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Leonora LaPeter Anton, Times Staff Writer

Leonora LaPeter Anton

Leonora LaPeter Anton is a Tampa Bay Times reporter on the enterprise team. Her stories veer toward the unusual: a surrogate mother who can't get pregnant; a broke couple who rent rooms in their mansion; a boy who says his girlfriend raped him.

She grew up in Connecticut and Greece and studied journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has worked for the Okeechobee News in Okeechobee, the Island Packet on Hilton Head Island, S.C., the Tallahassee Democrat in Tallahassee and the Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga.

She joined the Times in 2000, the same year she won the American Society of News Editors award for deadline reporting.

She lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and daughter.

Phone: (727) 893-8640

Email: lapeter@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WriterLeonora

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  1. At almost 300 pounds, a Lealman woman battles food addiction

    Human Interest

    LEALMAN — From a faded green recliner in her tiny mobile home, Cheryl Dixon punched a number into her phone. Behind her, kitchen cabinets burst with Hamburger Helper and ramen noodles, bags of doughnuts and Cocoa Diamonds cereal.

    "I'm Cheryl from St. Pete," she said. "Can I share?"

    In the past year, for the first time in her life, she had reached almost 300 pounds. She was 44 and already diagnosed with diabetes. Her doctor warned that if she didn't change her eating habits, she would likely die. ...

    As Cheryl Dixon neared 300 pounds, her doctor warned that she would likely die if she didn’t change her eating habits.
  2. DCF to hire new executive to oversee mental hospitals

    News

    Florida will hire a top-level administrator to find ways to curb violence and improve medical care at state mental hospitals.

    The new position will oversee Florida's three remaining state-run mental facilities, including the flagship Florida State Hospital with nearly 1,000 patients.

    Department of Children and Families officials on Tuesday said the change will put one person in charge of monitoring and improving patient care, and will allow DCF to standardize policies at the hospitals it oversees....

  3. Lake Okeechobee flood control creates environmental disaster

    Water

    ON THE CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER — The rains poured down in late January. Twelve inches in all, 11 inches more than normal.

    Clewiston and Belle Glade flooded, as did thousands of acres of sugarcane and vegetable fields. Lake Okeechobee reached 15 feet, then 16, threatening to break free of an aging dike.

    The Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates lake levels, knew it had to do something drastic to protect Clewiston and other small towns to the south....

    The W. P. Franklin Lock and Dam on the Caloosahatchee, a river that received billions of gallons of polluted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee in January to protect communities from flooding.

  4. Nowhere to go: A judge and family members try to keep a mentally ill man from dying behind bars

    Health

    Robert Valdez is 71 years old and mentally ill. He's never had much trouble with the law — until he set a neighbor's shed on fire in 2014. Something was going on inside his head.

    It had been years since he had seen a psychiatrist for his condition. Were his medications still working?

    No one seemed to know, and Florida's criminal justice system was not set up to figure out what was wrong. It was designed to get him to court, mete out his punishment, to bring his case to a close. If that meant prison, so be it....

  5. Advocates launch social media campaign to boost mental health funding

    Politics

    Several mental health advocacy organizations have begun a campaign to pressure state lawmakers to restore cuts to Florida's mental health programs, including the $100 million from hospitals that was the focus of an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

     

    Read the full investigation: Insane. Invisible. In Danger.

     ...

    A new electronic billboard at the intersection of Park Avenue and N Magnolia Drive in Tallahassee points out Florida’s low ranking in mental health funding compared with other states. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  6. In the end, it wasn't Anthony Barsotti's demons that killed him

    News

    GAINESVILLE — Anthony Barsotti looks on the verge of death. His skin is ashen, his face gaunt. His mouth gapes as he stares at the ceiling, sporadically sucking in breaths.

    Three hours earlier, Anthony was a physically healthy 23-year-old living in the state's care at a Gainesville mental hospital.

    Then he took a swing at another mental patient and a hospital orderly launched him head-first into a concrete wall. Workers at North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center have a good chance to save his life this night in July 2010....

  7. Insane. Invisible. In danger: Hospital abuse shrouded in secrecy

    News

    Luis Santana died at a state-funded mental hospital at age 42.

    Officials at the Department of Children and Families say they investigated his death in July 2011, but they won't say more.

    They don't have to. Under Florida law, DCF can withhold information about people who die in its care, so long as the agency decides no employees were to blame.

    So, state officials won't tell you that in the hours before Santana died, his caretakers at South Florida State Hospital suspected he was having a psychotic episode. They won't say they gave him five powerful drugs to calm him down, then left him alone in the bathtub....

  8. Insane. Invisible. In danger: A special investigation into Florida's dangerous mental hospitals

    News

    Many nights, Tonya Cook made her rounds alone.

    She walked the halls of one of Florida's most dangerous mental hospitals clutching her clipboard to her chest, trying not to think too much about the patients in her care.

    All of them were men. Many were schizophrenic, violent. One had chopped up a diabetic amputee and scattered him in parts through the woods of Dixie County.

    One night in 2012, she walked the ward again, a single orderly watching over 27 men. Her nearest co-workers were upstairs, out of sight. They didn't see what a security camera captured — a patient holding a radio antennae fashioned to a jagged point....

  9. Defense seeks touch DNA to question death row inmate's guilt

    Courts

    Tommy Zeigler turns 70 this month. He has lived more than half his life on Florida's death row.

    He has always said he did not kill his wife, her parents and another man at his Winter Garden furniture store on Dec. 24, 1975. But time and again, one appeal after another, the courts have not believed him.

    Now may be his best chance to prove his innocence. It may also be his last.

    Attorneys filed a motion this week seeking court approval to use a special DNA test to examine evidence presented at the trial. The technology allows experts to analyze skin cells that can be left on one person when they are touched by another. It has been used to free other inmates across the country....

    Virginia and Perry Edwards, from Moultrie, Ga., were visiting their daughter, Eunice, and their son-in-law, Tommy Zeigler, when they were murdered at the W.T. Zeigler Furniture Store on Dec. 24, 1975. 
  10. A Q&A with the Dr. Doug Stein, vasectomy king

    Human Interest

    One day several years ago in Kenya, Dr. Doug Stein performed vasectomies on 53 men who had fathered a combined 358 children. Afterward, the men were waiting beneath a corrugated roof for a bus to take them back to their villages when a filmmaker who was making a documentary on Dr. Stein gathered them together to take a picture.

    "We support World Vasectomy Day!" the filmmaker yelled, urging the men to repeat that. The men's voices grew louder as they said it over and over....

    Dr. Doug Stein, 61, has performed almost 34,000 vasectomies in his career. He believes every vasectomy affects the planet, controlling population growth and reducing our carbon footprint.
  11. On the road and online, unlikely #CondoSeniors foursome bonds like family

    Human Interest

    By Leonora LaPeter Anton

    Times Staff Writer

    "Where are we going?" 91-year-old Dolores "Dee" Lane asked from the back seat of the Honda Odyssey.

    Her pale green eyes were framed by gray-white curls. Her leopard print blouse was buttoned to the neck. Her cane was folded in the seat pocket.

    Rain pelted the family van as it crawled across the Howard Frankland Bridge. The answer didn't matter. They were going somewhere. Together....

    After a recent outing to the Apple Store at International Plaza, Robert Neff and Lorraine Hanlon follow Dan Cafazzo and Hanlon’s sister, Dee Lane, back to the minivan. The condo neighbors have created an unlikely family unit, and Neff tweets about the two women, whom he calls the Divas, under the hashtag #condoseniors.
  12. Starting over meant erasing his face tattoos the hard way

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER

    The man with the ominous tattoos perched on a metal box in a dusty welding booth, sparks spraying on his jeans and white T-shirt as he ground down another mistake.

    Moments before, his instructor at the Pinellas Technical Education Center had shone a flashlight inside the pipe and pointed out a shadow the size of a pinprick. If this had been his final welding test — which was just a week away — he would have automatically failed....

    Eriks Mackus holds the welding tool he hopes will help him get a new start in life.
  13. For the 'oldest old,' staying independent is hardest job of their lives (w/video)

    Human Interest

    SOUTH PASADENA

    The pain emerged during her morning exercise in the hall of her apartment building. She felt a sharp pinch on her left side, just below her back. It followed Iris Kroener as she rolled her walker up and down the worn azure carpet on the ninth floor, about a mile in all, and it was still there after she rode the bus to the Gulfport Senior Center for lunch and played Rummy 500 and went to her salon and sat quietly in the chair as the stylist teased her hair into frosted strawberry blond curls, all the while prattling on about her son, who had gotten a role in some movie. Around 5 p.m., the hairdresser dropped Iris and her walker home. She rode the elevator up the nine floors to her apartment and put on her pink pajamas and got in bed....

    Iris Kroener, 95, walks to the grocery store down the street. It is a frustrating ordeal that requires resting along the way. Her mind still wants her body to move like she was 60.
  14. Elderly woman who jumped to her death had been slipping in health and spirit

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Since the 1980s, Nancy Yates had charmed neighbors at the Peterborough Apartments with her British accent and steely independence.

    The woman they knew simply as Nan had started the library at the complex, which caters to seniors, and seemed highly alert despite being one of the building's oldest residents at 96. Though hospitalized at least twice in recent months, she had bounced back, working out in the gym of the city's Sunshine Center across the street....

    Residents of Peterborough pride themselves on a sense of community and regard it as a place where people look out for each other. Nancy Yates was one of the most significant contributors to that atmosphere.
  15. Judge postpones decision on gay couple's divorce in Hillsborough

    Civil

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough County judge postponed making a decision Thursday morning on whether a lesbian couple can divorce.

    Circuit Judge Laurel M. Lee told attorneys representing the women to come back at a later date prepared to argue their positions on the case, which could challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

    Attorneys for Mariama Changamire Shaw, 47, and Keiba Lynn Shaw, 45, have reached a marital settlement agreement and wanted Judge Lee to grant the uncontested divorce. Mariama Changamire Shaw showed up for the hearing; Keiba Lynn Shaw did not. ...

    Mariama Changamire Shaw listens during Thursday's court hearing regarding her divorce from Keiba Lynn Shaw.