Meredith Rutland, Times Staff Writer

Meredith Rutland is a Tampa Bay Times news intern on the NOW desk. She covers breaking news in Pinellas County.

Meredith is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida. She has previously interned for the Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel and has worked for the Independent Florida Alligator in Gainesville.

Phone: (727) 893-8804


  1. For dying toddler with MLD, celebrating each day is treasured ritual



    Savannah Hurst wore a black-and-white dress and a paper tiara. Her eyes darted around the dining room, checking out guests, as her mom cut the turtle-shaped birthday cake. A Tinkerbell video jingled in the background. A single candle flickered over the cake's green icing. Her dad, Joe, kneeled next to her. It was March and Savannah was 31 months old. "No drinking, and you can't date yet," Joe said, kissing her above her lips. Maybe Joe was getting ahead of himself, but he had to. Savannah is 2. She might not see her third birthday. So her parents are celebrating her birthdays now, one every month....

    Renee and Joe Hurst put Savannah to bed. She sleeps between her parents, who spend much of each night listening to her raspy breathing.
  2. When Savannah Got Sick


    Explaining loss to a child

    Inspired by the relationship between Savannah Hurst and her brother, Jackson, reporter Meredith Rutland and artist Don Morris created a children's book that would help parents explain the loss of a loved one.

    To order a printed version of the book, go to

    His mom told him that his sister was sick — but it was worse than a cold or even turtlepox. She could barely stick her head out of her shell.
  3. Cape Coral man wanted on 22 warrants arrested in Hillsborough


    RIVERVIEW — A man named on 22 warrants was arrested Wednesday after he was found in a Riverview attic.

    James Arthur Silva, 35, was arrested on several charges a day after officials saw him driving a stolen vehicle, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

    Silva, of Cape Coral, is named on out-of-county warrants accusing him of armed kidnapping, carjacking, burglary, robbery and grand theft, among others....

  4. Take hurricane evacuation orders seriously


    The Tampa Bay area has been lucky.

    In the past seven years, hurricanes have steered clear of the region. Tropical storms have caused some problems, but widespread catastrophic damage has been averted.

    Despite the region's good fortune, emergency officials across Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties are preparing for one of their greatest challenges as a hurricane approaches:...

    Hurricane Dennis, July 2005: Rush-hour traffic travels by a sign announcing hurricane evacuation in advance of the storm. Dennis and its 115-mph winds also prompted the Florida Keys to order an evacuation of some residents and all tourists. People were snatching up bottles of water and other hurricane supplies, while lines of cars were streaming out of the low-lying Keys island chain.
  5. Driver runs into Pinellas Park CVS

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — A vehicle hit a CVS store Thursday morning, sending emergency officials rushing to the building.

    Pinellas Park police responded to the store at 7101 Park Blvd. N after the emergency call came just before noon. A driver had tried to back up but drove forward instead, hitting the building.

    No one was seriously hurt and there was no major damage to the building, Pinellas Park police said....

  6. Two accused of abducting man, getting money from ATM


    ST. PETERSBURG — Two people were accused Wednesday of abducting a man and forcing him to give them money from an ATM, police said.

    Juliann Betancourt, 26, and Jeffrey Santiago, 49, were arrested after police released photos of the suspects who robbed a 55-year-old man, St. Petersburg police said.

    Betancourt and Santiago approached the man — an acquaintance of Betancourt's — at his home on April 22, police said....

  7. Clearwater bicyclist dies in hit-and-run crash


    CLEARWATER — A Clearwater woman died early Thursday after she was hit while bicycling across a road.

    Narissaa Jo-Ann Robinson, 28, was biking along U.S. 19 near 298th Avenue N just before 1 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol said. A white 2005 Hyundai ran into her and sped off.

    While she lay in the road, a Mercedes ran over her. That driver, 49-year-old Palm Harbor resident Shereef Adel Moawad, does not face charges, the patrol said....

  8. Puppy dead, mother dog resuscitated in Clearwater house fire


    CLEARWATER — One puppy died Wednesday morning and another dog was revived with oxygen after a fire broke out in a duplex, fire officials said.

    The fire was reported just after 7 a.m. at 517 Saturn Ave. N by nearby construction workers, said Clearwater fire division chief Steve Strong.

    Seven pit bulls — two adults and five puppies about 7 weeks old — were inside the home when the fire erupted in a bedroom, officials said....

    A fire was reported just after 7 a.m. Wednesday at 517 Saturn Ave. N. Several dogs were inside the home, officials said.
  9. Firefighters extinguish fire at Westfield Countryside Mall


    CLEARWATER — Firefighters battled a blaze at Westfield Countryside mall early Wednesday after a driver crashed into the building in a suicide attempt, authorities said.

    The fire was reported about 2 a.m. after a white Honda Accord slammed into the east side of the building at the Dillard's store in the mall on U.S. 19.

    Dozens of firefighters responded to the scene and found the car inside the building. By 4 a.m. Wednesday, the fire was extinguished. Later in the morning, the rest of the mall opened....

    Firefighters clean up after a fire at the Westfield Countryside mall early Wednesday after a driver crashed into the building.
  10. Fire that started in bathroom damages Largo home


    LARGO — A Largo home was severely damaged Tuesday morning by a fire that started in a bathroom.

    Largo Fire Rescue responded to 11793 127th Ave. N around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found heavy smoke coming from the one-story home, said Largo Fire Division Chief David Mixson.

    The fire spread to several bedrooms and into the attic, Mixson said. At least one adult was inside the home when the fire started, but no one was hurt....

  11. Howard Frankland Bridge traffic returns to normal after accidents


    TAMPA — Traffic on the Howard Frankland Bridge was backed up Tuesday morning after two crashes caused serious congestion.

    A three-car accident near the Tampa end of the bridge stopped northbound traffic just before 9 a.m., Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins said.

    Shortly after, a second two-car accident near the same spot kept traffic at a crawl.

    Both accidents were minor, and no serious injuries were reported, Gaskins said. A fire truck was blocking lanes of traffic on the bridge after the accidents....

  12. Gunman shoots former co-worker at St. Petersburg motel, kills self, police say


    ST. PETERSBURG — A former security guard for a St. Petersburg motel shot the manager of that motel early Tuesday, then killed himself, police said.

    The shooting was reported about 4:30 a.m. at the New Plaza Motel, 400 34th St. N. When officers arrived, they discovered the motel manager, Jerome Horacek, shot in the upper torso, St. Petersburg police said.

    The gunman, Anthony Graig Taylor, 25, ran away. A police dog tracked him down, eventually finding him in a nearby vacant lot at 3462 Third Ave. N. Taylor was dead with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said....

    Police investigate a shooting Tuesday at the New Plaza Motel on 34th Street in St. Petersburg. A former security guard shot and wounded the manager early Tuesday, then killed himself, police said.
  13. Clearwater man killed on U.S. 19 when car hits pole


    LARGO — A Clearwater man died after his car ran into a utility pole late Sunday.

    John J. Taborda, 31, was driving north at high speed on U.S. 19 about 11:30 p.m., Largo police said.

    As he passed Roosevelt Boulevard, he lost control of his 2007 Chevrolet Impala and hit a utility pole, police said. The car flipped.

    He was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

    Taborda was the only person in the car; no other vehicles were involved in the crash....

  14. County: Dome Grill discriminated when it turned away older job applicant


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Dome Grill violated a county discrimination ordinance after the owner's son told a job hopeful they were looking to hire someone "young and beautiful," according to a report from the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights.

    The downtown restaurant's owner and the 62-year-old woman who was turned away have a chance to come to an agreement before the case escalates to a public hearing. Since the restaurant has fewer than 15 employees, it only broke a county ordinance — not state and federal rules, said Paul Valenti, director of the county office of human rights....

  15. St. Petersburg officer suspended after crashing his patrol car


    ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg police officer who crashed his cruiser while speeding to join a police chase has been suspended for five days.

    Officer Timothy Reyes, 29, was driving 110 mph in a 40 mph zone during an authorized chase March 24, St. Petersburg police said.

    Reyes told other officers he was going east on 54th Avenue S near the 1900 block when a car pulled out in front of him. He swerved to avoid hitting it....