CLEARWATER — The four Hernando County men accused of robbing and killing an 82-year-old man in January targeted him after learning from a former girlfriend that the victim kept money in a safe.
Stacey Zagurski, 40, whom officials described as having "a romantic relationship'' with Allen Usher of Clearwater, is serving three years in prison for, among other things, stealing from him....
TARPON SPRINGS — More than 30 years ago, an arsonist broke into Zorba's nightclub on a Monday night, poured kerosene throughout the property, and ignited one of Tarpon Springs' gems of Greek nostalgia.
"I was blown away," said George Patides, whose parents owned the establishment at the time and rebuilt it following the blaze. "I saw the cymbals of the drum set were all melted."...
CLEARWATER — Kenneth Robert Missey, a sex offender with a lengthy criminal record, tried to convince detectives someone else fatally shot an unarmed security guard in 2006.
"He played a game of misdirection and false information," Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter said during a news conference Tuesday.
But that game ended when detectives discovered Missey, 50, was giving false alibis and pointing them toward a potential suspect who was in prison at the time of William "Bill" Williams' slaying....
TARPON SPRINGS — Jareem Roach heard arguing from the parking lot, peered out the window of his second-floor apartment and saw a man waving a gun. He grabbed a 9mm Ruger and bolted downstairs.
"By the time I make it out here, man," Roach said Wednesday, "it's just a whole bunch of shots."
Roach found a wounded Tarpon Springs police officer on the pavement "fighting for his life." As a white Hyundai sped away from the Glen's Eureka apartment building, Roach said, he recognized the driver....
Just hours before the fatal shooting of a Tarpon Springs police officer in December, court records show the man accused of shooting him told a man at a party that he was in a mood to kill.
Marco A. Parilla Jr., 24, was at a party in Holiday before the fateful encounter with Officer Charles Kondek, 45, in the early hours of Dec. 21. Parilla chatted with another partygoer who noticed a Glock in his pants pocket....
TARPON SPRINGS — A fire that ripped through a popular club in the Sponge Docks district is being investigated as an arson, authorities said.
Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue responded to a call about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday that Zorba's nightclub, 504 and 508 Athens St., was in flames. The building's interior was a total loss, police said. Zorba's, in business for decades, was closed and unoccupied at the time of the blaze....
03/16/15 Public Safety
A man who claims he was wrongly arrested on charges that he molested a boy is suing the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, according to a federal complaint.
The lawsuit, filed last week in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, states that Michael A. Rutkowski, 57, was at his Oldsmar home on Oct. 15, 2012, when two deputies arrived and told him he was being arrested on a Leon County warrant....
ST. PETE BEACH — It was a sunny afternoon when a group of beachgoers flagged down Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. Bryan Bingham about a fight involving roughly 20 people on Sunday.
He headed in the direction of the brawl and approached Joshua McMahan, one of the men deputies say was involved in the scuffle.
"I couldn't control him right away. He was in an excited state," Bingham said. "When I tried to pull him away, he turned around and he swung and he hit me."...
03/09/15 Public Safety
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The Pinellas Sheriff's Office identified on Monday the person who it says fatally shot John Joseph Rush, a medical examiner investigator and former St. Petersburg police sergeant.
It was his ex-wife, Cara A. Ryan, the Sheriff's Office said. She has not been arrested and the Sheriff's Office did not release any details about the shooting Saturday night, saying only that the investigation remained active....
03/06/15 Public Safety
After the recent crackdown on prescription and synthetic drugs across the state, authorities are now focusing on controlling an herb currently legal in Florida and believed to elicit the same effects as some narcotics.
Made from the leaves of trees that grow in southeast Asia, kratom is on the radar of many agencies: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began detaining imported kratom last year, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ordered grocery and convenience stores to stop selling the products. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also added it to its list of drugs of concern....
LARGO — Forensic science manager Greg Mason calls it the Ferrari of crime scene processing.
He's talking about the new full spectrum imaging systems designed to detect and capture images of fingerprints and other evidence without the need for powder or chemicals. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is now equipped with two.
"There's nothing else like it," Mason said, adding it could solve crimes faster. "It's just unheard of."...
03/05/15 Local Government
TARPON SPRINGS — City commissioners on Tuesday approved the first phase of Cypress Trails, a development of 95 townhomes just east of U.S. 19.
Karen Lemmons, economic development manager, estimates that the project would generate $103,500 in yearly property tax revenue and one-time development fees of nearly $800,000.
Phase 1 includes the construction of 38 homes. The developer, Lindiakos Properties, has not reported property prices to the city, but Lemmons said homes in similar developments have previously been listed in the $200,000 range....
LARGO — Five people were displaced and a home was destroyed by a large fire in Largo on Friday morning, authorities said.
Firefighters were called to 929 15th Ave. SW at 11:15 a.m., said Largo Assistant Fire Chief Doug Swartz. Approximately 55 responders from five agencies knocked down the flames in about 45 minutes, he said.
No one was injured, but a cat inside the home died....
02/27/15 Public Safety
It was past midnight when Officer Christopher Lemmon responded to a noise complaint, everything dark and silent around him except for the glow of his laptop and the chatter on his radio.
He parked in front of the two-story house on Briland Street. Officer Tommy Nguyen, with the canine unit, was already there.
Together, they approached the front door.
More than two months ago, the officers lost one of their own, in a similar call: While checking on a report of a loud car stereo, Charles Kondek, a married father of six, was fatally shot by a convicted felon who police say didn't want to go back to prison....
02/26/15 Public Safety
In recent years, law enforcement agencies in Tampa Bay have created task forces and units to crack down on human trafficking.
Although investigators have succeeded in arresting the leaders of some human trafficking rings, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said it's not enough.
If passed, Senate Bill 534 may help.
Filed by state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, the law will require areas of transportation, such as bus stations, airports, and rest stops, as well as adult establishments, to post signs with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The signs will also be displayed at libraries, hospitals, and massage parlors....