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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. Better watch Saul: Why Tampa Bay lawyers love devious attorney from 'Breaking Bad'

    The Feed

    Jot down every negative lawyer stereotype you can think of: greedy, arrogant, double-talking, backstabbing. Keep going, there's more.

    Now, cue the twangy theme music to TV's Breaking Bad. Because the list you compiled amounts to a character sketch of Saul Goodman, the show's deliciously devious strip-mall attorney who is getting his own show, Better Call Saul, premiering Feb. 8 and 9 on AMC....

    One of the T-shirts Clearwater attorney Kevin Hayslett had made up. (Courtesy of Kevin Hayslett)
  2. New evaluation ordered for father accused of throwing daughter, 5, off bridge

    Criminal

    LARGO — A judge on Thursday authorized an additional mental health evaluation for John Jonchuck, the man accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter by throwing her off a bridge this month near the Sunshine Skyway.

    Jonchuck's mental state will likely be a key feature of the legal proceedings against him, following a horrifying crime that attracted media attention around the country. The new evaluation is one more step in that process....

    Mourners hold a photo of Phoebe Jonchuck with a doll that was in her casket during a Jan. 14 memorial serivce and viewing. Her father, John Jonchuck (inset), is accused of dropping her off a bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway.
  3. Jury recommends death for Largo man who killed 2-year-old

    Criminal

    LARGO -- A jury has recommended that a Largo man be executed for killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

    Although the jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty for Joel Adrian Cruz, it is Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone who will decide whether to impose the sentence. That's a process that often takes a few months.

    If Bulone does not choose the death penalty, Cruz would be given life in prison without the possibility of parole....

  4. Jury will consider death penalty after finding Largo man guilty of murdering 2-year-old

    Criminal

    LARGO — A jury on Thursday convicted a Largo man of first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old child.

    Next week Joel Adrian Cruz will begin a second phase of his trial, as a jury considers whether to recommend the death penalty.

    The girl, Ananhie Fernandez, was beaten repeatedly in Largo in May 2013. When her mother discovered the girl's condition, she asked Cruz to rush her to the hospital. But Cruz balked, making excuses, and finally asking if she was going to "snitch" on him, the girl's mother said during the trial....

  5. Pinellas man facing death penalty in killing of 2-year-old girl

    Criminal

    LARGO — When Karina Mora saw that her 2-year-old daughter had somehow gotten seriously injured, she knew she had to act fast. She asked her boyfriend to drive her to All Children's Hospital.

    But for some reason, Joel Adrian Cruz did not show the same urgency, Mora said in court on Wednesday. Cruz didn't want to drive to the hospital. Then he got in his van with Mora and the girl, but turned toward a different hospital. Then he stopped at a gas station, because he said the engine was overheating....

    Joel Adrian Cruz is accused of beating his girlfriend’s daughter to death in May 2013.
  6. What's up with Charlie Crist? Jury duty

    Blog

    Former Gov. Charlie Crist showed up at the Pinellas County Justice Center on Wednesday morning for an official purpose: jury duty.

    He was in a jury assembly room with dozens of other prospective jurors. It was too early to know if he would be selected to hear a case.

    There were no especially high-profile trials on schedule for Wednesday at the 49th Street courthouse where criminal trials are held. The murder trial of Joel Adrian Cruz was underway, but that jury had been selected the day before....

  7. Charlie Crist at Pinellas courthouse for jury duty

    Politics

    LARGO — Former Gov. Charlie Crist showed up at the Pinellas County Justice Center on Wednesday morning for an official purpose: jury duty.

    He was in a jury assembly room with dozens of other prospective jurors. It was too early to know if he would be selected to hear a case.

    There were no especially high-profile trials on schedule for Wednesday at the 49th Street courthouse where criminal trials are held. The murder trial of Joel Adrian Cruz was underway, but that jury had been selected the day before....

  8. Teenager pleads guilty to random murder of passerby in Clearwater

    Criminal

    LARGO — In a surprise move, a teenager pleaded guilty on Tuesday to brutally and inexplicably killing a young man passing by on a bicycle.

    Mychal King, who is 17 years old now and was 15 at the time of the crime, admitted in court that he killed Jason Paul, 22, stabbing him repeatedly in January 2013.

    "I was shocked," said Paul's mother Renee Langfritz, who attended the Tuesday morning court hearing but had no idea King intended to plead guilty....

  9. Violent offender unit arrests 30 in Pinellas

    Public Safety

    30 felony arrests in south Pinellas

    Pinellas Sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement agencies arrested 30 people in southern Pinellas county on Thursday, in an effort to get violent suspects off the streets.

    "Operation Street Sweep" went for 12 hours, targeting 401 people with outstanding felony warrants.

    The people who were arrested had warrants for crimes that included aggravated battery, drug trafficking, drug possession, lewd and lascivious conduct, armed burglary and domestic battery by strangulation....

  10. USF St. Pete, Rowdies partner to upgrade campus recreational field

    College

    ST. PETERSBURG — The University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rowdies are collaborating to transform a recreational soccer field on the downtown campus into a professional-grade playing space.

    The half-block field is on Third Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues S, across the street from the university bookstore. For years, it has served as a casual green space where students play intramural soccer, flag football and pick-up Frisbee....

    An intramural sports field at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg is getting an upgrade to become the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ practice field. It’s a collaboration between the university and the soccer team that will transform the rec field into a professional-grade playing space. The grassy space is located at Third Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues S, across the street from the university bookstore.
  11. Prosecutors get indictment, will seek death penalty in Tarpon Springs officer murder

    Criminal

    Officer's killer now charged with murder

    Marco Antonio Parilla Jr. was indicted by a grand jury on Friday in the killing of Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek last month.

    The indictment means Parilla is formally charged with first-degree murder. Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said it was an important step forward in prosecuting a crime that never should have happened....

    Parilla
  12. Eckerd College students found girl, 5, who was dropped off bridge by father

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — From the moment that four Eckerd College students and a staff member piloted a 26-foot boat into Tampa Bay early Thursday, the team had one focus: Rescue the girl.

    Shortly after midnight, the call came from Pinellas County 911 dispatch that help was needed for a water rescue. The trained student volunteers were contacted, so they could meet at a dock in the middle of the night....

    Ryan Dilkey, coordinator of Eckerd College's search and rescue team, led efforts to recover 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck after the girl was thrown off a bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway. Dilkey is near the Dick Misener Bridge from which John Jonchuck dropped his daughter, police said. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]
  13. Police: Girl, 5, dead after father drops her from Sunshine Skyway approach

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — John Jonchuck Jr. cradled his 5-year-old daughter, pressing her face to his chest, and walked to the edge of the bridge.

    He leaned over the railing, Tampa Bay looming 62 feet below early on a cold and windy Thursday morning.

    A police officer, gun drawn, yelled at him to stop.

    But Jonchuck let go, authorities said.

    The officer heard a scream and then a splash, the girl's body quickly disappearing into the dark moonlit waters....

    The body of Phoebe Jonchuck, 5, was found by a search team from Eckerd College after John Jonchuck dropped her from the Dick Misener Bridge, according to police.
  14. Same-sex weddings continue Wednesday, but at a slower pace

    Human Interest

    County clerks continued issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday, but without quite as many jubilant newlyweds as the historic day before.

    In Pinellas County clerk's offices, officials issued 33 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and performed 14 ceremonies Wednesday, compared with 67 licenses and 24 ceremonies the day before.

    They also were feeling pleased that things had gone so smoothly Tuesday, the first day same-sex marriages were allowed statewide....

    Erin Bell and her partner, Andrea DeFelippo, both of St. Petersburg, were the first gay couple to be married in Pinellas County on Tuesday at the Pinellas County Courthouse in St. Petersburg. Both exchanged rings and kisses after the ceremony. 
  15. Same-sex couples around Tampa Bay line up to get married and make history

    Courts

    TAMPA — Before she presided over a mass wedding ceremony Tuesday, Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank asked the dozens of gay couples how many years they had waited for the moment.

    "Ten!'

    "Twenty-six!''

    "Forty-three!''

    "Forty three!" said Frank. "Well, you have waited a long time."

    No longer. At that park in Tampa and across Florida, wedding bells rang for same-sex couples, the result of a successful court challenge to the state's 2008 ban on gay marriages....

    Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank, right, marries Brenda Cuevas, left, and Shirley Winslow at the Hillsborough Circuit Court office Tuesday in Tampa. Many couples were married in a mass ceremony in Tampa’s Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park.