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Curtis Krueger, Times Staff Writer

Curtis Krueger

Curtis Krueger is the Pinellas courts reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, and has written for the Times since 1987. He also covers a variety of other issues, including space and science.

Phone: (727) 893-8232

Email: ckrueger@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CKruegerTimes

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  1. Pinellas man gets 30 years in crash that killed two of his friends

    Criminal

    LARGO — Diego Cavalieri admitted he is the one to blame for driving so recklessly around a curve on Indian Rocks Road in 2011 that he killed two of his friends and seriously injured two other people.

    Appearing in court Friday to hear his sentence, he said he is in a "living hell" because he knows "I was the one who was behind that wheel and took the lives of two great men."

    His attorney John Trevena asked for a 10-year sentence. His victims' family members asked for life in prison....

    Diego Cavalieri center, testifies in court Friday, February 27, 2015 at the Pinellas County Justice Center during his sentencing . Cavalieri was intoxicated when he drove a car recklessly and crashed on Christmas night 2011, killing two friends in his car and seriously injuring another friend, plus the driver of another car. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  2. Judge seeks more information in case of Clearwater man who wants death penalty

    Criminal

    A four-day hearing concluded Friday for Craig Wall, a Clearwater man who previously pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend and no contest to murdering their infant child.

    But more legal work needs to be done before a judge decides whether to sentence Wall, 39, to death. Wall has said he wants to be executed.

    In most death penalty cases, a jury recommends whether to impose the death penalty and a judge decides later whether to order an execution. But in Wall's case, he entered his pleas, meaning he is legally guilty of killing his girlfriend Laura Taft and their infant son Craig Wall Jr. This week's hearing concerning the death penalty was conducted before Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico, with Wall acting as his own attorney....

  3. Former Pinellas Park paramedic gets six months on drug charges

    Criminal

    A former Pinellas Park firefighter and paramedic pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple drug offenses and was sentenced to six months in jail and 18 months of drug offender probation.

    James A. Comer originally was charged with 17 felonies, including trafficking in hydrocodone.

    In his plea agreement, the trafficking charge was reduced to possession of hydrocodone, and he pleaded guilty to nine felony counts on various drug charges involving prescription medications. Comer also surrendered his paramedic license and must complete a drug treatment program, under the agreement....

  4. Pasco grand jury issues murder indictments in deaths of five people

    Criminal

    A grand jury in Pasco County returned indictments Thursday against an uncle accused of killing his mother and niece. The panel also indicted two people in an unrelated triple murder in Moon Lake.

    Jason Rios, 24, was indicted on two first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Angelo Rios, 55, and Jenica Randazzo, 9. He is accused of attacking them with a blunt weapon earlier this month in the family home in New Port Richey, and then barricading himself in a neighboring home. He also was indicted on one count of attempted murder....

  5. Jonchuck mentally incompetent to stand trial in death of daughter Phoebe off bridge

    Criminal

    LARGO — In a surprisingly brief hearing on Thursday, a judge found John Jonchuck mentally incompetent to stand trial in connection with the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, who was dropped from a 62-foot-high bridge into Tampa Bay on Jan. 8.

    The ruling means Jonchuck will be sent to a prison mental facility to receive treatment until he becomes capable of understanding the first-degree murder charge against him....

    John Jonchuck is accused of dropping his 5-year-old off a bridge and into Tampa Bay.
  6. Hearing resumes for Clearwater man who hopes for the death penalty

    Criminal

    LARGO — A court hearing resumed Wednesday morning in the case of double-murderer Craig Wall, part of a process that will determine whether the 39-year-old Clearwater man will get the death penalty.

    Wall, who is now acting as his own attorney, discussed procedural matters with Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico on Wednesday, and then called a witness, a sheriff's deputy who once picked him up in a transport vehicle. The deputy said she did not remember Wall. The purpose of his questioning was not clear....

  7. DCF suspends worker who screened Phoebe Jonchuck call; judge may rule Friday on father's competency

    Criminal

    LARGO — The Department of Children and Families has suspended a counselor who screened out an abuse hotline call about John Jonchuck Jr. just 10 days before he dropped his daughter into Tampa Bay last month.

    A state DCF official cited J'Nay Washington for mishandling the call, according to a letter released by the agency Tuesday. Washington spoke Dec. 29 with someone who raised questions about John Jonchuck's living arrangements and who reported that 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck had been hurt in the past. When later asked why she screened out the report, Washington told investigators that she was unable to verify Jonchuck's address....

    A mourner holds a photo of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck with a doll that had been placed in her casket during her funeral service last month at Lake Magdalene Methodist Church in Tampa.
  8. Man defending himself in hopes of getting the death penalty: 'I've been enjoying myself'

    Criminal

    LARGO — Prosecutors finished calling witnesses Tuesday in the second day of a hearing that will help a judge decide whether to sentence double-murderer Craig Wall to death.

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico asked Wall Tuesday morning if he wanted to continue representing himself. Wall said he did, and added "I've been enjoying myself."

    "I figured that you were," Federico deadpanned....

  9. Clearwater man who wants the death penalty represents himself in court

    Criminal

    LARGO — Craig Wall, a Clearwater man who pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend and no contest to murdering his infant child, acted as his own attorney Monday in a hearing to help determine whether he should be executed.

    Prosecutors began arguing to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico that certain "aggravating circumstances" exist that make the death penalty a legally appropriate sentence for Wall. They called five witnesses to testify on Monday and will call more Tuesday....

    Earlier this month, Craig Wall pleaded guilty to charges he stabbed to death his girlfriend, Laura Taft, and no contest to charges of murdering their son, Craig Wall Jr.
  10. Jurors discuss opposing verdicts in Kevin Kyne's two murder trials

    Criminal

    After carefully weighing the evidence, Steven Lohrer and 11 other jurors concluded that Kevin Kyne killed his mother.

    "We didn't feel there was reasonable doubt," he said.

    But that was 2012. Earlier this month, Drew Geiger and five other jurors carefully weighed the evidence in a new trial, and decided Kyne was innocent.

    "He may be a lot of things, but he didn't kill his mother," said Geiger, foreman of the jury. He added, "there's no way you're ever going to convince me" otherwise....

    Kevin Kyne, 25, enters the courtroom in 2012. He was sentenced to life in prison after a second-degree murder conviction.
  11. Lawsuit filed against Clearwater police in fatal motorcycle crash

    Civil

    CLEARWATER — A wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed against the city of Clearwater and the Florida Highway Patrol, saying 27-year-old Keith Williamson died in a motorcycle accident that was the result of a police pursuit.

    Clearwater officials have maintained they did not initiate a police pursuit, although one officer was reprimanded after the accident.

    A police spokesman said Friday the city does not comment on pending litigation....

  12. St. Petersburg man faces murder trial — for the fourth time

    Criminal

    LARGO — After two hung juries and a mistrial, attorneys are gearing up for a fourth murder trial against a St. Petersburg man in a 2011 killing.

    It's more trials for one crime than many local attorneys can remember.

    "We're going to tee it up for the fourth time?" asked Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico during a hearing on Friday.

    Dwayne M. Bailey has been charged with the first-degree murder of Marquell Burge, 30, behind a pool hall called the Game Room, 1149 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S,, St. Petersburg. Prosecutors have said someone called Burge out of the pool hall on the night of the killing, and that Bailey raised a gun and fired into the back of his head....

    Bailey
  13. Surgeon arrested on cocaine possession charge

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG -- A St. Petersburg orthopedic surgeon has been arrested on a charge of cocaine possession.

    Vladimir Alexander and a woman identified as his girlfriend were arrested about 1 a.m. Jan. 24 after getting into a dispute with other patrons at a bar at the Birchwood Hotel, 340 Beach Drive NE. Alexander was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge as well as a felony charge of cocaine possession, stemming from a small plastic vial found in his pocket that contained a white powder, according to police. His girlfriend was arrested on felony charges of cocaine possession and battery on a law enforcement officer. Formal charges have not been filed by the State Attorney's Office....

  14. DCF highlights systemic changes as Jonchuck's mental competency hearing is set

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — If not for a systemic problem and protocol being neglected in the Department of Children and Family hot line call center, Phoebe Jonchuck might still be alive.

    In a hearing Tuesday before a House subcommittee, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said his department has started fixing the problems that resulted in Phoebe's father John Jonchuck never being thoroughly investigated despite two phone calls to a state hot line. On Jan. 8, 5-year-old Phoebe died after being dropped from the Dick Misener Bridge into Tampa Bay, allegedly at the hands of her father....

    In a hearing Tuesday before a House subcommittee, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said his department has started fixing the problems that resulted in Phoebe Jonchuck's father,  John, never being thoroughly investigated despite two phone calls to a state hot line. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  15. New hearing set to determine if Jonchuck is mentally competent

    Criminal

    LARGO — A Feb. 27 hearing has been set to determine whether John Jonchuck has the mental capability to understand the first-degree murder case filed against him after police said he threw his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge and into Tampa Bay.

    If Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger rules Jonchuck is mentally competent, prosecutors can proceed with the case against him.

    If she rules Jonchuck is not mentally competent, then he would be sent to a prison hospital for treatment. Once he regains mental competence, the case against him would resume....