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. 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....

    Dee Lane, left, and her sister, Lorraine Hanlon, toast Robert Neff and his roommate, Dan Cafazzo, before treating themselves to a  dinner at Armani’s at Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.
  2. 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 used this grinder to remove gang tattoos from his face. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]
  3. 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....

    Doug Kroener helps his mother get dressed for bingo after her release from the hospital. Doug, her only surviving child, lives in New York and is here just a few days. “What happens if I need help?” she asks. “We’ll worry about that when it gets to that point,” he says.
  4. 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....

    A memorial for Nancy Yates, who jumped out of her 16th-story apartment at the Peterborough Apartments, 400 Fourth Ave. N in St. Petersburg, sits in the outdoor lounge area of the complex on Wednesday.
  5. 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.
  6. Tampa couple's divorce could challenge same-sex marriage ban

    Civil

    TAMPA — A few months ago, Mariama Changamire Shaw called the courthouse in the small town of Sunderland, Mass., where she married her wife four years ago. Could she file for divorce in Massachusetts even though she and her wife now lived in Florida, she asked.

    The answer exposed a reality that few gay couples consider when they wed in one of the 17 states that allow same-sex unions: a move to a new state can make it almost impossible to legally end the marriage....

  7. Debbie and her ring: Reunited, and it feels so good

    Human Interest

    The class ring. It is often one of the first items of value we get when we are young; it is also one of the first items of value we lose — because we are young.

    But this is the age of class ring recovery.

    In the past month alone, a dozen people across the country have been reunited with class rings found by metal detectors and treasure hunters, in front yards and back yards, at the bottom of a lake and in the bowels of a car, by a teen cleaning his apartment and a boy burying his dog. In Wyoming, a 94-year-old woman was reunited with her 1936 class ring, which was recovered from the South Pacific crash site of her husband's B-17 bomber....

  8. Local investigator hopes withheld evidence will help death row inmate

    Criminal

    Giant poster boards covered with mug shots, crime scene photos and yellowed newspaper articles overwhelm private investigator Lynn-Marie Carty's tiny living room in Treasure Island.

    Carty, a one-time Mrs. Florida contestant, has spent the past three years trying to figure out what happened one Christmas Eve 39 years ago when four people were murdered inside a furniture store in Central Florida. Tommy Zeigler, now 68, was convicted of killing his wife, his in-laws and a citrus crew foreman....

    Much of Lynn-Marie Carty’s living room is filled with poster boards, files and letters regarding her investigation into Tommy Zeigler’s case and his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that police and prosecutors lied about details and withheld evidence.
  9. The human cost of Florida's broken unemployment system

    Blog

    BROOKSVILLE — Tina Cash had already been up for two hours applying for jobs online when she heard her 20-month-old daughter crying in her crib.

    She plodded in and tried to smile at the tousled-haired toddler. "Hi, Pumpkin," she said, giving the girl a kiss and lifting her out of the crib. "I love you."

    Cash, 34, was six months pregnant, single, unemployed. She had 86 cents in her polka-dot wallet and had been evicted from her two-bedroom apartment. She had sold her couch, her bedroom set, her baby's bouncer and infant car seat and all her gold jewelry to live. She hadn't received an unemployment payment — nearly $2,000 in all — since late October....

  10. State's broken unemployment claims system has real human costs

    Working Life

    BROOKSVILLE — Tina Cash had already been up for two hours applying for jobs online when she heard her 20-month-old daughter crying in her crib.

    She plodded in and tried to smile at the tousled-haired toddler. "Hi, Pumpkin," she said, giving the girl a kiss and lifting her out of the crib. "I love you."

    Cash, 34, was six months pregnant, single, unemployed. She had 86 cents in her polka-dot wallet and had been evicted from her two-bedroom apartment. She had sold her couch, her bedroom set, her baby's bouncer and infant car seat and all her gold jewelry to live. She hadn't received an unemployment payment — nearly $2,000 in all — since late October....

  11. Reality TV, and a dose of reality, for Limo Bob

    Human Interest

    Robert Strauser's fingers lumbered across his laptop keyboard under the weight of 12 chunky diamond and gold rings. He wore 33 pounds of gold chains, dark sunglasses, a black Fedora, snakeskin boots. He'd brushed Just for Men, dark brown, into his skinny boxed beard.

    Limo Bob, as he likes to be called, was attempting to connect online by Skype with a reality show producer. He had a lifetime of stories to tell her, about how he had once owned the longest limo in the world; how he'd lost it all and had to sell Barney dolls on the street; how he had come to Florida after someone blew up five of his limos....

    Acting as a chauffeur/bodyguard in local country music singer CP Kelley’s new video, Robert “Limo Bob” Strauser, clad in 33 pounds of gold, opens the door of a 1996 Lincoln Town Car with a custom Rolls-Royce Phantom-style limo kit he chose for the music video, while producer Jason Dowd, left, looks for the best way to frame the shot when the camera is rolling.
  12. Gretchen Molannen's legacy: suffering, suicide and a journalist's responsibility

    Human Interest

    I had floated for hours in a warm mineral spring in Florida, interviewing Eastern Europeans in Speedos and floppy hats. For a reporter, it was an idyllic kind of day.

    Back at the office late in the afternoon, gritty and sun-bleached, I sat down to look through email. I had just published an article about a Spring Hill woman named Gretchen Molannen. For 16 years, she had lived with an embarrassing genital arousal disorder that had left her destitute and in pain....

    A friend still has one of the sand sculptures Gretchen Molannen created before her death.
  13. Woman acts on her dream, but can she fill a theater?

    Human Interest

    Rashida Strober's sneakers squelched as she hurried along the sidewalk in a downpour. She pulled a flier from her backpack and handed it to a young black man in a doorway.

    "It's for a play," she said, "that deals with the relationship between dark-skinned black women and men."

    He nodded. "I'll give it to my mama," he said.

    Rashida, 35, moved along, stuffing fliers in doorjambs....

     Rashida Strober’s A Dark-Skinned Woman’s Revenge drew a crowd of only about 70 people at the 700-seat theater. She admits being disappointed by the turnout, but is already thinking of ways to draw more people to the show. “I got to do something different,” she says. “Instead of 20,000 fliers, maybe I need to do 100,000.”
  14. With Warm Mineral Springs closed, devotees ache for the healing waters

    Human Interest

    By Leonora LaPeter Anton

    NORTH PORT — One day in early September, Frank and Lana Usherenko set out from their gated stucco home on an exploratory mission.

    Lana, 65, wearing a floppy green hat and fuchsia lipstick, had wrapped an aching ankle in an Ace bandage. Frank, 73, a Soviet wrestling champion, hiked one step ahead of her.

    As the sun broke past the horizon, they walked down the deserted residential street, past weedy driveways and consecutive For Sale signs. It felt like a faded Florida ghost town....

    HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: Frank and Lana Usherenko, center, walk a mile to the spring every morning hoping to find it open again. On this day, security guard Keith Browne is left to disappoint them, and Joe and Jenya Kreisel, once again. 
MELISSA LYTTLE   /   Times
  15. Cocoa Beach surf school shares lessons on riding waves and life

    Florida

    COCOA BEACH

    The surf board was beneath me and all I had to do was stand up on both feet and ride a wave. I'd pushed aside my fear of sharks and sting rays. I'd forgotten that a few minutes earlier, I'd fallen in 3 inches of water and come away with a bloody knee.

    I'd come with half a dozen other moms to learn surfing with our tween/teen daughters. The daughters were flying. The moms, well, we were trying....

    Lori Jerger stands up on her surf board during her lesson. Instructor Brian Walton taught the class to put all their weight on their front foot after popping up. “That’s your tree trunk,” he said.