TAMPA — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man accused last year of killing a 9-year-old Tampa girl.
The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty Thursday in a routine court hearing in the case of Granville Ritchie.
Ritchie, 36, is charged with first-degree murder, sexual battery and aggravated child abuse in the death of Felecia Williams, whose body was found May 17 in the waters near the Courtney Campbell Causeway. He has pleaded not guilty....
TAMPA — Tampa police want local businesses to be aware of a rash of robberies that have targeted food delivery drivers in recent months throughout the city.
The robberies — 13 in all — share similar circumstances, though police are unsure if they are being committed by the same people.
"Most of the robberies are taking place in our crime-plagued areas throughout the city," said Deputy Chief Mary O'Connor. "It appears that word is spreading on the street that this is kind of an easy type of crime to commit."...
BRANDON — In the darkness at the end of a straight, tree-lined road, Apryl Foster's car passed through an open metal gate, flashed its turn signal and turned right.
That was how two of Foster's friends described the moments before the car slid down a boat ramp into the waters of Mango Lake, as recorded on a surveillance video from a nearby home.
The video, which sheriff's officials showed to Foster's family and friends after her body was found Sunday, convinced them that the 33-year-old's death was nothing other than an accident. ...
02/21/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Police Chief Jane Castor had problems.
In the span of less than a year, she had fired seven officers at the Tampa Police Department. They included a detective accused of stealing $1,900 in IRS money orders from an evidence room, an officer accused of having sex with a teenage girl he met while working at her school, and a once-respected homicide detective accused in a tax fraud scheme....
02/19/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Police released surveillance images Thursday that show a Brandon woman walking alone in Ybor City last week shortly before she vanished.
A surveillance camera also captured images of Apryl Foster's car heading east on Seventh Avenue in the early morning of Feb. 12. Tampa police held a news conference with Foster's parents to publicize the images with the hope that they might elicit tips....
TAMPA — The way the sunlight fell on an asphalt landscape was all it took to send Veronica Hamilton back to July 6, 2001, when she came upon Tampa police Officer Lois Marrero slumped over in a parking lot.
She still recalls the vivid memories — locking eyes with Marrero as they passed each other in search of two bank robbery suspects, calls coming over her police radio announcing "shots fired," running through the lot and finding Marrero, her friend, dead....
02/16/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Apryl Foster left an Ybor City bar early Thursday, walking alone on Seventh Avenue. No one has heard from her since.
Peggy Beman knew something was wrong hours later when she didn't receive a "good morning" message from her daughter. Foster, 33, always talked to her mother at least twice a day. One message always came in the morning. Another always followed at night.
On Monday, four days since she last heard from her, Beman stood with her husband, Craig, before a line of television cameras at the Tampa Police Department. Sobbing occasionally, they spoke of their daughter as a reliable person who was never out of touch for long....
RIVERVIEW — Keith Dukes was supposed to spend the weekend celebrating his mother's 72nd birthday. She had planned to travel from Georgia to Riverview with his sister. But early Thursday morning, Dukes phoned and told his mother not to bother coming.
On Friday, Dukes was sitting in a Hillsborough County jail, charged with murder. Authorities say he stabbed and shot his wife, Michelle, early Thursday morning in front of the couple's three daughters....
BRANDON — Ten days after a 5-week-old infant arrived at Brandon Hospital with "a multitude" of life-threatening injuries, his mother's boyfriend has been arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.
Matthew Dale Samanie, 24, of Brandon is accused of badly injuring his girlfriend's baby boy, causing dozens of fractures in his ribs and bleeding on his brain, authorities said....
02/10/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn's short list of candidates to be Tampa's next police chief has three names on it: Assistant Chief Eric Ward and Deputy Chiefs Brian Dugan and Mary O'Connor.
There are no external candidates, and Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that he anticipates naming a successor to police Chief Jane Castor within the next month and a half.
"I'm a big believer of promoting from within unless I sense that the culture is broken," he said, but "there's nothing broken about TPD," He said all three candidates have been groomed for responsibility with an awareness that the department was losing senior leadership....
TAMPA — Florida's child welfare agency acknowledged Monday that it failed to protect a 5-year-old girl before she was dropped to her death last month, missing opportunities to respond to concerns for her well-being.
A report issued by the Department of Children and Families concluded that child protection workers twice failed to follow up on calls to the state's abuse hotline in the days before Phoebe Jonchuck was dropped from a St. Petersburg bridge. The report also found that a prior domestic violence call involving Phoebe's parents should have prompted investigators to refer the family to child welfare services....
TAMPA — A fire that destroyed a historic African-American church this week was accidental, Tampa fire officials said Tuesday.
An unspecified mechanical issue is thought to have sparked the blaze at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church, according to Tampa Fire Rescue. The exact cause of the fire was still being investigated.
A preliminary investigative report concluded that the fire started in a space between the second and third floors on the northeast corner of the building, fire officials said....
TAMPA — Investigators are trying to determine what sparked a fire Monday that gutted a historic Tampa church led by the Rev. Henry Lyons, a once-prominent bay area pastor who rebuilt his career there following a four-year prison stint.
A deacon at the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church arrived about 6:30 a.m. and found smoke coming from the two-story building at 405 N Oregon Ave., a few blocks west of the University of Tampa. After a call to 911, firefighters arrived to find flames shooting 30 feet through the roof....
01/31/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — John Bennett likes to use big words.
He talks about "synergy" and "nexus of actionable intelligence." His resume notes that he has a "passion for simplifying complex mission space into actionable outcomes."
The language is a reflection of the man. Bennett, an assistant police chief who has served as Chief Jane Castor's right hand for the past five years, is complicated and calculating. On the 10th floor of Tampa police's downtown headquarters, he pores over color-coded maps of the city, analyzing crime patterns and drawing up action plans. His methods might be part of what has, at times, put him at odds with rank-and-file officers....
TAMPA — A man accused of murder in a Christmas Day shooting has been released from jail after police determined that he didn't do it after all.
Witness statements that implicated another man, as well as a lack of physical evidence, prompted authorities to drop a second-degree murder charge against 19-year-old James Allen Wade. He was released from jail Jan. 9. Tampa police have since worked to expunge the arrest from Wade's criminal record....