam Bondi said she intends to make clearing the state's backlog a top priority in the coming year. But she also acknowledged how little state officials know about the accumulation of rape kits. She could not say how many there are in Florida or how long it might take to complete their testing....
TAMPA — A jury Friday voted to spare the life of a 35-year-old man convicted of a double murder, recommending that he serve life in prison for gunning down his wealthy employer and her husband in 2012.
Although he had struggled to contain his emotions throughout the three-week trial, Julian Ospina-Florez barely registered the jury's recommendation.
In the gallery behind him, his mother clung to her youngest son and wept. Family members of the victims walked out quietly, later releasing a statement asking for privacy and saying they were "relieved that this chapter of our family tragedy has concluded and justice has been served."...
TAMPA — Jurors had barely taken their seats Thursday when the man they had convicted of a double murder earlier in the week sprang from his seat and announced they were mistaken.
Claiming to be "an innocent man," Julian Ospina-Florez, 35, opened the second phase of his trial with an impromptu speech on the justice system's failings. As jurors were ushered out of the courtroom, he complained that while those found to be criminally insane were allowed "go home," the innocent were sent to prison....
TAMPA — More than three years after he fatally shot his employer and her husband at their mansion in a gated enclave of Tampa, Julian Ospina-Florez was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder Tuesday.
Ospina-Florez, 35, faces a minimum sentence of life in prison without parole. But prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty during the second phase of the trial, which is expected to begin later this week....
TAMPA — Julian Ospina-Florez was not a criminal mastermind, prosecutors said in closing arguments Monday at the trial of the driver accused of murdering his wealthy employer and her husband. But it doesn't take much to be an effective killer.
"It wasn't a good plan. It wasn't well-executed," Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner said of the killings of Debra Rivera and her husband, Dr. Hector Rivera, who were found shot to death at their sprawling Avila mansion on Jan. 9, 2012. "But it was a plan."...
A judge on Thursday recommended that three Tampa lawyers be permanently barred from practicing law for their involvement in a conspiracy to have an opposing attorney arrested during a high-profile trial in 2013.
Rejecting the defense's arguments that the lawyers were merely helping local police get a drunken driver off of city streets, Pinellas Senior Judge W. Douglas Baird found the men's actions "inexplicably egregious, spiteful, and malicious."...
Almost a year after a federal judge in Tallahassee declared Florida's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, the state is finally getting around to updating its marriage and death certificates.
By mid September, the state plans to have removed gender-specific language from these forms, which still refer to a "husband" and "wife," according to the gay rights organization Equality Florida.
Since same-sex marriage became legal in January, gay couples who have tied the knot have had to make the odd choice of whose name to write in which space. Once the change goes into effect, the forms will provide a place for the name of each "spouse."...
The Florida Bar asked a Pinellas judge on Monday to revoke the law licenses of three Tampa lawyers accused of arranging the arrest of a rival attorney during a high-profile trial in 2013.
The Bar's lawyers recommended that Stephen Diaco, a partner at Adams & Diaco, be permanently disbarred for his role in orchestrating C. Philip Campbell's DUI arrest in 2013. Calling Diaco's motives "malicious and for personal gain," the Bar's lawyers wrote that his actions not only interrupted a trial, but also "tarnished the reputation of the legal profession and the Tampa Police Department."...