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Times staff,

If you have a news tip, please call our City Desk at 727-893-8215.

You can also call one of our county news bureaus directly:

Hernando County: 352-754-6101

Hillsborough County/Tampa: 813-226-3303

North Pinellas County: 727-445-4221

Pasco County: 727-869-6235

On the Web, you can also go to sptimes.com/connect/ for details on other ways to contact us.

E-mail: local@tampabay.com

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  1. State says it will investigate standardized tests in schools

    K12

    Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart announced Monday that her department would conduct an investigation of standardized testing in public schools, following months of criticism from school boards, teachers and parents across the state.

    In a statement, the Department of Education said Stewart will "work closely with districts to gather complete and accurate information on the tests being administered to meet federal, state and local requirements."...

  2. Pasco Sheriff's Office says man was shot in lower torso after standoff with deputies in Holiday

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A sheriff's sergeant fired four rounds at a Holiday man early Friday, striking him in the lower torso, after the man battered his girlfriend, refused to leave his home and charged at deputies with a heavy wooden nightstand, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

    Arrest reports released Monday by the Sheriff's Office revealed additional information about the domestic battery and subsequent standoff between deputies and 42-year-old Aaron Martin....

  3. Tampa Bay among Florida leaders in November home sales

    News

    Helped by a booming demand for bank-owned properties, the Tampa Bay area was among the most robust in Florida in November for sales of both condos and single family homes.

    And while the bay area's median sale prices continued to be on the low side, there was some good news there, too.

    Of Florida's 20 metropolitan areas, Tampa Bay ranked fifth-highest in single-family home sales with a year-over-year jump in November of 18.4 percent. The median price rose 6.7 percent, to $160,000. ...

  4. Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against city of St. Petersburg

    Civil

    TAMPA — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that homeless advocate Bruce Wright's filed against the city of St. Petersburg, which banned him from a park after an arrest last year.

    Wright was arrested in March 2013 after police said he interfered with an arrest at Williams Park, often a hub for homeless in St. Petersburg. He also was issued a trespass warning and ordered to stay out of the park for a year. ...

  5. Two remain hospitalized after Bucs lightning strike

    News

    TAMPA — Two of the seven people injured by a lightning strike after Sunday's Buccaneers game remain hospitalized, one in critical condition and the other with non-life threatening injuries, officials said Monday.

    All of the victims were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa after lightning struck an SUV in parking lot 14 of Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Fire Rescue said.

    Five were treated and released Sunday night, St. Joseph's Hospital spokeswoman Nancy Gay said. One is in critical condition and the other has non-life threatening injuries. The ages of the patients range from the early 20s to a man in his in 70s....

  6. Former therapist in Pinellas admits to having sex with patient

    Criminal

    LARGO -- A former mental health counselor was sentenced on Monday to six months in the Pinellas County Jail plus six years probation, for having sexual relations with one patient and stealing from another.

    Richard Walter Fedora, 66, pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist, and grand theft, both felonies. Under the terms of his probation, he cannot work in the mental health field and cannot contact his victims....

  7. Staples retail chain hacked nationwide with 16 Florida stores affected

    Business

    Office supply chain Staples said hackers broke into its computers and stole data on 1.16 million shoppers' credit cards and debit cards at 115 of its approximately 1,400 stores. Affected stores include 16 in Florida, among them two in the Tampa Bay market and one in nearby Bradenton.

    Staples apologized saying the company "is committed to protecting customer data and... has taken steps to enhance the security of its point-of-sale systems, including the use of new encryption tools."...

  8. Tarpon Springs mourns slain Officer Charles Kondek

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — Jacqueline Kurchinski, 10, of Chapada dos Guimarães, Brazil, played Amazing Grace on her violin as her sister Caroline Kurchinski, 9, held flowers Monday morning amid an impromptu memorial for slain Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek.

    Kondek was shot and killed early Sunday morning as he investigated a noise complaint. Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., 23, was arrested after a short car chase and charged with first-degree murder. Parilla was wanted for a probation violation and told investigators he didn't want to go back to prison....

    Jacqueline Kurchinski, 10, of Chapada dos Guimarães, Brazil, plays "Amazing Grace" on her violin Monday morning while her sister Caroline Kurchinski, 9, holds flowers nearby. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  9. Portable moving storage firm PODS is being sold

    Business

    PODS, the Clearwater-based portable moving and storage pioneer, is being sold in its entirety to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.

    But no need to pack up the moving van or put any office equipment into its namesake storage containers.

    The parent company of PODS said the firm's headquarters will remain in Clearwater — with the current management staying in place — under a binding agreement with Ontario Teachers announced early Monday....

  10. Forecast: I've been dreaming of a … cloudy Christmas?

    Weather

    Santa better pack his slicker.

    There is an 80 percent chance for rain Christmas Eve in Tampa Bay, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez. Those clouds could linger into Christmas Day.

    A cold front will hit the area during the day Wednesday, breaking a brief spell of above-average temperatures. Marquez said highs will reach the mid to upper 70s Monday and Tuesday with a chance for some scattered showers and thunderstorms....

  11. Turning Point, Week 16: Packers receiver Jordy Nelson outproduces entire Bucs offense

    Bucs

    For the Bucs' sake, let's hope Santa Claus wasn't watching Sunday, because if he was, he saw a whole lot more bad than good against the Green Bay Packers, winners of a 20-3 snoozer.

    On offense, the Buccaneers (2-13) opened the game by going three-and-out on their first five possessions and on six of their first seven. Twenty-five minutes in, they had gained a grand total of 0 yards. That's right. ZERO....

    Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson caught all nine passes thrown his way for 113 yards and a touchdown. [Associated Press]
  12. What they're saying about Bucs-Packers

    Bucs

    Bucs DE Michael Johnson:

    "It's like basketball on grass. They got guys going everywhere. They know what they are doing. It's like a well-oiled machine. They are a good offensive football team."

    Bucs coach Lovie Smith:

    "When you talk about a frustrating day, this was a frustrating day. I've had some bad ones. This was definitely one of them. … That's just a great football team on the other side. We haven't had many days like this. So maybe we ought to give them a little more credit also."...

  13. FSU-Stetson basketball, 2 p.m. Monday

    College

  14. Slain Tarpon Springs officer remembered as good cop, family man

    Crime

    TARPON SPRINGS — By day, "Charlie K" was a good dad. By night, he was known as a good cop.

    Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek worked the midnight shift so that he could watch his 15-year-old daughter Aleena's soccer practices and travel around with her wherever she played.

    Kondek, 45, was a family man, and she was his youngest child. She had just gotten her learner's permit and her father was teaching her how to drive....

    Tarpon Springs Police Department is saddened to announce the loss of Officer Charles Kondek. Ofc. Konek served the City of Tarpon Springs as a sworn law enforcement officer for over 17 years, many of which were on the midnight shift. Originally from New York, he had previously served for over 5 years as a NYPD officer before moving to Florida. 
Ofc. Kondek, who was 45 years of age, responded to a call for service shortly after 2:00 am on 12/21/14. While at the incident location, at 199 Grand Blvd., Ofc. Kondek was killed in the line of duty. TSPD officers and members of the Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue, who were summoned to assist, attended to Ofc. Kondek on-scene. He was transported to Florida Hospital North Pinellas, where he succumbed to his injuries.
The Pinellas County SheriffÕs Office and the Tarpon Springs Police Department will be investigating this tragic event. Additional information will be released at a later time.
  15. Suspect in Tarpon officer's death has extensive criminal past

    News

    GIBSONTON — Police officials on Sunday called Marco Parilla Jr. a coward, a bad guy and a cop killer.

    The portrayal stunned his family, who described the 23-year-old as "quiet" and "nice," not someone who could possibly gun down a police officer.

    "He was a nice kid. I raised him," his aunt, Juana Melendez said between sobs from the front yard of Parilla's family home on the 11000 block of Ekker Road in Gibsonton. "He was not like that. He was a good guy."...

    Family members recalled Marco Parilla Jr., the suspect in a Sunday’s killing of a Tarpon Springs police officer, as a quiet and fun-loving child.
Photo courtesy of Juana Melendez