Kevin Smetana, Times Staff Writer

Kevin Smetana

Kevin joined the Times in 2008 after a six-month stint in South Carolina reporting for a newspaper, TV station and website following his graduation from the University of South Florida. During a roughly two-year stint with the Times, he covered news and events in Brandon and throughout eastern Hillsborough County. Smetana left the company in September 2010.

  1. Former Bucs player must hand over ring to avoid possible jail time

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Chidi Ahanotu has less than a week to decide: give up his National Football Conference championship ring or face the chance of jail.

    A judge already had ordered him to hand over the ring, earned with the St. Louis Rams after their 2001 run to the Super Bowl, to help pay down debt he owes a law firm.

    On Thursday morning, Ahanotu showed up to a court hearing without the ring — prompting Hillsborough Circuit Judge Liz Rice to issue an order to show why. He is scheduled to appear again in court Wednesday to explain. The judge told him to bring the ring this time....

    Judge Liz Rice has ordered Chidi Ahanotu to appear in court Wednesday with his NFC championship ring.
  2. First-day enrollment up slightly in Hillsborough schools


    TAMPA — Enrollment increased just slightly on the first day of classes in Hillsborough County, up 581 students to 179,362 compared with last year's opening day, officials said Tuesday.

    But with rain pouring down in some neighborhoods, and schools still poring over class lists in others, it was too soon to say whether the district was facing problems in meeting tough new requirements under the 2002 class-size amendment....

  3. Tampa victim Summer Moll's father accused of driving wrong way, DUI

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The father of a little girl severely injured by a drunken driver going the wrong way two years ago now is accused himself of driving the wrong way while drunk.

    It is the second drunken driving arrest for Joshua Moll since the Sept. 10, 2008, crash, this time in Austin, Texas.

    An officer there pulled Moll over on July 2 after seeing him in a 2002 Dodge pickup going the wrong way on a one-way street, according to an arrest affidavit. Moll, 28, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting transport. ...

  4. Matt Joyce, a Seffner talent, hits it big in major leagues

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Since the Tampa Bay Rays promoted Matt Joyce from the minors in late June, the 26-year-old has had his share of game-winning hits. A pinch-hit grand slam on the road. Another grand slam that put the Rays on top in Matt Garza's historic no-hitter. A three-run homer in a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees at a full Tropicana Field. Joyce is a homegrown talent. So it's no wonder Tampa Bay area fans love him. The outfielder grew up in Seffner playing at North Brandon Little League and graduated from Armwood High School. His father, who lives in Riverview, is now a regular at the Trop....

    Outfielder Matt Joyce, who graduated from Armwood High, has collected some game-winning hits for the Rays this season.
  5. Sun City Center cyclists to pedal against pediatric cancer

    Human Interest

    SUN CITY CENTER — The pack of cyclists, all in their 60s and 70s, pedaled at a comfortable pace in preparation for an ambitious journey that lies ahead.

    Four of the riders have well over a combined century's worth of cycling experience. And then there's Mike Libenson, the oldest of the group at age 72 and newest to the sport. He's also the one with the biggest motive.

    Sammy Rotman, Libenson's granddaughter, is the reason behind the bond recently formed among these retirees. When 9-year-old Sammy died two years ago of osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, Libenson was forced to confront reality and ask a question:...

  6. Amphitheater property tax dispute remains unresolved

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Should a concert venue, operated by a private entity on public land, pay taxes?

    That's the center of a six-year legal battle between the Florida State Fair Authority and the Hillsborough County property appraiser.

    Since 2004, when the venue now called the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre opened on the fairgrounds east of Tampa, the site's tenant has paid more than $800,000 in property taxes....

  7. Paintball enthusiasts join fundraiser efforts for fallen officers

    Human Interest

    BRANDON — On the paintball field, Jeffrey Kocab had the speed to fill multiple positions while playing at a competitive level.

    A member of the Tampa Bay Vengeance paintball organization, he was good enough to play in out-of-state tournaments. Mostly, though, he participated in local events. Kocab, a Tampa police officer, was a captain on a team of teenagers, serving also as their mentor....

  8. Hillsborough commissioners reject summer fertilizer ban

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Rejecting the recommendation of its own staff, the Environmental Protection Commission board voted Thursday not to ban the summertime use of fertilizer in Hillsborough County.

    The nitrogen level in Tampa Bay already is above capacity, EPC officials said. Prohibiting the sale and use of nitrogen-based fertilizers during the rainy season could reduce the amount of nitrogen that ends up in the bay each year by 30 tons....

  9. Local girl wins a spot for her and her dad in Brandon parade

    Human Interest

    BRANDON — As the annual Fourth of July parade hits the streets this weekend, one father-daughter duo will be a part of the summer tradition after winning over the hearts of the Community Roundtable.

    Without her parents' knowledge, 9-year-old Holly Browder entered a short essay contest in an attempt to have her dad, Mark, crowned as Father of the Year. In about 50 words, kids explained why their dads are their heroes....

    Mark Browder of Riverview was named Father of the Year after his 9-year-old daughter, Holly, entered an essay contest.
  10. World War I vet's headstone ends up in east Hillsborough woman's yard

    Human Interest

    Almost a half century ago, a man named Russell Leigh died. He served in the Army, worked as a shoe repairman and was a member of the American Legion.

    He was laid to rest in Odessa. That was in 1961.

    Recently, a woman made a bewildering discovery about Leigh: his headstone was underneath her trailer near Seffner — about 25 miles east of the cemetery where his remains were believed to be. ...

    The headstone for Russell B. Leigh (1894-1961) was found in a woman’s yard near Seffner.
  11. Tampa burglar alarm salesman accused of burglary


    TAMPA — A burglar alarm salesman has been accused of burglary and grand theft, police said.

    Christopher Richard Allen, 22, of Tampa, was arrested at midnight after officers say they saw him driving a stolen 2004 Infiniti. Allen, whose employer was listed as ADT Home Security in jail records, took the keys during a home burglary, according to an arrest report.

    Police say Allen also stole a $500 purse, a $200 wallet and $150 cash from the house. Other charges include driving with a revoked license, possession of marijuana and six probation violations....

  12. 'Sopranos' actor Gannascoli arrested in Tampa on DUI charge

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Actor Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos, was arrested early Friday in Tampa on a DUI charge.

    Gannascoli of East Rockaway, N.Y., was arrested at 3:05 a.m. at 3629 W Kennedy Blvd., just east of Dale Mabry Highway. His blood-alcohol level was listed as 0.111.

    He was in Tampa for a public appearance for his cigar, the Cugine. Gannascoli was driving a 2010 Dodge sedan when he made a wide right turn onto Kennedy Boulevard from Armenia Avenue, according to an arrest affidavit....

  13. Former UT soccer player killed in South Africa set bar high


    TAMPA — As her team advanced to one NCAA Tournament after another, eventually winning a national championship, Nicole Murphy was the fittest of the bunch.

    The former University of Tampa soccer player set the standard, spending extra time in the gym and even showing up to practice one day after completing a marathon. Murphy's teammates tried outdoing her at anything fitness-related, though they knew it wasn't possible....

    Nicole Murphy was one of two deceased St. Thomas More High graduates honored Wednesday in Lafayette, La.
  14. Five-alarm fire on a ship at Port of Tampa put out after a four-hour fight.


    TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue had 143 firefighters on duty Wednesday morning.

    At least 100 of them had a part in extinguishing a blaze that burned for hours on a 742-foot ship at the Port of Tampa.

    The main reason for the unusually high manpower: the need to rotate firefighters under a sweltering summer sun that sent five of them to a hospital for heat exhaustion.

    Imagine piling on 50 to 60 pounds of equipment, covering every inch of your skin and climbing 40 feet on a day when the heat index is pushing 108, Capt. Mark Bogush said....

  15. Oak falls on church-owned Tampa house; no one injured

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — A large oak tree toppled onto a house early Wednesday, caving in the front of the roof but injuring no one.

    Tampa Fire Rescue was alerted just before 3 a.m. Officials said several people were in the house at the time. The house, at 906 E Lake Ave., is owned by Deeper Life Christian Church, records show.

    Neighbors said the large oak had been breaking apart the past few days....

    The three-bedroom home, built in 1917, is owned by Deeper Life Christian Church, according to Hillsborough County property records. Neighbors say the large oak tree had been breaking apart the past few days.