05/16/13 Human Interest
Henry Davis, president of the Bealsville Inc. civic group, had a blunt message for the families gathered Monday to dedicate a plaque recognizing Bealsville's history.
"Whatever happens, it's important that future generations know where we came from," he told the crowd of about 100 at the Bealsville Recreation Center, 5009 Nesmith Road.
"We need to keep it moving, to take this responsibility and carry it forward."...
TAMPA — A Thonotosassa man faces four counts of child neglect and numerous drug and alcohol charges after his car was pulled over for speeding late Saturday, deputies said.
After stopping Bobby Lee Roberts, 30, at Dale Mabry Highway and Fletcher Avenue, Hillsborough County deputies said they found four unrestrained children inside the car.
Arrest reports say Roberts smelled of alcohol and failed two sobriety tests. A search revealed methadone and crack cocaine in an orange pill bottle in Roberts' left pants pocket, the report said....
BRANDON — Mother's Day ended with a beeline for the exits for scores of diners after a fire broke out in a crowded restaurant Sunday evening.
"It was a great Mother's Day — until the fire," said Jodie Rubio, 65, standing outside Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant with her family, other diners and about a dozen wait staffers. "This is one Mother's Day I won't soon forget."
More than 200 people were inside the restaurant at 11105 Causeway Blvd. in Brandon, but all got out and no one was injured, a spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said....
NEW PORT RICHEY — The 83-year-old woman killed Saturday in a crash at Rowan Road and Baillie Drive has been identified as Rosalie P. Daubin of Holiday.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that Daubin and a passenger, Elaine C. Dunn, 84, also of Holiday, were in a 2006 Buick LaCrosse heading east on Baillie Drive at 11:25 a.m. when a Chevrolet pickup truck heading south on County Road 77 slammed into their car....
05/12/13 Public Safety
TAMPA — An 8-year-old girl was hospitalized with what authorities described as non-life-threatening injuries after being attacked by a dog Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to a report of the attack at 2:20 p.m. at a single-story home at 3210 Lancaster Lane in Progress Village, south of Causeway Boulevard and east of 78th Street.
The girl, whose name was not released, was taken by ambulance to Tampa General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according Marti Ryan, spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Animal Services....
Hopewell Baptist Church was the one place Martha Durrance could count on when it seemed everything was lost.
She was 10 when her brother, Forest "Doc" Glover, pulled her from a house set ablaze by a kerosene stove that exploded while warming a baby bottle.
As the children huddled outside on the grass, coughing and rubbing their eyes, the three-room pine structure owned by their employer, a farmer named Clifton McDonald, burned to the ground. Everything inside — clothing, shoes, two beds, pillows, blankets and a smattering of plates, photographs and toys — was lost....
TAMPA — Two women were killed and third escaped with injuries in a shooting Sunday morning at their Citrus Park home, authorities said.
Investigators said they weren't sure what led to the shooting — although they do not think it was random — and hadn't publicly identified any suspects.
All three of the women lived at the beige, single story rental house at 7420 Manhattan Drive just east of the Westfield Citrus Park mall....
05/04/13 Human Interest
It's been nearly a year since Circuit Court Judge Tracy Sheehan was reassigned from Juvenile Court in Tampa to the satellite court house in Plant City to hear family law, divorce and probate cases. • Since being elected to the court in 2007, Sheehan, 53, has built a reputation as being tough on abusive and neglectful parents while having a soft spot for children's causes. She once donated $100,000 from her retirement fund to build a children's shelter. • Then came the war of words with the Hillsborough County's Public Defender's Office in June 2012. • After a supervisor at the office called off a deal that Sheehan says would have lessened the time a teenage boy spent in a juvenile facility, she called Assistant Public Defender Kay Murray "an inept and mean-spirited individual who publicly berates her underlings." Sheehan was reassigned to Plant City as punishment. • A Harley-Davidson riding, self-professed gym rat, Sheehan grew up in Alaska and worked as a TV reporter at WTSP-Ch 10 in Tampa before attending Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. She went on to work with Tampa defense attorney Barry Cohen and to open her own practice. Helping troubled kids became an outlet after two bouts of breast cancer. Three bulletin boards brimming with photos of children she's helped as a judge adorn her office. • Sheehan recently spoke with the Times' Rich Shopes about how she's adjusting to the slower pace of Plant City and about her time in Tampa overseeing hundreds of juvenile cases, from adoptions to domestic abuse to crimes by children....
The future of the city's ambitious Midtown project, a proposed residential and commercial district on 85 acres south of downtown, got a boost this week when legislators approved a bill to help cities considering urban renewal projects tackle stormwater runoff issues more easily.
The legislation approved unanimously in the Florida House on Tuesday and three weeks ago in the Senate would allow Plant City to tear out acres of abandoned concrete foundations and asphalt in the Midtown district without having to build stormwater retention ponds or some other elaborate drainage system to capture runoff. The bill requires Gov. Rick Scott's signature, but lawmakers say they don't anticipate a problem....
PLANT CITY — At Tomlin Middle School students are learning to be kinder and gentler.
A program called More Than Me Day is teaching seventh-graders to open up about their emotions and empathize with others. The goal is to promote conflict resolution and curb bullying and feelings of exclusion.
"It's important for kids to develop a rapport with adults and to learn skills to deal with peer pressure and conflicts," Tomlin principal Susan Sullivan said. "And all of this effects the children's ability to learn."...
04/21/13 Human Interest
TAMPA — To those who stopped by for a hug or a handshake, he was known simply as Coach.
Tom Lota, the retired wrestling coach at East Bay High School in Gibsonton, touched hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives during his 24 years at the school.
Years later, just how many lives Coach had affected would become apparent as he lay at a hospice in Sun City Center for two weeks, battling the ravaging effects of cancer that was diagnosed two and a half years ago....
04/18/13 Local Government
PLANT CITY — Police officials will soon get help dealing with leaks.
Commissioners on Monday are expected to vote on whether to hire a contractor to repair the police department's aging, cracked roof.
The leaky roof has vexed officials for a couple of years and forced maintenance crews to place buckets in the ceiling to catch drips.
The problem has worsened over time and lately the leaks have sprung up indiscriminately around the 67,000-square-foot building at 1 Police Place....
TAMPA — Three people died and one was hospitalized Sunday night when their sport utility vehicle flipped while fleeing a convenience store where they stole some beer, police said.
The Jeep was speeding from the 7-Eleven store at Columbus Drive and Himes Avenue in West Tampa, where a man in the vehicle had shoplifted some Natural Light, police said.
"So this whole thing is over some beer," said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis....
PLANT CITY — There's no denying pork's appeal.
The annual Pig Jam barbecue festival has grown from a few thousand attendees to 20,000 since professional and amateur barbecuers started vying for cash prizes 10 years ago.
But now organizers are wondering whether staying put at the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex off Park Road makes sense. They met with city officials a few months ago in part to brainstorm possible venues....
04/11/13 Human Interest
LAKELAND — The vintage airplanes roar past, leaving puffs of white smoke in their wake that become mileslong messages: birthday greetings, event promotions and, yes, car insurance ads.
The Geico Skytypers have shown up at sporting events and car races and above beachgoers since the 1960s. Creating floating billboards for the insurer and other companies pays the bills, but the group of mostly ex-military pilots also performs at a dozen air shows and fly-ins each spring and summer....