11/25/14 Public Safety
LARGO — Inadequate surge protection, faulty grounding and baby ospreys are to blame for an outage of Pinellas County's 911 system for 45 minutes this summer, according to a report released Tuesday.
The analysis, conducted by the county and released in draft form, also details the causes of other problems at the new 911 center, including reports of busy signals and a partial power loss earlier this month....
LARGO — During Sgt. Ron Wehr's first week on duty at the Pinellas County jail, an inmate provided this tip: Contraband was being smuggled in by a nylon cord.
Skeptical, Wehr scanned the outside of the jail one July morning in 2013. He glanced toward the flag pole near the public lobby and saw a thin line on the wall. Detectives yanked on the cord and a grocery bag containing marijuana, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and lighters tumbled down....
Three Pinellas Sheriff's deputies have been involved in traffic crashes, all resulting in injuries, within the past week.
The latest crash occurred Wednesday night in Clearwater when deputy Crystal Trentmann was heading west on Drew Street near N Glenwood Avenue in a marked Chevy Impala on the right curb lane. As she tried to make a U-turn to stop a car for a traffic violation, Trentmann did not see a Ford Explorer in the left lane and struck the car's rear, the Sheriff's Office said....
DUNEDIN — Michael Case wanted to hurt himself with the steak knife in his hand, so his girlfriend called 911 just after midnight Monday and restrained him on the floor.
When deputy Jose Berrios-Collazo walked into the trailer inside the Oak Bend Mobile Home Park at 801 Main St., he stepped on Case's arm and began to retrieve the Taser from his belt. Suddenly, Case forced his girlfriend aside and lunged at the deputy, authorities said....
LARGO — Detectives made arrests in two drug smuggling schemes involving sealed envelopes and a McDonald's Egg McMuffin wrapper at the Pinellas County Jail on Thursday.
In one case, they got a tip about drugs being dropped off outside the video visitation center.
Recorded telephone conversations at the jail revealed that inmate Stephenie Grove, 26, told fiance Robert Stephen Lytle, 47, to drop off pills outside video visitation on Thursday....
LARGO — A 6-week-old girl who was struck by a car earlier this week as her mother tried to cross Missouri Avenue died Wednesday morning, police said.
About 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sarah Arlia, 32, was crossing the street near Commerce Drive S with her 5-year-old son, Benjamin Garguilo, and her baby daughter, Serena Arlia, when a 2003 BMW heading south struck the family.
They were not in a crosswalk, Largo police said. The driver of the BMW, Sandra Neki, 65, will not face charges, according to police....
It was still dark when Pinellas sheriff's deputy Kim Kilian started her shift Saturday morning, except for the pair of headlights beaming in front of her on McMullen-Booth Road.
After the initial shock faded, she realized a driver was heading north in the southbound lanes.
"This is bad," she thought to herself. "This is serious, and I need to get this driver stopped as fast as possible."...
For months, Ronald Delaet rented a P.O. box at the post office on Safety Harbor's quaint, lamp-lit Main Street, just blocks away from the public library.
He was picking up a package of 99.7 grams of heroin Sept. 19 when detectives arrested him after receiving a tip from federal authorities. When they searched the Clearwater home where he lived, investigators discovered that Delaet was running his own drug empire that produced thousands of dollars and spanned nearly a dozen states....
Stephanie Otero sat on a bucket behind a duplex with a needle and two plastic bags of heroin.
She was addicted to Roxicodone, also known as roxies, but the pills were hard to come by that summer day last year in Tampa.
"I had never tried heroin in my life," Otero said, but she'd heard it had the same effect as roxies.
Since the eradication of pill mills and law enforcement's crackdown on prescription drugs in recent years, authorities in Tampa Bay are now seeing a resurgence in heroin, an older and sometimes deadlier drug....
11/06/14 Public Safety
The 46-year-old man had just lost his job, wanted to kill himself, and kept a gun in his closet.
Responding officers found his suicide note and chatted with him about his problems, how he needed money to send his daughter off to college, how he wasn't sure what was next. They offered to take him to Morton Plant Hospital for an evaluation.
"We need to fix this," Pinellas Sheriff's Deputy Sheila Langlais told him, "and get you some help."...
Authorities arrested four people Wednesday morning in connection to a drug and prostitution ring after a 16-month investigation.
Investigators received several tips in July 2013 accusing Robert Earl Wyche, 60, of recruiting and prostituting several women that he encountered at local motels, the Pinellas County jail, and Backpage.com.
Detectives discovered that Wyche apparently offered them shelter and drugs as long as they prostituted themselves. He also threatened the women, seven in all, if they wanted to leave and assaulted the women if they did not comply with his rules, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said....
10/31/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Following the resignation of a fire lieutenant who admitted to having sex while on duty, city officials recommended in a report that cameras be installed outside the fire stations.
Clearwater Fire & Rescue chief Robert Weiss first learned of Lt. Stephen Coward's unreported visitors at Fire Station 51 in August after receiving a package containing an anonymous letter and a flash drive with 40 emails between Coward and a woman. The package also contained a video of the lieutenant and a woman in the station....
After catching the student smoking a cigarette, Scott Stern told him he had three options.
Stern could call his mother, or the boy could choose the hard way or the mental way, according to police records.
On that morning in 1998, the Pinellas Park High student chose the mental way. He later told police Stern ordered him to strip naked, hold a ruler on his head, and called him an idiot, records state....
CLEARWATER — A wrestling coach arrested Tuesday on charges that he hit two students after forcing them to strip naked was previously investigated for similar claims, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.
Scott Stern, who worked at Clearwater Central Catholic High School for 12 years, faces two counts of battery.
Detectives believe there may be other victims.
"It's sick stuff," said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "There's all kinds of real heavy sexual overtones with this."...
LARGO — Nicholas Lowery had plans: He wanted to marry his girlfriend, get promoted and start a family.
But on Monday morning, as he and his two roommates left the apartment on a cul-de-sac off Seminole Boulevard, next-door neighbor Thomas Malooly, 77, fired shots into the parking lot, killing Lowery.
Malooly later killed himself inside his home, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. No one else was hurt....