A look at the wild animals who live on human turf in Florida's most densely populated county (w/video)07/02/15Wildlife
As an amateur photographer, I like taking pictures of wild animals in nature: alligators in the swamp, eagles on the treetops. But about a year ago, I decided to do the opposite. I picked up my camera and started hunting for wild animals in areas we consider human turf.
Even though humans have paved over miles of natural habitat in the Tampa Bay area, I had started to notice how much wildlife can be found in our subdivisions, roadways and even shopping centers. Humans live in civilization, and wild animals live in nature, but we also overlap....
Tampa Bay Times exclusive: Faulty jury instructions force do-overs in more than 100 murder and attempted murder cases06/27/15Criminal
Rodrigo Bonilla knifed a man for asking if he could spare some change. The bloodied victim staggered into a Homestead discount store and begged a clerk to call police, but he soon collapsed and died. Bonilla was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. A few years later, his sentence was reduced to just 15 years. Why did he get the break? The jury instructions read during his trial contained one faulty phrase. ...
LARGO — A juror in a murder trial has been found guilty of criminal contempt for lying about whether he had done research on the case he was helping to decide.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton on Friday ordered Robert Aronovitz to perform 200 hours of community service. If he does not, he could be sent to the Pinellas County Jail for up to four months.
"It's no small matter what has occurred here Mr. Aronovitz, and its a very, very significant taxpayer expense," Newton said. ...
06/09/15 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — Linda Osmundson, who spent 26 years fighting domestic violence through the organization CASA, announced her retirement this week after the group's board decided not to renew her contract.
Osmundson, who served as CASA's executive director, is one of the best-known advocates for domestic violence victims in the Tampa Bay area. She also has been going through a struggle with her health....
Twelve jurors were discussing whether to convict Ronnie Betts of first-degree murder this week when one of them made a surprising admission: He had searched Betts' name on the Internet the night before.
As a result, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton declared a mistrial and the juror has been ordered back into court for contempt proceedings.
It's the latest example of the difficulty of conducting a trial in the Internet age, and this one will add time and expense for all involved. The trial was well into its second week on Thursday when the mistrial was declared....
05/26/15 Local Government
The official estimates of Pinellas County's overall property values have increased, as expected, by about 6.4 percent this year, a further sign of economic recovery.
Property Appraiser Pam Dubov on Tuesday noted that the estimates indicate the value of new construction in the county has doubled to more than $622 million. "It's a very healthy sign," she said.
Dubov had offered a preview of the numbers earlier this month....
LARGO — A Clearwater man who has been arrested multiple times on child sex charges, and often avoided prison time, has been found guilty of an offense that could put him away for life.
A jury this week found Henry Keith Cavaliere guilty of lewd or lascivious molestation of a 7-year-old girl. It was his second conviction for the same crime. A hearing will be scheduled later for Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews to issue a sentence....
Lawyers on Wednesday were scheduled to conduct oral arguments in an appeal for Jennifer Mee, the woman known as the "Hiccup Girl" who was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder ( tbtim.es/ijw) in the death of Shannon Griffin in St. Petersburg.
The arguments will be held before a three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal, meeting at the Stetson Tampa Law Center. Typically, the court's opinions are issued weeks or months afterward....
After his fourth trial on a murder charge, a jury on Friday found Dwayne M. Bailey guilty of first-degree murder in the death 30-year-old Marquell Burge in 2011 behind a St. Petersburg pool hall.
Bailey was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors have said someone called Burge out of the Game Room, 1149 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S, St. Petersburg, and into a parking lot. And they said Bailey raised a handgun and fired into the back of Burge's head. The motive was not clear....
LARGO — A St. Petersburg man with a lengthy prison record has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering a neighbor at the Palace Mobile Home Park.
A jury on Thursday found Sylvester Johnson, 62, guilty of the first-degree murder of William David Casey, 75.
Johnson had been tried for the same crime last year, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict....
A St. Petersburg man has been convicted of first-degree murder in connection with a 2012 home invasion.
Christopher Roberson, 33, was found guilty late Tuesday of killing Richard Shaw, 41, at his home at 7014 Orpine Drive. Police at the time said four men stormed into the house yelling "police." Inside, they demanded money and drugs, and shot Shaw in front of his adult son.
Roberson has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole....
Pinellas criminal defense attorney Kelly McCabe received a sanction on Friday from Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal for her handling of three appeals.
"We hope that Ms. McCabe's failure to comply with our orders reflects more on her lack of training and her limited competence as an appellate attorney and less on any intent to willfully disobey this court," the order from a three-judge panel said....
"Something is not right, this is insane," John Jonchuck tells St. Petersburg police in a video-recorded interview clip released this week to the Tampa Bay Times.
He made the comment on Jan. 8, the same day he was accused of killing his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, by dropping her off the Dick Misener Bridge and into Tampa Bay.
The 25-year-old father seems to be referring to the way he is being treated, not to the horrifying crime he is accused of committing....
A jury on Friday found 65-year-old James Ellul not guilty of murdering his neighbor in the Lealman area in 2013.
Pinellas Sheriff's officials said at the time that Ellul got into a fight with neighbor Jerold Lester Jr., 55, at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park, 7403 46th Ave. N. They said Ellul was mad over the noise from Lester's motorcycle, and that he got into an argument with Lester and stabbed him to death....
ST. PETERSBURG — The officer trained his pistol at the man in pajamas, the one who'd been speeding before coming to a halt and flinging open his door.
"Get back in the car!" the officer shouted. "Get back in the car!"
"You have no free will," the man said. He walked behind his car, holding a black book, and opened a rear door.
"Let me see your hands!" the officer yelled....