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John Woodrow Cox, Times Staff Writer

John Woodrow Cox

John Woodrow Cox, with the Times since 2011, is a general assignment reporter in Pinellas County. He covers an array of topics, producing dailies, investigations and features. He also writes the "Dispatches from Next Door" series for Floridian magazine.

He recently won first and second prize in the Society for Features Journalism's Short Feature category. A package of his 2013 stories also was named a finalist for Scripps Howard's Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Storytelling.

He graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor of science in journalism and a master of science in management. In the spring, he worked as an adjunct at UF's College of Journalism and Communications, where he taught a course in narrative writing.

Email or call him to suggest a story idea.

Phone: (727) 893-8472


Twitter: @JohnWoodrowCox

  1. Who is Marilyn Mosby? Freddie Gray prosecutor comes from family steeped in policing (w/video)


    BALTIMORE — Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby walked down the steps of the Baltimore War Memorial on Friday morning and — with a vigor seldom seen from officials handling the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death — made a stunning announcement to a crowd of reporters: The officers involved in his arrest would be charged.

    Almost as stunning: Mosby is just 35 and has been on the job for less than four months....

    Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announces that criminal charges will be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015.  [Getty Images]
  2. Dispatches from Next Door: Burn survivor's words are the balm that soothe

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — “Joe Versaggi," he said, lightly bumping fists with the young man in the hospital bed. "Burn survivor."

    Kris Ward, 20, looked at Joe as people almost always do at first. His mouth open and eyes reckoning, he studied the splotchy, pocked canvas stretched tautly across Joe's face. He saw a head on which hair can no longer grow and a pair of ears that resemble chipped seashells....

    Joe Versaggi, 71, has always loved to fly. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and flew on hundreds of death-defying missions that he survived. But eight years ago, the Cessna a friend was flying crashed and left Joe with burns covering 35 percent of his body. He now volunteers at Tampa General Hospital, where he splits his time between driving the courtesy shuttle and talking to the survivors in the burn unit.
  3. In hardscrabble Homosassa, scallop shucking is a living

    Human Interest


    The cavalcade of tourists rolled in for hours. Their beers iced and children lotioned, they drove through archways of mossy oaks and beneath an aging water tower that in faded letters advertised "Old Homosassa, est. 1835." They wound past Neon Leon's Zydeco Steakhouse and the First Baptist Church and the limestone ruins of the Yulee Sugar Mill. By 11 a.m. July 6, a line of SUVs and extended-cab pickups, their boats in tow, reached beyond the length of a football field from a ramp that sloped into the Homosassa River. Almost all had come for the same reason: scallops....

    Nikki Cummings, 26, Cletis Huggins’ girlfriend, wears a protective glove, her fingertips wrapped in tape, to clean scallops.
  4. LOL: Florida's texting law is a joke


    As Gov. Rick Scott grinned and uncapped his familiar blue Sharpie, a crowd of students at the Miami high school cheered.

    "We must do everything we can at the state level," he had told them, "to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe."

    At last, Florida drivers were banned from texting.

    The law, however, made it a secondary offense, which means drivers can only be stopped if they commit another violation, like speeding or running a red light....

    Florida's texting-while-driving ban, enacted Oct. 1, 2013, has proved of little value, with few citations.   (Times file)
  5. Florida's texting while driving ban turns up few citations

    Public Safety

    As Gov. Rick Scott grinned and uncapped his familiar blue Sharpie, a crowd of students at the Miami high school cheered.

    "We must do everything we can at the state level," he had told them, "to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe."

    At last, Florida drivers were banned from texting.

    The law, however, made it a secondary offense, which means drivers can only be stopped if they commit another violation, like speeding or running a red light....

    Justin Mitchell, 25, was killed last year while fishing on a bridge in Melbourne when the driver of an SUV checked a text message and veered into him and a friend who also died. The driver received no prison time.
  6. Victims identified in fiery hit-and-run crash in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — The women's family sat on the porch and in lawn chairs, saying little as they offered quiet embraces to the stream of somber new arrivals. A half-dozen children darted around the fenced-in yard and tossed a rainbow-colored beach ball. Beneath the still-sticky shade of palm and oak, mourners gathered to share pictures and tell stories and to laugh and curse and question.

    Even on a summer day devoid of such grief, even if the women were still alive, the scene on 23rd Avenue S might have looked just as it did on Thursday afternoon, because the Campbells never stayed apart for long....

    The scene of what authorities said was a fiery hit-and-run accident that killed two people early Thursday and injured a third near Ninth Avenue S and 16th Street in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  7. Tony Gwynn and the story he never got to read

    The Heater

    I learned of Tony Gwynn's death, by coincidence, while on a trip to San Diego.

    In town to visit family, I hadn't been awake long Monday when a legion of mournful tweets appeared on my phone. I cursed quietly and skimmed through the online obituaries. Then it hit me: Unintentionally, I had been one of the last reporters to interview the baseball legend.

    Early this year, I agreed to profile Gwynn, 54, for a travel magazine. The publication occasionally highlights celebrities people identify with certain regions. I liked the idea. Gwynn embodied San Diego, where he was known as "Mr. Padre" and had lived for 36 years. City and star were even defined the same ways: friendly, happy, classy, laid back....

    Tony Gwynn refused to dwell on the cancer that killed him.
  8. Sheriff's office to bring stricter enforcement to Gandy Beach

    Public Safety


    Dusk's rosy tint had nearly faded over Gandy Beach, but Brandon Vazquez and his half dozen friends showed no signs of fading — or leaving.

    Two hours earlier, Vazquez had backed his Toyota pickup close to the gently lapping waters of Tampa Bay and raised a patio umbrella over the tailgate. Now hot dogs were warming on a portable charcoal grill and Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama blared from the truck's cab....

    Nighttime is popular at Gandy Beach. But unless you’re fishing, it’s illegal to be hanging around after sundown. The Sheriff’s Office will be issuing warnings — and some citations.
  9. Gang with ties to Pinellas, Hillsborough counties accused of nine murders


    In September 2010, investigators say, the gang members drove alongside a duplex in Bradenton and fired round after round through a bedroom window. The man inside, who was 18, died in front of his girlfriend and 1-year-old daughter.

    The next month, three of the gang members kidnapped a 16-year-old boy and used him to lure one of their enemies to his death. To keep the teen from talking, they executed him....

  10. Furor toward Attorney General Pam Bondi over gay marriage court filing may be misplaced

    State Roundup

    In her response to a lawsuit that alleges Florida discriminates against gay couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal, Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote something that has suddenly gotten lots of attention.

    The document — which was filed May 12 but was largely overlooked until Friday — included this sentence: "The Court should also deny the preliminary injunction motions because there is no likelihood of success on the merits, there is no immediacy requiring a preliminary injunction and disrupting Florida's existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."...

    Part of state Attorney General Pam Bondi’s filing went viral.
  11. Kriseman hires Ch. 8's Yolanda Fernandez as police spokesperson

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Thursday that News Channel 8 TV reporter Yolanda Fernandez will become the St. Petersburg Police Department spokesperson and community awareness manager.

    "Through her time at News Channel 8, Yolanda Fernandez is well-known to the people of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay community," Kriseman said in a statement. "Every day, the men and women of our Police Department do extraordinary things to keep our residents and visitors safe. I look forward to Yolanda leading the way in telling those stories."...

    Yolanda Fernandez begins work for the city on June 23.
  12. To walk at graduation, she had to stop running with the wrong crowd



    Legs outstretched, she sat against the couch's arm with a hardcover book open in her lap.

    "Elementary Statistics," it said on the front. "A Step by Step Approach."

    "This stuff doesn't even look that hard," she said, trying to convince herself that was true.

    Monica Scruggs, 19, was an hour from taking the last test she needed to graduate from Lakewood High School. It was her second time trying. The year before, as a senior, she had failed....

    Lakewood High teacher Diana Keller encourages Monica Scruggs, 19, as Scruggs closes her eyes and clicks the button to submit her statistics exam in hopes of earning her diploma.
  13. Some upset by proposed change at St. Pete African-American history museum

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Through budget presentations and academic updates, they waited for an hour and a half, some sitting but many standing, for their chance to speak. Their poster-board signs of protest leaned against a chair in the audience: "DIVIDED WE FAIL," "TALK DON'T TAKE," "TOGETHER IS BETTER."

    Nearly 20 angry and frustrated people came to the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday because of an unexpected power struggle over control of a community museum....

  14. Midtown Walmart off to a good start, officials say

    Human Interest


    Yanira Avezuela pushed a radio into her back pocket and slipped in an earpiece under her dark, crimped hair. A green elastic key chain was wrapped around her right arm and on the counter in front of her was a PalmPilot linked to each checkout lane.

    A fellow manager studied the schedule and listed who was off, who was late, who had called out. Customers streamed through the electric sliding doors at Midtown's new Walmart and the checkout lines grew. Her eight-hour shift just beginning, Avezuela took a deep breath....

    Yanira Avezuela, a mother of two and a customer service manager at the new Walmart in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg, works the late shift recently emptying cash registers.
  15. For one Florida mother, parasailing regulation long overdue


    Alone in her Ocala garden, Shannon Hively felt relieved.

    Her teenage girls were on vacation with neighbors in Pompano Beach. They had just called, begging to go parasailing.

    Hively wavered. Her neighbor got on the line. A storm was approaching so it was likely the boat operators wouldn't go out anyway. Hively hung up, happy that for once she didn't have to be the bad guy.

    An hour later, as she planted a gardenia, her phone rang again. A stranger, screaming, told her the girls had, in fact, gone parasailing, and something was wrong. They can swim, Hively yelled. Get them out of the water....

    Capt. Jeff Green of Gators Parasail, right, helps, from left, Madalynn Lipnitzky, 13, Brennan Bennett, 15 and Nadalie Flock, 11, as they return to the 31-foot boat Tuesday. A bill awaiting the governor’s signature requires parasail operators to carry liability insurance of $1 million per rider and sets weather restrictions.