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Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website

Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006.

In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.


Twitter: @Gangrey

  1. Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes still living his 15 minutes of fame


    RUSKIN — Doug Hughes doesn't get out much anymore, not since April 15, a month ago, when he flew his gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pa., through protected airspace above Washington, D.C., and plopped down on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

    The temporary punishment for his daring "Freedom Flight," to bring attention to campaign finance reform, has him stuck behind closed doors at his little house on Pleasant View Avenue, shades drawn, often tethered to the charging unit that keeps his GPS ankle monitor alive. He can't run down the street to the Dollar General for a Pepsi. He can't even mow his own lawn....

    A growing stack of mail on Doug Hughes’ kitchen counter suggests his message may have resonated with people.
  2. Welcome to hockey country

    Human Interest

    Here we are again, on the edge of our seats, our flags unfurled, our overpasses adorned with lightning bolts. The hockey team from Tampa Bay is again making a run at greatness, up two games to none against the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey organization in the world.

    Game 3 is tonight, and if you hadn't noticed, hockey, more and more, is a thing here in the subtropics....

    The Tampa Bay Lightning drew an average of 18,823 fans to home games this regular season, which ranked ninth in the NHL. The support has continued into the postseason, making the bay area a warm and unlikely place to becme a hockey-mad metropolis. Fans have credited the ownership, management and players with helping to spur their interest.
  3. Gyrocopter pilot returning home to uncertainty after D.C. protest stunt (w/video)


    Flying in from the north over the buildings of Washington, D.C., Doug Hughes could make out a white tower in the distance, the most notable spire on the skyline. When he got close enough to see the Potomac River, he knew what he was looking at: The Washington Monument.

    He was freezing, his face and hands going numb. He wore a heavy U.S. Postal Service jacket, but he hadn't expected it to be so cold at 300 feet. He'd been buzzing through the gray sky at 45 mph for more than an hour, having left an airport in Gettysburg, Pa., at noon on Wednesday....

    Members of the media converge near Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., after Hughes’ arrival.
  4. Ruskin mailman who flew gyrocopter into Capitol released from jail, headed back to Florida soon


    WASHINGTON — He made the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today for flying through protected airspace and plopping his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He captured air time on an alphabet of news channels for an act of civil disobedience to spotlight campaign finance reform.

    And when Doug Hughes, a mail carrier from Ruskin, emerged in court after 24 hours in custody, he put speakerphones in his failing ears and faced the judge, hoping for the best....

    Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter last month near Wauchula Municipal Airport.
  5. FAA investigating Florida mailman's landing of gyrocopter on U.S. Capitol lawn



    Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from Ruskin, told his friends he was going to do it. He was going to fly a gyrocopter through protected airspace and put it down on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, then try to deliver 535 letters of protest to 535 members of Congress.

    The stunt seemed so outlandish that not even his closest friend thought he would pull it off.

    "My biggest fear was he was going to get killed," said Mike Shanahan, 65, of Apollo Beach, who works with Hughes for the Postal Service....

    A bomb squad officer pulls something off Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter and throws it aside Wednesday after Hughes, a Postal Service employee from Ruskin, landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Police arrested him, and the Secret Service and FAA are investigating his flight.
  6. 'Body farm' research facility proposed for eastern Hillsborough County


    Editor's note: The location for the public meeting to discuss the outdoor research facility has been changed. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 23, in the cafeteria at Pinecrest Elementary School, at 7950 Lithia-Pinecrest Road in Lithia.

    TAMPA — Are you bored by the idea of a traditional after-life burial? Don't want to spend eternity supine on a silk pillow?...

  7. Times Q&A: Rear Adm. John Kirby talks ISIS, Twitter and his mother's critiques


    Rear Adm. John Kirby has been called "the most visible face of the Pentagon in years," and his openness and availability as spokesman for the Department of Defense since December 2013 earned him an ovation from the rigid Pentagon press corps when he announced he was stepping down in early March. On the eve of a keynote speech at the New Ideas Conference at St. Petersburg College on Friday, the Times talked to Kirby, 51, a St. Petersburg native, about military messaging, his popular Twitter handle, his mother's critiques of his television performances and his views on the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The conversation was edited for length....

    Rear Adm. John Kirby, former Pentagon spokesman, grew up in St. Petersburg.
  8. Sen. Bill Nelson asks Justice Department to investigate Dozier boys' deaths

    Public Safety

    Sen. Bill Nelson has asked the Department of Justice to look into the decades-old deaths and burials of boys at the state's oldest reform school in the Panhandle town of Marianna.

    In letters sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and to President Obama's nominee to replace him, Loretta Lynch, Nelson asked the Justice Department to include the reformatory deaths in its ongoing investigation of inmate deaths at Florida prisons....

    University of South Florida researchers hunt for gravesites at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna last year.
  9. FDLE urged to launch new investigation into Dozier remains


    The Florida Department of Law Enforcement wrapped up its investigation into a burial ground at the Dozier School for Boys in 2009, saying records showed 31 people were buried on the campus of the state's oldest reformatory.

    But the discovery of 20 unaccounted-for dead boys prompted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to call on the FDLE to take another look.

    In a letter Wednesday to new FDLE chief Rick Swearingen, Putnam says the discovery by University of South Florida anthropologists of 20 more remains than the FDLE found in 2009 should be investigated....

  10. Putnam asks FDLE to consider reopening Dozier investigation

    Public Safety

    The discovery of 20 unaccounted for dead boys at Florida's oldest reform school has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the new findings. In a letter to new FDLE chief Rick Swearingen, Putnam says the discovery by University of South Florida researchers of 20 more remains than FDLE found in 2009 needs new evaluation. " … I am requesting that FDLE evaluate the new findings reported by USF to determine whether or not there is new evidence that would otherwise warrant additional investigation," he wrote. FDLE found records of 31 burials at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in 2009, but USF later unearthed 51 remains....

  11. Dozier investigation finds possible buckshot in boy's remains


    TAMPA — The ongoing investigation into a burial ground at Florida's oldest reform school has turned up possible buckshot in the remains of a boy who died in state custody.

    University of South Florida researchers disclosed the find to aides of the Florida Cabinet earlier this week in an update of their excavations at the cemetery at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. The pellet-shaped artifact was found near what would have been the boy's stomach....

    University of South Florida  professor  Erin Kimmerle exhumes a grave on August 31, 2013, at the now closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Thirty-one metal crosses mark a cemetery on the property, but ground penetrating radar shows 19 possible burial sites that are unmarked. [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times]
  12. Puzzle Pieces: Dozier's neglected cemetery yields more bodies than expected, but names are harder to find

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — There wasn't much left of the boys.

    By the time she came for them and brought them up from the earth and spread them on tables in a basement lab on Maple Drive in Tampa, they were in hundreds of pieces, some as small as a fingernail. All that remained of some of them could fit inside a lunch box....

     University of South Florida assistant professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle watches over excavation efforts in the Boot Hill cemetery at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. on February 5, 2014. [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times]
  13. Ground Truth: In Dozier's neglected cemetery, a search for lost boys and the reasons why they died

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA — The darkness started to fall on the pines and the kudzu-covered fields and on the little cemetery when a thundercloud erupted in the distance, and everybody down in the graves stopped digging and looked up at the sky. "Was that thunder?" one of them asked. The last thing they needed was more rain, because more rain meant more mud and more mud would make it much more difficult to get the bones out of the ground intact and in time for the evening news....

    The remains of a child, later identified as George Owen Smith, wait to be loaded into a van at the Boot Hill cemetery on the campus of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. [EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times]
  14. New Dozier mystery: Investigators find dead boy's grave empty (w/video)

    Human Interest


    Thomas Curry met his death by some railroad tracks near Chattahoochee in 1925, trying to run away from the Florida School for Boys. He'd served just 29 days for delinquency at the hellish reform school some 20 miles away in Marianna. The coroner who examined his body couldn't tell what killed him.

    "(C)ame to his death from a wound to the forehead, skull crushed from unknown cause," wrote Chattahoochee coroner L.H. Sanders on the boy's death certificate....

    University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle and Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Thomas McAndrew lift a casket panel from the burial shaft in Philadelphia's Old Cathedral Cemetery where Thomas Curry, a runaway from the Florida School for Boys, was said to have been buried in December 1925.
  15. Dozier graves yield more names, but how young boys died still a mystery

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The red dirt outside the little Panhandle town of Marianna continues to give up its secrets.

    Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of two more boys unearthed from a graveyard at Florida's notorious reform school. The remains of Thomas Varnadoe and Earl Wilson, who both died under suspicious circumstances while in custody at the Florida School for Boys, also known as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, will be returned to their families....

    Dr. Erin Kimmerlee addresses reporters at USF on Thursday to announce the identities of the remains of two more boys unearthed from a graveyard at Florida's notorious reform school in the Panhandle town of Marianna. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]