TAMPA — The brown dog with the black face stood panting, his eyes darting around the room at dozens of faces and camera lenses. On one side of him was a U.S. Air Force flag. On the other, an American flag, and his handler, Staff Sgt. Shannon Hutto, who held tight to a leash secured to a harness bearing the words "K-9 Unit."
Friday was the last official day on the job for Eddie, the 5-year-old Belgian Malinois who, in his nearly half a decade as a military working dog, became one of the most famous faces at MacDill Air Force Base, earning the reputation of a hero....
TAMPA — In late February, Richard Hettinga trekked from his home in Palmetto to Tampa International Airport for a trip to Alaska. He had never flown out of there before, and when he arrived to catch his early morning flight he parked his Ford F-150 pickup truck in the long-term parking garage.
One long journey later, he returned Sunday night to find himself stuck with a parking bill for $624 — the sum total of the $16 daily fees for the 39 days he was gone. Hettinga, 63, a retired carpenter who lives on a fixed income, had less than $100 in his pocket and no way to pay the bill until a Social Security deposit came Wednesday....
TAMPA — Police are investigating a shooting that happened early Wednesday at a Marathon gas station in East Tampa.
Gregory Vaulx Jr., 28, and Kenneth Mosley, 55, began arguing about 8 a.m. at the station at 3745 N 50th St., police said.
Mosley was inside the station and Vaulx was outside, blocking the door with his bicycle, according to police.
The argument turned into a fight, and bystanders called police. Mosley pulled a gun before the two men began to struggle with each other, police said. At some point, the gun went off....
TAMPA — Police are investigating after a set of mutilated animals were found Tuesday on the side of a South Tampa street. Someone called Tampa police after finding the animals about noon near the corner of Manhattan Place and Fairview Heights, officials said. The animals — a goat, a lamb, and three chickens — all had their heads cut off, police said. The heads were lying next to the bodies. "We're investigating whether it was some sort of ritualistic activity," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis....
04/04/14 Economic Development
TAMPA — When movie makers train their lenses on Tampa Bay, the region's tourism economy will feel it.
That was the theme of a ceremony held Friday in the lobby of the Tampa Theatre to mark the official relaunch of the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.
Standing on a stage amid a bright spotlight in the historic building's lobby, business and political leaders touted film as a potential boon for the region....
BRANDON — The pastor of a Spanish-language church in Brandon is facing sex crimes charges after authorities said he had inappropriate contact with three female parishioners, including two minors.
Francisco Rios, 44, the lead pastor at the Casa de Amor church on Windhorst Road in Brandon, was arrested early Friday on three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office began investigating Rios in August after two girls, ages 12 and 17, and a woman, 43, came forward alleging that Rios had touched them in an inappropriate manner on separate occasions, authorities said....
TAMPA — Police were investigating two separate shootings that happened late Wednesday night in the Sulphur Springs and Rowlett Park areas of Tampa.
The first shooting happened about 9:22 p.m. inside the Garden Terrace apartment complex at 8725 Del Rey Court, police said. A man, whose identity was not disclosed, was loitering in the complex when someone shot him multiple times in his arm and wrist, according to a news release....
RIVERVIEW — A Gibsonton woman whose nude body was found in January behind a Riverview shopping plaza was the victim of a homicide, according to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner.
An autopsy and toxicology examination after the Jan. 18 death of 21-year-old Meaghan E. Casady revealed she was intentionally killed, the medical examiner's office said Monday. But authorities did not disclose her exact cause of death....
PLANT CITY — Joe Vizcarrondo Sr. braced for it every day his son was overseas. He came to expect that the Marines would arrive one day bearing the news he feared most — that his son wasn't coming home.
For the five years Joe Vizcarrondo Jr. fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom, his father waited for that knock at his door. But it never came. And when his boy came back home, the father's mind was eventually put at ease....
TAMPA — A man wanted in a fatal shooting in Sulphur Springs last week was arrested Tuesday night in Polk County.
Johnson Louis, 18, had been sought on a warrant for second-degree murder in the March 20 death of Keith J. Jones, 35, who was gunned down in front of a home at 8108 N Semmes St.
Louis and Jones got into an argument early that morning as Jones stood in the driveway of the home. At some point, Louis pulled a gun and shot Jones, according to Tampa police....
TAMPA — A Thonotosassa man was arrested Sunday on multiple sex crime charges after a boy and a girl told deputies he had molested them years ago.
Eugene James McMinn, 44, was arrested on warrants charging him with two counts each of sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation.
Between 2005 and 2008, McMinn repeatedly performed sex acts on a boy and a girl who were ages 9 and 5 respectively when the abuse began, according to deputies. The children knew McMinn but were not related to him, authorities said....
WESLEY CHAPEL — A man led deputies from Hillsborough and Pasco counties on a chase early Monday, authorities said, temporarily closing an interstate and drawing the attention of a SWAT team before he was arrested in Wesley Chapel.
The chase began about 1 a.m. when Matthew Ryan Trevino, 28, of Ruskin hit a car with his Dodge Ram pickup on Interstate 75 near Adamo Drive in Brandon and fled north, Hillsborough officials said....
TAMPA — A man was jailed Wednesday after he tried to hire an undercover officer to kill his girlfriend, according to Tampa police.
Anthony Rodriguez, 41, met with the undercover detective Tuesday and offered $1,000 for the killing, police said. He also showed the detective the girlfriend's Facebook page and noted details.
The pair met again Wednesday afternoon at Al Lopez Park in Tampa to further discuss the transaction, police said. In the second meeting, Rodriguez gave the detective 39 hydrocodone pills to sell and suggested that the proceeds could be used to buy a gun to kill her, police said....
TAMPA — A medical examiner's report in the second of two fatal wrong-way crashes in February shows the driver was drunk when his car collided with a truck on Interstate 275.
Chase Kaleb Leveille's blood-alcohol level at the time of the Feb. 21 collision was 0.21, according to the report released Thursday. Under Florida law, a driver is considered impaired with a level of 0.08 or greater. He also had a small amount of marijuana in his blood, the report stated....
TAMPA — Ever since sisters Victoria and Norma Velasquez-Cabrera came to the United States from their native Honduras with their mother last year, they worked hard in pursuit of their respective dreams.
Victoria, 14, wants to become a dentist. Norma, 15, wants to travel the country, seeing big cities and places like Disney World.
The sisters were learning English. They were studying hard at Middleton High School. They were making the best of life in their new home after their mother, Victoria Velasquez, sought to escape violence in their native country....