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Dan Sullivan, Times Staff Writer

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan covers breaking news and general assignment stories for the Tampa Bay Times. His reporting often focuses on law enforcement and criminal justice issues. Since joining the Times in 2010, he has covered everything from fugitive monkeys and stolen swine to burning buildings and Florida's death row. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, he is a 2006 graduate of the University of Tampa, where he earned a degree in writing with a focus in journalism.

Phone: (813) 226-3386

Email: dsullivan@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TimesDan

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  1. Judge dismisses criminal charges against fired Tampa police sergeant

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge has dismissed criminal charges against a former Tampa police sergeant accused of stealing food stamps from a jail inmate, agreeing she could not be held responsible since she had no intent to commit a crime.

    Circuit Judge Samantha Ward granted a defense attorney's motion to throw out the case against La Joyce Houston, 48, who was fired last year after her arrest.

    Houston was facing charges of food stamp fraud and grand theft. In 2013, she bought more than $300 in groceries with an electronic benefits transfer — or EBT — card belonging to Rita Girven, her personal friend and a longtime police informer....

    Rita Girven, who maintained a personal relationship with La Joyce Houston for several years, was also a longtime confidential informant for the Tampa Police Department. She remains jailed on food stamp fraud and grand theft and other charges. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Attorney for fired Tampa police sergeant seeks dismissal of criminal charges

    Criminal

    TAMPA — An attorney for a former Tampa police sergeant accused of stealing food stamps allocated to a jail inmate wants a judge to dismiss the case.

    The reason? La Joyce Houston didn't know it was a crime to use another person's welfare funds.

    Houston, who was fired from the department last year after her arrest, bought more than $300 in groceries with an electronic benefits transfer — or EBT — card belonging to Rita Girven, her personal friend and a longtime police informer. ...

    Former Tampa cop La Joyce Houston is accused of welfare fraud.
  3. Tampa police close LSD investigation with no answers about tainted meat

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before Elyana Serrano threw up, her sister Rayna was laughing and trying to grab colors out of the air. When Ronnie Morales looked at his hand, he saw several other hands jutting from his wrist. His pregnant girlfriend, Jessica Rosado, couldn't feel her fingers or toes.

    Doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital suspected the family of four had been poisoned when they all showed up there in March. They summoned Tampa police, who tested cuts of steak the family had for lunch. The results showed it was tainted with LSD....

  4. Highway Patrol amends report that misidentified driver in Sept. 7 wrong-way crash

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol corrected a report Wednesday that misidentified the driver in a Sept. 7 wrong-way crash that killed three people on Interstate 275.

    The agency now says Lakritra Lanier was the driver of a Honda sedan that slammed into a semitrailer early that morning, killing her and her sister, Gabrielle Lanier, and their friend, John Pierson.

    Previously, troopers mistakenly said that Gabrielle, 33, was the driver and that when the crash happened, she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08. Their revised report names Lakritra, 31, as the driver and notes it was she who had the 0.17 blood-alcohol level, not her sister....

    The car’s driver Lakritra R. Lanier, left, 31, of Tampa, and passengers Gabrielle Lanier  of Tampa, and John Lee Pierson, 26, of Riverview, all died at the scene.
  5. Tampa police solicit vendor bids for body-mounted cameras

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The Tampa Police Department is soliciting vendor bids to outfit 60 officers with body cameras, with a goal of eventually providing them to all 750 officers who patrol the city.

    A request for proposals, filed late last month with the city's purchasing department, outlines plans for the cameras, which will be used to keep records of officer interactions with citizens.

    The department will purchase the first 60 from a selected vendor and distribute 20 each to the city's three patrol districts, Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said. The first cameras will be issued to officers on Jan. 1....

    The Tampa Police Department is taking bids to eventually equip all 750 officers with body cameras like the one shown above on a Minneapolis officer.
  6. Data shows wrong-way crashes aren't a new phenomenon in Tampa Bay (w/video)

    Accidents

    TAMPA — In February, four University of South Florida fraternity brothers died after a wrong-way driver slammed into their car on Interstate 275. Two weeks later, a man driving the wrong way in the same area killed himself when he smashed into a box truck. In August, another man died in a wrong-way crash on the same highway. Four more people died in two crashes the following month.

    The deadly collisions on Tampa Bay area interstates — six in all, claiming 11 lives — drew national attention and much speculation as to causes. Experts weighed in with theories. Law enforcement stepped up patrols in an effort to prevent them. ...

    Chase Kaleb Leveille of Riverview died in this wrong-way crash on I-275 in February.
  7. Wife of slain Tampa officer sues his mother over pension

    Civil

    TAMPA — The widow of a murdered Tampa police corporal is squaring off against her late husband's mother, seeking control of his pension benefits.

    Cindy Roberts, the wife of Cpl. Mike Roberts who was gunned down in the line of duty in 2009, says her husband's pension funds should go to their son, Adam, who was 3 years old when his father was killed. But those funds stand to be inherited by her mother-in-law, Brenda Roberts....

    Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts was shot to death while on duty in 2009.
  8. Coming Sunday: Times study finds wrong-way driving astonishingly common

    Accidents

    TAMPA — In February, four University of South Florida fraternity brothers died after a wrong-way driver slammed into their car on Interstate 275. Two weeks later, a man driving the wrong way in the same area killed himself when he smashed into a box truck. In August, another man died in a wrong-way crash on the same highway. Four more people died in two crashes the following month.

    The deadly collisions on Tampa Bay area interstates — six in all, which claimed 11 lives — drew national attention and much speculation as to causes. Experts weighed in with theories. Law enforcement stepped up patrols in an effort to prevent them. ...

    n the early morning of Jan. 31, a red Jeep drove the wrong way on Interstate 75 near Ruskin, smashing into a Toyota Camry before sideswiping a Ford Expedition. The Jeep's driver, Daniel Storlien, had several prior arrests for DUI and was later found to be driving drunk when the crash happened. It was one of about 30 wrong-way incidents that have occurred on Tampa Bay area interstates in the last four years. [Photos courtesy of Rodney Williams]
  9. Pastor of Wimauma church accused of molesting girl decades ago

    Crime

    A pastor at a Wimauma church is facing a sexual battery charge after a woman said that he molested her decades ago, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Patrick Haford Shiver, 72, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of capital sexual battery.

    The victim told investigators that Shiver, who is a pastor at Casa de Dios church, repeatedly performed sex acts on her between 30 and 40 years ago, sheriff's officials said. The woman was younger than 11 when the acts first happened and they continued when she was a teenager, authorities said....

  10. Tampa man accused of shooting neighbor arrested in south Florida

    Crime

    A man accused of shooting his neighbor after the neighbor's dog defecated in his yard was arrested Friday in south Florida.

    Joshame Deon Sewell, 20, had been on the run since Oct. 24, when he shot Donte Roberson, 30, according to Tampa police. Roberson's dog defecated in the yard of Sewell's home at 9409 N 12th St., prompting an argument that ended with Sewell firing several shots from a rifle, police said....

  11. Political mailers disclose voting histories, prompting complaints

    Elections

    An election flier caught Annie Miller's eye after it found its way to her mailbox Thursday. Addressed to her stepson, Jeremy Matson, who had moved out of state, it bore the bold headline: "Jeremy, why haven't you voted yet?"

    Below that was a list of seven of Matson's former neighbors at a St. Petersburg apartment building along with their respective addresses. And next to each name was a notation of whether they had voted in the elections of 2010 and 2012....

    Fliers mailed by Citizens for a Better Florida list the voting records of the recipient’s neighbors.
  12. For Tampa detective, tracking sex offenders is a day's work

    Crime

    TAMPA — The black car pulls up the short dirt road just before 2 p.m., trailing a cloud of dust. Behind the wheel, John Guzina peers through black sunglasses at the rows of sun-drenched mobile homes, then gazes at a handful of papers bearing mug shots and a list of names.

    The photos are of sex offenders. Five of them live here in the East Broadway Trailer Park on Tampa's eastern edge. On Tuesday afternoon, three days before Halloween, Guzina is visiting them, reminding them that officers will be out in force, and warning them to stay away from trick-or-treaters....

    John Guzina is one of two Tampa police detectives monitoring designated sex offenders and predators who reside within the city limits. It’s his everyday job, and Guzina says it’s personal for him. 
  13. Remains of woman missing since May 2013 found in Tampa

    Crime

    TAMPA — The remains of a mother of five who vanished nearly 18 months ago have been found, but the mystery of just how she died is yet unanswered.

    The discovery Saturday by Tampa police brings some relief to family members who have searched for Misti Whitfield, 35, her stepfather said. But questions about how and why she disappeared linger.

    Whitfield was last seen alive about 10 p.m. May 2, 2013, walking near 5525 W Hillsborough Ave., north of Tampa International Airport. Police officials declined to say Thursday where and how her remains were found....

    Officials can’t determine how Misti Whitfield died.
  14. Tampa officer recounts stopping wrong-way driver

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — A pair of headlights shone through the windshield of Tampa police Officer John Stanjeski's patrol car early Sunday morning as he headed south on Interstate 275. He was in the fast lane near Howard Avenue, heading home from an off-duty job in Ybor City, when the black Nissan barreled toward him at about 45 mph.

    With less than a second to think about what was happening, Stanjeski swerved into the center lane, barely escaping a head-on collision....

    Officer John Stanjeski faced the driver on I-275 near Howard Avenue.
  15. Second man arrested in robbery that forced lockdown at Tampa schools

    Crime

    Tampa

    2nd suspect arrested in dollar store robbery

    A second man accused of robbing a Family Dollar store in Seminole Heights this week, forcing nearby schools into lockdown, was arrested Thursday, Tampa police said.

    Joshua Antwon Jackson, 23, faces multiple robbery, theft and kidnapping charges related to the Tuesday morning robbery at the store at 5100 N Florida Ave. ...