Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers military life, news and features in eastern Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 661-2443

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

  1. Two killed, two injured in Tampa park shooting

    Crime

    TAMPA

    Bullet casings and plastic Easter eggs lay scattered in the grass after a gunfight broke out Sunday in a park crowded with families and children celebrating the holiday.

    When police arrived at Alfred "Al" Barnes Jr. Park around 5 p.m., two young men were dead and two others were rushed to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries.

    A person dressed as the Easter bunny, who had been entertaining families earlier, joined children behind crime scene tape as investigators combed the scene....

    After the shooting at Barnes Park in Tampa on Sunday, some sought solace. “It was so nice and peaceful as everyone’s celebrating Easter,” Shawn Howard said. “And then this happened.”
  2. SouthShore and Brandon reps promote legislation

    Legislature

    There's more to the two-month state legislative session in Tallahassee than partisan politics and poring over the governor's priorities.

    It also gives each state representative and senator a chance to champion specific bills. Here's a review of some of the legislation being pushed by the primary SouthShore and Brandon representatives.

    Human trafficking: Some legislators led by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, are trying to crack down on adult establishments that employ minors while also addressing other key issues related to human trafficking....

    Raburn
  3. Go-cart fans get their fix at indoor Tampa Bay Grand Prix

    Retail

    TAMPA

    He gripped the wheel as the go-cart careened through the turn.

    The motorway hummed around him as Dempsey Wilson, 47, pushed the accelerator further, aching to log a quicker lap time.

    As of Tuesday, his name sat atop the leader board for the green track at Tampa Bay Grand Prix's Tampa location. Shortly after noon on April 1, he shot around the quarter-mile indoor track in 17:428 seconds. Halfway through the month, no other racers have eked out a faster lap....

    Drivers enter the first turn of the red course, the more technical of two at Tampa Bay Grand Prix west of Brandon, on Saturday. Other than the speed factor, hard-core racers like the force it takes to steer and how the tires heat up.
  4. Forum keys on more help for victims in fighting human trafficking

    Courts

    TAMPA — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has seen firsthand the difference a well-run safe house can make in the lives of human trafficking victims.

    Bondi told the audience gathered Thursday at a human trafficking forum of a recent trip she took to Mexico City, where she and other attorneys general discussed prominent issues with Mexican officials and visited a treatment facility for victims....

  5. Disc golf grows in popularity in the Tampa Bay area

    Human Interest

    BRANDON

    He stepped to the tee and surveyed the fairway.

    A few trees, some elevation, a par 3. Glancing through his bag, he pulled his driver and scouted his route.

    And then with a step and a release, he let the disc fly.

    Doren Kempher, 49, has played disc golf for several years. The Valrico resident recently started frequenting the disc golf course at Limona Park in Brandon. There's a doubles tournament each Tuesday....

    Tanner Wilson, 13, of Brandon throws his disc from the tee pad at a doubles tournament Tuesday at Limona Park in Brandon.
  6. At 89, Ybor native crafts book of poetry

    Human Interest

    Mary Elizabeth "Bettie" Perez has writing in her blood. She's the granddaughter of a newspaper founder and the mother of two newspapermen (one who works for the Tampa Bay Times). Now, at age 89, she celebrates her first nationally published book of poetry. Perez spoke with Times staff writer Caitlin Johnston about the importance of listening, the concept of fresh and the changing tides in Ybor City. ...

    Mary Elizabeth “Bettie” Perez, 89, is the author of How Old Is Fresh, a book of 28 poems. It’s published by Finishing Line Press (finishing
linepress.com). Also pictured is her friend Chanci Harrow.
  7. Brandon All-Stars will hit the big screen

    Briefs

    BRANDON — The Brandon All-Stars will be featured in a nationwide film celebrating the athleticism of cheerleading and the determination of its athletes.

    The movie, Cheer Night Out, will focus on the Nfinity Champions League, a national competition this weekend in Atlanta when the Brandon All-Stars will compete against 27 other teams. It is the first all-star competition to be filmed and shown in theaters nationwide....

    The Brandon All-Stars cheerleading team will compete this weekend in Atlanta.
  8. Appeals court upholds bribery conviction of former Hillsborough County commissioner

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal appeals court has upheld the bribery conviction and prison sentence of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida announced Monday.

    White, 49, was convicted by a jury of federal bribery and corruption charges in 2011. In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore sentenced him to three years in prison, telling White that his crimes "overshadowed all the good you have done for your constituents."...

  9. In tiny Hampton, national shame will be hard to shake

    Politics

    HAMPTON

    For years, she saw signs that something was awry in her quiet city.

    Linda Godwin saw the city clerk grabbing cigarettes and drinks at the local convenience store, telling the clerk something and then walking out without paying.

    Her son-in-law told her of riding into Gainesville in a city vehicle with the city clerk's son, watching him rack up bills at Walmart on the city credit card. He suspected the expenditures were personal....

    City Hall sits empty earlier this month. To watch video of tiny Hampton and hear from residents and officials, go to Links in today’s Times at tampabay.com.
  10. Bucs' Mike Williams stabbed in leg, search on for his brother

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Troubled Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams had another 911 call to yet another lavish home he is renting Sunday evening. This time, he was the one who needed help.

    Williams, 26, was hospitalized briefly after witnesses said his brother stabbed him in the thigh while roughhousing, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office.

    He was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and released after what was described as a relatively minor laceration....

    Eric Baylor’s Twitter profile photo shows him right, with Mike Williams, left.
  11. Fatalities raise concerns about proposed development on Bloomingdale Avenue

    Roads

    VALRICO — Recent fatalities on Bloomingdale Avenue have some residents concerned the already-overcrowded corridor can't handle even more traffic.

    But there will be more traffic if a proposed big-box development is built near the Bloomingdale Library.

    Bloomingdale, a major east-east corridor for the county, has seen four fatalities in 2014.

    The deaths occurred between Jan. 4 and Feb. 28 and though they didn't occur during peak traffic time, Hillsborough County deputies noted that the fatalities took place within a segment of Bloomingdale Avenue known for having a high frequency of accidents each month....

  12. Valrico area to get three traffic lights, two near schools

    Roads

    VALRICO — Hillsborough County has approved funding for three traffic signals in the Valrico area and will begin construction on one within the month and the other two at the end of this summer.

    The signals are part of a Bloomingdale area transportation improvement plan that includes revamping main intersections and expanding congested roads.

    Two of the new signals are near Burns and Mulrennan middle schools, and the third is at Durant and S Valrico roads, where eastbound traffic often backs up at the four-way stop in the afternoons....

  13. At stop in Tampa, Sept. 11 memorial teaches to 'never forget'

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The phrase "never forget" is inextricably linked with the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

    But as time passes, more and more children grow up without learning about those events a dozen years ago, said John Hodge, operations director for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

    To educate children and preserve the memory of New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, Hodge and Siller's brother, Frank, created the "9/11 Never Forget" mobile exhibit. The public can tour it during a stop in Tampa....

    Marine Sgt. Mike Nicholson of Tampa, right, passes through the “9/11 Never Forget” mobile exhibit outside Raymond James Stadium across from Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday. 
  14. Missing Brandon woman found dead in Valrico neighborhood

    Crime

    VALRICO — Hours after a Brandon woman's body was found in a quiet Valrico neighborhood, detectives arrested a person late Tuesday night, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    Christina Mahzamani, 32, was found with upper-body trauma outside a home at 2707 St. Cloud Oaks Drive about 2:20 p.m., sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said. Her family last saw her about 10 p.m. Sunday. Mahzamani, of 1608 Loriana St., was reported missing at 8:45 p.m. Monday....

    Christina Mahzamani. 32, was last seen Sunday by her family.
  15. East Bay High JROTC cadet awarded Medal of Heroism

    Human Interest

    They praised him for being the first cadet in Hillsborough County to receive the Medal of Heroism, but to East Bay High School junior Alec Leslie, it was a disappointment.

    "They said they've never heard of anyone doing anything like this, and I find that disappointing," the 17-year-old Ruskin resident said. "People should have the innate urge to help others. They congratulate me for being the first to earn this award, but they awarded me for doing something that should be normal."...

    Mark and Leann Leslie and their son, Alec, share a moment Tuesday after Alec received the Medal of Heroism for his role in saving the life of a man who was in a single-car accident on Interstate 75.