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Laura C. Morel, Times Staff Writer

Laura C. Morel

Laura covers law enforcement and courts in Pinellas County. She joined the Tampa Bay Times in May 2012.

Born and raised in Miami, she speaks Spanish and holds degrees from Miami Dade College and Emerson College in Boston.

Phone: (727) 893-8232

Email: lmorel@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LauraCMorel

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  1. Retrial of former Jabil executive facing death penalty can move forward, Florida Supreme Court rules

    Criminal

    The Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that the retrial of a former Jabil executive charged with killing his estranged wife and her friend can move forward.

    Patrick Evans' case came to a halt last year after the state's highest court ruled that only unanimous juries can sentence defendants to death and that the current law requiring a 10-2 jury vote for the death penalty can't be applied to pending trials....

    The murder conviction of Patrick Evans, a former Jabil executive, was overturned in 2015.
  2. Mistrial declared in trial of St. Petersburg man charged with fatal shooting

    Criminal

    A Pinellas circuit judge declared a mistrial Friday in the trial of Oscar Fowler, charged with shooting a man 25 times.

    On Monday, prosecutors and defense attorneys will pick a new trial date, which will be Fowler's third time in court for Naykee Bostic's death. In 2015, his first trial ended in a hung jury when they couldn't reach a verdict after six hours' deliberation.

    Fowler is charged with first-degree murder. He faces up to life in prison....

    Fowler
  3. Oscar Fowler, charged with shooting a man 25 times, goes back on trial after hung jury

    Criminal

    LARGO — Bertha Bostic watched as her grandson slipped into a car waiting for him in the driveway about 4:30 a.m. on July, 28, 2013.

    Hours later, police told her he was dead. They found Naykee Bostic's body, riddled with 25 bullets, in St. Petersburg's Old Southeast neighborhood about 4 miles away.

    As investigators lifted him from the ground that Sunday morning, they found his phone wedged underneath him. It would soon reveal information that led police to the suspected shooter: Oscar Fowler....

    Oscar Fowler is charged with fatally shooting a man more than 20 times in St. Petersburg.
  4. After hung jury, St. Petersburg man charged with murder faces trial again

    Criminal

    LARGO — By 8:50 p.m., a juror scribbled a message for Pinellas circuit judge Chris Helinger on a legal pad: "We have not been able to come to an agreement."

    After six hours of deliberating on July 28, 2015, the jury in Oscar Fowler's first-degree murder trial couldn't come to a verdict. Fowler is charged with shooting a St. Petersburg man more than 20 times in the summer of 2013.

    This week, prosecutors are scheduled to present the mostly circumstantial case, built on cellphone records and witnesses who spoke to Fowler after the killing, to a new jury....

    Oscar Fowler is accused of shooting a man more than 20 times.
  5. Teacher found not guilty in fatal shooting of husband, a former St. Petersburg police officer

    Crime

    LARGO — A jury found former teacher Cara Ryan not guilty of fatally shooting her ex-husband, a former St. Petersburg police officer, after two hours of deliberations Friday.

    No one disputed that it was Ryan who pulled the trigger. But her lawyers argued that she shot Sgt. John "J.J." Rush in self-defense.

    "We never doubted her innocence, from moment one," defense attorney Roger Futerman said. "It was a very quick verdict. I think they made their minds up early on that, that this woman should never have been arrested."...

    Cara Ryan, shown at a 2015 hearing, shot John Rush, her lawyer said, after Rush angrily left her home, then returned.
  6. Trump's immigration order on sanctuary cities doesn't worry Tampa Bay officials

    Public Safety

    President Donald Trump says he will cut funding for counties or cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

    The executive order he signed this week applies to so-called "sanctuary" cities or counties that "willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States."

    Tampa Bay's top cops want to make sure that hammer doesn't fall on them....

    Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called the report listing Pinellas as a sanctuary “rhetoric by a non-governmental entity.”
  7. Gawker and Hulk Hogan reach settlement in sex tape case

    Courts

    The four-year legal battle between New York online media company Gawker Media and former professional wrestler Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea reached its culmination Wednesday with a multimillion-dollar settlement.

    The settlement comes seven months after a Pinellas County jury delivered a devastating verdict against the company that led to the demise of its flagship gossip website, Gawker.com. The jury ruled that Gawker Media violated Bollea's privacy rights when it posted a sex tape of the wrestler online in 2012....

    Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, appears in a St. Petersburg courtroom in May for a hearing in his lawsuit against Gawker Media. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  8. Pinellas County Jail inmate accused of murder-for-hire scheme to have witness killed

    Crime

    LARGO — After a jury found her guilty of wire fraud and money laundering, authorities say, Priscilla Ellis plotted against key witnesses in her trial.

    Awaiting her sentencing at the Pinellas County Jail, she told an inmate she needed someone on the outside to do a job that "could get their hands dirty."

    The task, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI: killing one witness and slashing the throat of another witness' mother....

    Priscilla Ellis is accused of trying to hire someone to kill a witness.
  9. Death penalty retrial of ex-Jabil executive postponed after defense petitions state Supreme Court

    Criminal

    The retrial of Patrick Evans, a former Jabil executive accused — and previously convicted — of killing his estranged wife and her friend, will not start next week as scheduled after his defense attorneys filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court.

    The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty. But on Oct. 14, the state Supreme Court ruled that only unanimous juries can sentence defendants to death and that the current law requiring a 10-2 jury vote for the death penalty can't be applied to pending trials, such as Evans' case....

    Patrick Evans was previously convicted of killing his wife and her friend on 
Dec. 20, 2008.
  10. Kentucky man guilty in Dunedin hatchet slaying of boyfriend

    Criminal

    Arthur DeCarvalho said he woke up on his birthday on June 5, 2014, to find his hands tied. Next to him was David Elsey demanding that they have sex.

    So DeCarvalho decided to fight back, he told a jury during his first-degree murder trial on Thursday. He told Elsey, 50, he wouldn't resist and asked to be untied. As Elsey waited in his master bedroom, DeCarvalho walked to the garage and retrieved a hatchet....

    DeCarvalho
  11. Kentucky man charged in Dunedin hatchet slaying was protecting himself, defense says

    Criminal

    LARGO — As his boyfriend's body lay tied to a bed inside their master bedroom, Arthur DeCarvalho got a haircut, went to Hooters twice for drinks, bought camping equipment at Walmart and ate at Buffalo Wild Wings.

    His excursions came to an end June 7, 2014, when officers found DeCarvalho wandering alone and drunk on Clearwater Beach.

    They found the other man's credit cards and ID in DeCarvalho's wallet. They handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a police cruiser, the prosecution told a jury Tuesday, when DeCarvalho blurted out this admission:...

  12. Pinellas judge rules death penalty case of ex-Jabil executive can move forward

    Criminal

    LARGO — Patrick Evans, the former Jabil executive accused of killing his wife and her friend in 2008, finally learned Tuesday how his fate will be decided when his retrial starts next week.

    The jurors will be told that — if they convict him of the two murders — all 12 of them must then vote unanimously to send Evans to death row. If not, he'll end up with a sentence of life in prison....

  13. Death penalty uncertainty surrounds Pinellas retrial of ex-Jabil executive in 2008 double murder

    Criminal

    LARGO — Twice in the past year, the Florida Supreme Court has altered the fate of Patrick Evans.

    Last November, it overturned the former Jabil executive's conviction and death sentence for the 2008 murders of his estranged wife and her friend.

    This month, the justices ruled that Florida must now have unanimous juries sentence defendants to death. They also ruled that the current law requiring a 10-2 jury vote for the death penalty cannot be applied to pending trials....

    Patrick Evans, center, a former vice president at Jabil, face a re-trial in the 2008 murder of his wife and her friend in Pinellas County. But first this week the state and defense must wrestle with how to apply the death penalty in this case, given recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  14. Trial of Kentucky man charged in Dunedin hatchet slaying begins today

    Criminal

    Jury selection began Monday morning in the first-degree murder trial of Arthur DeCarvalho, charged with hacking a Dunedin man to death with a hatchet two years ago.

    DeCarvalho, a 28-year-old from Kentucky, has been in jail awaiting trial since his arrest in June 2014, the summer that he met David Elsey online.

    According to his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, Elsey worked as a staffing manager for the Nielsen Co. and was a former regional chapter leader for the company's Pride resource group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. He had Pomeranians and liked to go boating....

  15. Pinellas among Florida counties with the highest arrest rates for drug possession, study finds

    Crime

    Pinellas is among the top five counties with the highest arrest rates for drug possession in Florida, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

    Between 2010 and 2015, for every 100,000 residents, 547 faced a misdemeanor or felony possession charge in Pinellas, according to the report. Police nationwide make more than 1.25 million arrests for drug possession every year, surpassing totals for any other crime, according to the 200-page report released last week....

    Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri pointed to a prescription drug epidemic and a rise in synthetic marijuana use to explain the high number of arrests for drug possession. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]