LARGO — Pinellas County Jail inmate Jamaal Jenkins apparently didn't plan to wait for his trial on two murder charges to decide his fate.
Authorities say he was using a tool fashioned from items he found in the jail to try to bore through the concrete wall of his cell in an escape attempt. He even made a false wall surface to conceal his work, they said.
During a check Nov. 28, detention deputies found "suspicious markings" on the wall and around a window of Jenkins' maximum-security cell, said Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. David DiSano....
12/04/13 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — When David DiRoma couldn't be reached by his co-workers, his boss was concerned.
Tim Forrest had hired DiRoma as a general contractor for a building project. On Oct. 24, he visited DiRoma at his house at 3018 Merrill Ave. and found him drunk. He told Forrest that he was stressed and needed help.
Two days later, Forrest visited DiRoma a second time.
He had been drinking again. He told Forrest his wife was sick, that only $700 remained in his bank account, that he planned to check himself into rehab. Then Forrest spotted the gun and bullets on the kitchen counter....
12/02/13 Public Safety
CRYSTAL BEACH — A 24-year-old man dragged to shore by a friend after their boat capsized in the Intracoastal Waterway died early Monday, authorities said.
About 2 p.m. Sunday, Stephen J. Chadwick of Tarpon Springs and Joseph M. Citro, 24, of Indianapolis set out from Crystal Beach in a 10-foot boat to meet with friends on nearby spoil islands.
But less than an hour into their trip, the boat began taking on water and capsized between Crystal Beach and Honeymoon Island....
12/01/13 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — They stood in front of the full-length mirrors and waited for dancing instructions delivered in fast-paced Spanish.
The boys stomped to the beat of the Mexican music playing softly from an iPod in the small studio. The girls, dressed in red, flowing skirts that draped over black Converse and pink Nike shoes, twirled across the linoleum floor.
Standing in front of the group was Mere Pioquinto, a 41-year-old father of four who waits tables and installs floors for a living....
PALM HARBOR — Craig Maciuba applied to become a volunteer firefighter at Palm Harbor Fire Rescue on his 18th birthday.
For 29 years, he worked his way up in the department. And now, he has achieved its highest position: fire chief.
"When I started as a volunteer, I didn't intend really on making it a career," said Maciuba, 47. "The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it."
Maciuba was appointed Palm Harbor fire chief on Nov. 18, replacing fire Chief James Angle, who retired and is now the program coordinator at St. Petersburg College's fire academy....
11/15/13 Public Safety
DUNEDIN — Matthew Tegerdine and his family burst out of their Robmar Road home Thursday morning when a deputy banged on the door and ordered them to leave.
An enormous sinkhole, at 90 feet wide and 56 feet deep the largest ever reported in Dunedin, had just opened in their next-door neighbor's back yard and was swallowing parts of the homes on either side of it.
Tegerdine, his wife, and their 11-year-old son are staying at a hotel in Dunedin. Their home at 1120 Robmar — the one with a blue basketball hoop in the driveway — is not damaged....
11/14/13 Public Safety
DUNEDIN — Michael Dupre first noticed the small cracks in the outside walls of his home at 1112 Robmar Road two years ago.
He filed a claim with state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which sent engineers to inspect the house. They saw cracks on several walls and damaged drywall in a bedroom. Their conclusion: sinkhole activity.
Citizens recommended pumping grout into the ground at a cost of $90,000 to $110,000, but Dupre thought more work was needed. His lawyers agreed and eventually filed a lawsuit....
11/12/13 Public Safety
A day after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced that any employee charged with drunken driving would be fired, police union officials said they would be monitoring the new policy as DUI cases emerge.
Michael Krohn, executive director of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association, said Tuesday that the union, which represents about 500 of the Sheriff's Office's roughly 2,700 employees, understands the need for the stricter policy....
CLEARWATER — Bruised and shaken, she walked into the Hispanic Outreach Center seeking help.
Her ex-boyfriend had stalked her and beaten her at a bus stop in Largo, the woman told a family advocate at the center. Police there couldn't speak Spanish. She couldn't speak English.
The advocate photographed the bruises on her legs and back. When the Clearwater Police Department's Hispanic outreach officer, Raymond Croze, approached her, she was in tears....
11/11/13 Public Safety
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday that the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has modified its DUI policy with a stricter penalty for employees charged with drunken driving: They will be fired.
In the past, the range of discipline for a Sheriff's Office employee charged with a DUI ranged from a seven-day suspension to termination.
But in an email Gualtieri sent to all Sheriff's Office employees Monday, the sheriff explains the agency's new policy: employees driving with a blood alcohol level above the state's 0.08 limit will be terminated. The same goes for employees convicted of a DUI in a criminal proceeding....
Her cheeks flushed and her green eyes glazed, Shannon Bilotta stood before a camera inside the Pinellas County Jail to have her photo taken.
The mug shot documented the night of June 3, when Bilotta, 44, was arrested on a domestic battery charge, accused of striking a boyfriend in Largo.
The following month, the charge was dropped and Bilotta completed an eight-hour anger management program, according to court records....
CLEARWATER — A U.S. Army major was charged Thursday with first-degree murder, accused of killing his wife's ex-husband, a former 82nd Airborne paratrooper, in a Clearwater condo two years ago.
The victim's family members say they think they know the motive: a child custody dispute.
Roman Izzo, 35, who is stationed at the U.S. Army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was arrested Thursday morning after being indicted by a Pinellas County grand jury Wednesday in the death of Vince Lee....
11/04/13 Public Safety
LARGO — A veteran Pinellas County deputy with a history of internal affairs investigations has been fired for making sexually explicit comments to an underage rape victim and failing to submit a timely report in the case, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday.
Patrol Deputy Paul A. Martin, hired by the Sheriff's Office in August 1988, was terminated Monday morning.
"This is just egregious conduct," Gualtieri said, adding that Martin "has been here 25 years and has spent time as a detective and an investigator and he knows better."...
GULFPORT — Louis Fierro, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran, had just settled down on his front porch when his next-door neighbor's son arrived.
The visit wasn't unusual. He sometimes paid Nathan Rewerts, 24, to cut his grass. But the unannounced drop-by Friday evening quickly became unwelcome — and harrowing.
From his living room couch Sunday afternoon, Fierro recounted how a young man he trusted bound him with rolls of tape and took his car, and how left all alone he freed himself from the sticky constraints to summon help....
CLEARWATER — In 1987, Robert Aho was driving home when he was struck by a Firebird barreling along U.S. 19 north of Coachman Road.
The driver had been drinking. Robert, 20, and his friend Tony Garten, 22, a passenger in the car, were killed.
After her son's death, Barb Aho became president of Remove Intoxicated Drivers Tampa Bay — RID Tampa Bay — seeking more attention for the issue of impaired driving in Pinellas....