At first, Mark Smith called every few days.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. The calls to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office became fewer and seemed more fruitless.
Today marks 25 years to the day that Smith's brother Gary and sister-in-law Sally were killed in their home. It is the Sheriff's Office's only unsolved double murder....
08/31/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — David Caras enjoys biking, swimming, and running triathlons. He cares for puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs during the weekends and travels often for his job as an avionics instructor.
But his active life came to a sudden halt Thursday when Caras of Seminole was struck by a sport utility vehicle while jogging during a business trip in Utah.
He lost his right leg, fractured a hip and broke several ribs....
08/29/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Deputy Chief Sandra Wilson is resigning from the Clearwater Police Department.
Wilson's resignation comes about a month after City Manager Bill Horne chose Dan Slaughter, previously the patrol major, as the agency's new chief when Tony Holloway left to lead the St. Petersburg Police Department.
"It was more of a mutual thing. I wanted to kind of create my own staff," Slaughter said. "It's not a situation where there are any negative issues, or anything like that. … We discussed it and, ultimately, it was her decision."...
LARGO — Hours before he was scheduled to appear in court to face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, Larry Kobielnik killed himself.
Deputies found him hanging by a shoelace early Thursday in the shower of his single cell, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Kobielnik is the third inmate to commit suicide in the Pinellas County Jail this year, the second to kill himself after being convicted....
CLEARWATER — A teenager accused of robbing and killing a 41-year-old woman along the Pinellas Trail last week told detectives a series of stories to explain why the victim's wallet turned up inside his home, according to court records released Wednesday.
Before Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge Tuesday, he was questioned by two detectives at Clearwater police headquarters Sunday night, a day after Lydia Ann Tross was found in a ditch north of Fairmont Street....
CLEARWATER — After a disagreement with her boyfriend, Lydia Ann Tross left their second-floor apartment on Highland Avenue and went for a walk.
She never returned.
Four days later, her body was discovered in a grassy ditch north of Fairmont Street near the Pinellas Trail, more than a mile from her home.
Detectives determined that Tross, 41, was killed by a stranger as she walked alone on the trail. Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection to her slaying, police announced Tuesday....
CLEARWATER — Detectives were still investigating Monday the suspicious death of a 41-year-old woman whose body was found Saturday in a grassy ditch near the Pinellas Trail, police said.
"The bottom line is we're still trying to piece together a time line," said Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw. "We are seeking to hear from any member of the public who may have come across her, whether it was at a convenience store, or on the trail, or just anywhere."...
08/04/14 Public Safety
Two Pinellas County sheriff's deputies resigned Thursday amid allegations that they had falsified records related to two separate arrests, internal affairs records show.
If Deputies Chad Earl and Jesse Munoz-Calene had not resigned, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday, he would have fired them.
"My feelings about this with people who lie and engage in that kind of conduct is that they're done," he said. "They won't be working here — period."...
Since the crackdown on prescription drugs dwindled the number of operating pill mills and overdose deaths in Pinellas County, authorities are now seeing a resurgence in an older, familiar drug: heroin.
The number of heroin cases processed at the Pinellas County forensics lab doubled during the first six months of this year. The medical examiner's office has also reported three overdose deaths caused by heroin, compared with four reported all of last year....
08/01/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Dan Slaughter dreamed of building planes, maybe even working for NASA. An aeronautical engineering major in college, he wanted to know how things worked.
But when a close friend decided to join the police academy, Slaughter reconsidered his career path.
"I didn't want a job where I was going to be in an office at a desk. I was interested in kind of being mobile, being active," he said. "I thrive at the phone ringing at 2 in the morning and kind of getting a complicated, chaotic problem on my plate."...
07/29/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Last time Clearwater chose a new police chief, City Manager Bill Horne launched a national search, sifted through more than 100 applications and conducted about a dozen interviews in a span of roughly five months.
This time around, Horne found the new chief among the Police Department's command staff within a week.
Horne's announcement Tuesday that patrol operations Maj. Dan Slaughter would lead the department beginning next month was widely praised by city and police officials....
07/24/14 Public Safety
LARGO — No glitches have been reported as the Pinellas Sheriff's Office and the county's 911 call center merged this week, in what Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls a monumental improvement in public safety service.
Before the switch, residents living within areas serviced by the Sheriff's Office who called 911 for police help would be connected to an operator, who would transfer their call to a Sheriff's Office dispatcher. The two-step process delayed response times....
07/21/14 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Police Chief Tony Holloway occasionally directs traffic at broken stop lights, tickets speeding drivers and he serves Thanksgiving dinner to families every year.
Despite his rise through the ranks of the Clearwater Police Department over the last 29 years, Holloway has remained grounded to the community he serves.
"A lot of chiefs and sheriffs, when they get upstairs, become very aloof. They are separated from the people down on the ground floor," said Clearwater Lt. Richard Harris. "Holloway? He talks to everybody."...
CLEARWATER — It started as a routine traffic stop.
Officers flagged a red Nissan Altima after it failed to brake at a stop sign near the Hyatt Regency hotel on Gulfview Boulevard. In the trunk, they found a stolen .38-caliber revolver. Police arrested a passenger in the car, 20-year-old Robert Smith Jr.
Smith of Lakeland sat on the sidewalk in handcuffs while blue and red cruiser lights flashed around him and the small crowd of spectators....
07/18/14 Human Interest
LARGO — It started with a letter to the mayor.
Riley Browne, 11, learned last school year about Wangari Muta Maathai, a Nobel Prize-winning environmental activist who helped plant millions of trees in Kenya.
"She inspired me," Riley said. "I just thought it was a cool thing for her to do."
Riley's goal: plant 1,000 trees in Largo.
"With your help," she wrote to Mayor Pat Gerard, "I'd like to gather up volunteers throughout Largo to help get this accomplished."...