Danielle Paquette, Times Staff Writer

Danielle Paquette

Danielle Paquette is a general assignment reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. A graduate of Indiana University, she has previously written for the Los Angeles Times and CNN.com.

Phone: (727) 445-4224

Email: dpaquette@tampabay.com

Twitter: @DPAQreport

  1. Grand Prix of St. Petersburg loses Honda as main sponsor

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Honda has unexpectedly pulled out as sponsor of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a stunning move that has race organizers scrambling for a new one just five months before the race.

    Honda, which had sponsored the race for nine years, pulled out last week, race president Tim Ramsberger announced Friday.

    "To say we're surprised is an understatement," Ramsberger said. "It's a tough thing to experience but I don't think it'll damper the race. It won't affect us going forward."...

    Officials from Honda, a race sponsor for nine years, did not explain the dropout.
  2. Grudgingly, St. Petersburg High moves to an early-morning graduation at the Trop

    K12

    ST. PETERSBURG — Declan Abernethy first visited St. Petersburg High School's Stewart Field at age 2. His father, then an English teacher, often carried him to home football games.

    "I grew up there," he said.

    Abernethy — now a 17-year-old senior — was outraged by the school's recent decision to move graduation to Tropicana Field, breaking an 88-year tradition on Stewart Field's hallowed ground. So he started a petition Tuesday and began gathering signatures....

    Gloria Vazquez, 18, right, tries to stay dry at St. Petersburg High School’s commencement at Stewart Field.
  3. Hiccup girl Jennifer Mee denied new trial

    Courts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley on Thursday denied "Hiccup Girl" Jennifer Mee's motion for a new trial after she was found guilty last month of first-degree murder.

    Mee's lawyers claimed Ley erred in matters of jury instructions and said new evidence had surfaced about a key witness in the case. But, according to the judge's order, "the defense could not produce a single witness or piece of evidence to support the allegations."...

  4. Teens enjoy 'Evening Under the Stars' at All Children's Hospital

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Audra Dick started Saturday like any other day, with vitamins and steroids and oral chemotherapy.

    She brushed her light brown, shoulder-length hair — thinned by the drug regimen — and imagined it in loose waves. Or an up-do.

    Like many high schoolers, the 17-year-old was getting ready for her homecoming dance. There would be a red carpet, a photo booth, pink punch and white rose corsages. Limos would be parked outside, while a DJ spun Top 40 remixes inside....

    Natalie Catalano, 14, who has cerebral palsy, gets help and a hug from her mother, Julie, as she gets out of a donated limo ride. At left is His & Hers driver Jerry Morgan.
  5. Fans root for Rays in an array of ways

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — She painted her nails blue, fastened her "TB" earrings and slid her right hand into the lucky cat puppet.

    Janet Newberry Howe, 60, donned her Trop uniform Tuesday evening to cosmically support a Tampa Bay Rays' win.

    "I was wearing this when we came back from 7-0 two years ago," she said, waving the "D.J. Kitty" glove. "Now I bring him to every game."

    Newberry Howe, who runs a St. Petersburg antique shop, said her mother was a Rays season ticket holder. She has long loved the team, the underdogs. In 2011, after Evan Longoria hit the game-changing home run, a Sports Illustrated photographer snapped her pumping D.J. Kitty into the air....

    Chowing down: Danny Garcia of Okeechobee, left, and brother Chris of Wesley Chapel eat ribs in the parking lot outside Tropicana Field before Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox.
  6. Acute hysteria, ugly reality of Beanie Babies

    Human Interest

    My first Beanie Baby was Snort the Bull. He perched on my Chicago grandparents' television in 1997, a wee homage to Michael Jordan's then-untouchable basketball team.

    He was, to 8-year-old me, a symbol of hometown and family and comfort. He was there when we gathered to watch NBA championships and Space Jam. He was there to greet me when, years later, I visited from Indianapolis. He was a memory I could cuddle. ...

    H. Ty Warner created the Beanie Babies craze in the 1990s, convincing collectors that mint-condition toys would appreciate wildly. They didn’t, and Warner faces his own not-so-precious reality: a $53 million IRS tab.
Time Life Pictures  /  Getty Images (1996)
  7. Pinellas GOP official says he won't resign after cancer comment

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — Though GOP officials are calling on him to step down, Pinellas Republican Party state committeeman Dan Tucker said Tuesday he refuses to resign after his Facebook comment about County Commissioner John Morroni's health drew local vitriol.

    "They're going to have to kick me out," he said.

    Last week, Tucker posted via social media a disparaging remark about Morroni's decision to endorse Darden Rice, a Democrat, for St. Petersburg City Council....

    Dan Tucker refuses to resign his state committee position despite urging from local Republican leaders.
  8. Two dead in Clearwater after personal watercraft collides with tour boat

    Accidents

    CLEARWATER — Two people on a personal watercraft died Saturday evening after colliding with a tour boat near the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge.

    Around 6:10 p.m., about an hour before sunset, a 51-year-old man and a 49-year-old woman on a rented personal watercraft crashed into a double-deck tour boat on a dolphin-sighting cruise, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating....

  9. Pinellas GOP official's cancer comment on Facebook stirs outrage

    Politics

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Republican Party State Committeeman Dan Tucker disagreed with County Commissioner John Morroni's decision to endorse Darden Rice, a Democrat, for St. Petersburg City Council.

    After someone shared an article about the endorsement on Facebook Thursday, Tucker replied: "Doesn't he have cancer of the brain … hmmm?"

    The comment, referencing Morroni's battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, outraged some Tampa Bay officials. ...

    Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma five years ago. He said he “almost fell off my chair” after reading Dan Tucker’s comment.
  10. St. Pete council passes budget — but not without debate

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council voted 5-3 Thursday to adopt a new city budget that will grant a slight raise to city employees for the first time in four years

    The pay increase — 2 percent is on the table — will apply to all workers in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, officials said.

    But a $300,000 expenditure change elsewhere provoked argument.

    Council members Jim Kennedy, Bill Dudley and Leslie Curran dissented, disagreeing with a seemingly last-minute decision to amend Mayor Bill Foster's $211 million general fund proposal by allocating an additional $100,000 to the city's after-school internship program, $20,000 to social services and $180,000 to be potentially split among neighborhood and street revitalization projects at a future workshop....

  11. Krispy Kreme lights St. Petersburg's only HOT NOW sign

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The "hot now" light is on.

    The newest store in the Krispy Kreme chain officially opened at 6 a.m. Thursday at 9100 Fourth St. N.

    About 75 people had lined up by the time the doors were unlocked for a chance at free doughnuts. Fifty of the first to enter earned a free dozen every month for a year. The first in line, Richard Coley, 61, will get a free dozen every week for the next 52 weeks....

    A line of customers waits outside of the new Krispy Kreme store early Thursday morning on Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg.
  12. Fast food aficionado first in line at new St. Pete Krispy Kreme

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The man in aviator spectacles, black basketball shorts and a Chick-fil-A T-shirt reclined in his fold-out chair and flipped lightly, leisurely through a spy novel.

    Four hours had passed since Richard Coley, 62, arrived outside Krispy Kreme's newest store at 9100 Fourth St. N on Wednesday.

    He was relaxed, ignoring his digital watch. Enjoying the unusually cool breeze on this late September evening, the clean smell that comes after days of rain. ...

  13. Two children pulled from submerged car near Sawgrass Lake Elementary

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — The stay-at-home mother was walking her 7-year-old son home from school Tuesday, a daily trek of about three blocks, when she heard tires screeching. A piercing crash. Someone screaming.

    Michele Mason, who lives on 17th Way N, told her boy to go inside. She ran to the canal near 1735 77th Ave. N and saw two cars submerged. One had flipped over and sank upside-down in the murky water, which was about 6 feet deep. A 9-year-old boy bobbed near the wreckage....

  14. Largo woman dies three weeks after being struck on tandem bicycle

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — The doctors said she may never wake up. But if the young woman opened her eyes, she would not recognize her loved ones. She could not kayak or bike with the sea breeze or teach the Bible to children at summer camp.

    So, on Friday night, 27-year-old Hilary Michalak's family gathered in her hospital room to say good-bye.

    "I'll always have two sisters," the youngest, 23-year-old Mallory, told her. "I love you."...

    Hilary Michalak was riding a tandem bike in Clearwater when hit. Her boyfriend died that day.
  15. Man who streaked onto Tropicana Field is serial prankster

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — As three security guards drag him away, the 19-year-old man in black tennis shoes and tight, dirt-streaked underwear smiles.

    The crowd at Tropicana Field cheers.

    Texas Rangers players in the dugout slap their knees, laughing.

    It's just another misdemeanor charge for Charles Ross, an amateur daredevil from Bradenton. Another YouTube video in his series of law-defying antics. ...

    And ... he's off to jail.