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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero covers breaking news and general assignment stories in Hillsborough County. A Baltimore native, he joined the Times in 2009.

Phone: (813) 226-3374


Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

  1. Following tea party playbook, 'Indivisible' tries to nudge Congress away from Trump


    TAMPA — The married couple stood on the sidewalk in front of the gleaming high rise, clutching pink posters as traffic zoomed by on West Kennedy Boulevard.

    It was Valentine's Day, and Andrea Beley and Gaston Naranjo of Tampa had joined about 150 other demonstrators to send a message to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. This day, the group was largely focused on getting Rubio to hold a town hall meeting....

    Fliers declaring U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio "missing," like this one posted in St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhood, reflect a tactic straight out of "The Indivisible Guide," a how-to manual aimed at thwartying President Trump's agenda by targeting members of Congress. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  2. FHP: Family is hiding Ruskin driver wanted in New Year's Eve hit-and-run


    RUSKIN — Jorge Soria crashed into a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle on New's Year Eve and kept driving, authorities say.

    Now, the 35-year-old Ruskin man is in hiding with the help of his family, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

    "They know very well where he is, and they're being elusive," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, a spokesman for the patrol.

    Investigators say Soria was driving a green 2002 Chevrolet Suburban south on U.S. 41 about 7:20 p.m. when he struck Cameron Fuller, who was trying to cross the road south of College Avenue on his black BMX bike. ...

    Cameron’s black BMX bike rests in the road after the crash. He was in a medically induced coma for about a week afterward.
  3. Authorities find lost man in Hillsborough wilderness preserve, arrest him on meth charge

    Public Safety

    THONOTOSASSA — Authorities located a man who got lost in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve after a four hour search Tuesday only to promptly arrest him after finding methamphetamine in his backpack, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Rufus Gaston Buckner, 38, of Tampa, called 911 about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday to report that he had been lost in the preserve since noon Monday and his cell phone battery was dying, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez....

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Kevin Balfour (left) and Bryce Phillippi (center) lead Rufus Buckner, 38, of Tampa to safety after locating him during a search of the Hillsborough River Wilderness Preserve. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  4. Undercover operation in Hillsborough nets 66 guns in three months, some stolen


    TAMPA — About three months ago, undercover sheriff's detectives making drug buys in Hillsborough County started asking the sellers for help: I'm a convicted felon, they'd say. Do you know where I can get a gun?

    "No problem," was often the response, said Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee.

    "They were bringing loaded guns, and it was really easy to buy them," Gee told reporters at a news conference Friday as he stood at a lectern flanked by two tables full of firearms....

    A 14-week undercover operation by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office netted 51 arrests, 66 seized guns and about 4 pounds of drugs. The operation helps in forecasting violent crime trends.
  5. Iconic 'Airstream Ranch' display demolished to make room for new Airstream dealership

    Human Interest


    Mike Hall climbed into his bright orange, 25-ton excavator at first light Thursday.

    He had a roadside icon to destroy.

    Hall, a 59-year-old supervisor for a demolition company, doesn't get sentimental about his job. Here is a guy who helped level the Tides Hotel in North Redington Beach, where Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and the Beach Boys stayed. Nothing drives home the transitory nature of existence like knocking down things for a living....

    Times files
Frank Bates stands in front of "Airstream Ranch," his version of the famous "Cadillac Ranch," in Dover on January 4, 2007.
  6. Man sleeping in Tampa bin injured by garbage truck compactor


    TAMPA — Brian McCranie was about to dump another load into the belly of his big green garbage truck Wednesday morning when he heard screams.

    A man trapped in the container of the Waste Management truck was yelling for help. McCranie, who had just pulled into a Dollar General store on Hillsborough Avenue, called 911.

    A Tampa police officer arrived, climbed on top of the truck and saw the man, 32-year-old Tristan Godsey. He was conscious and breathing but was hurt, according to a police report....

    It took Tampa Fire Rescue crews more than an hour to extricate Tristan Godsey, 32, from inside the garbage truck early Wednesday at W Hillsborough Avenue and N Dale Mabry Highway.
  7. Court delay of Trump travel ban doesn't help USF student in Iran


    Mehdi Zeyghami boarded a plane in Tehran, Iran, on Monday with a glimmer of hope that he would soon make it back to the University of South Florida to finish his doctoral degree.

    After a federal judge temporarily blocked key parts of President Donald Trump's executive order barring travel from Iran and six other countries, the 34-year-old Iranian national hoped he could pick up the student visa approved late last month before the order cancelled it....

    ?Mehdi Zeyghami, seen in front of a University of South Florida solar power plant, was in the process of finishing his Ph.D. [Courtesy of ?Mehdi Zeyghami]
  8. Allowing transgender Boy Scouts can be a teachable moment, some local scoutmasters say

    Human Interest

    The leader of the Boy Scouts of America looked into a camera last week and delivered a message: Times have changed, and one of the largest youth-serving organizations in America is changing with it.

    The Boy Scouts will open its ranks to transgender boys, chief executive Michael Surbaugh said in the video.

    The decision, like previous policy changes allowing openly gay Scouts and leaders, drew criticism and praise. And like the previous changes, the move will also spark conversations among local troops and the charter organizations that sponsor them. Some could decide to part ways, as they did after the previous changes....

    Scouts for Equality holds a Washington rally calling for inclusion of gays in the Boy Scouts of America. The organization agreed to admit gay members and leaders, and last week announced it would accept members based on  gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate. [Associated Press, 2013]
  9. Naked man who ran onto Dale Mabry died of cocaine overdose, report says

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — When Tampa police answered a call in December about a naked man banging on cars in the middle of Dale Mabry Highway, officers assumed Nathan Hamilton must have been on drugs.

    It turns out Hamilton was, and it killed him, according to an autopsy report that was released Friday.

    The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office listed the cause of death for the 39-year-old Tampa man as "intoxication by cocaine."...

  10. Tampa man faces DUI charge after fatally striking pedestrian in South Tampa


    A Tampa man faces a charge of DUI after police say he fatally struck a pedestrian in South Tampa early Friday morning.

    Police said David Gene Franklin, 49, struck an unidentified white male while driving a 2002 Toyota pickup truck eastbound shortly after 1 a.m. on W Gandy Boulevard, just west of S Dale Mabry Highway.

    The man was attempting to cross Gandy Boulevard on foot about 100 feet west of Dale Mabry, police said. ...

    David Gene Franklin, 49, of Tampa, faces a charge of DUI after Tampa police say he fatally struck a pedestrian in South Tampa on Feb. 3, 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  11. Deputies: Apollo Beach bank robber who carjacked woman arrested in Sarasota


    SARASOTA — A man suspected of robbing an Apollo Beach bank this week and then carjacking a woman the next day has been arrested, deputies said.

    Carlos Manuel Garcia, 49, was arrested by the Sarasota Police Department late Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported.

    According to the Sheriff's Office, Garcia entered the TD Bank at 6176 Highway 41 N about 1 p.m. Tuesday and passed a note to a teller implying he had a gun. After the teller handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, Garcia fled in a Hyundai Sonata, deputies said. A witness identified Garcia as the robber, according to the Sheriff's Office....

  12. Teen arrested in slaying of Holiday man in Craigslist dirt bike sale


    TAMPA — When Suzanne Beck's son got home Tuesday night, she asked him to change his pants.

    They were covered in blood.

    The 15-year-old had attempted to revive his dad, Beck's husband, who was shot during a Craigslist sale gone bad. James Beck, 44, died.

    Tampa police arrested one person in connection with the shooting, 16-year-old Ramontrae Williams, on charges of first-degree murder and robbery. Investigators were still searching for a second suspect Wednesday....

    Ramontrae Williams, 16, left, is charged in the shooting death of James Beck, 44.
  13. Iranian student can't return to USF after going home to care for mother


    Mehdi Zeyghami's number had finally come up.

    For eight months, the 34-year-old Iranian waited for his visa so he could return to Tampa to finish his Ph.D. work on solar energy technology at the University of South Florida. He had put his life on hold to return to Tehran last May to care for his mother after she had open-heart surgery.

    On Thursday, his case number popped up on the U.S. Consulate's website. His visa was ready and it looked like he would make it back to Tampa in time for the spring semester. He booked a flight to pick it up at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia....

    Mehdi Zeyghami, seen in front of a University of South Florida solar power plant, was in the process of finishing his Ph.D.
  14. HCC's Atwater on DUI bust: 'No injury, no property damage'


    Hillsborough Community College Kenneth Atwater released a statement Monday about his Saturday DUI arrest.

    “I take this matter very seriously, have retained a personal attorney, and am confident this matter will be resolved through the legal system,” Atwater said in the statement, released by his attorney, Eddie Suarez of Tampa. “There was no accident, no one was injured and no property was damaged. As always, I remain focused on and committed to HCC, its students, our faculty and the community at large.”...

    Arrest mug for Kenneth Atwater
  15. Many families cling to latest word on gravely ill Plant High grad

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Dustin Kurth is a man of many families.

    There's his family at Plant High School, where he graduated in 2012 but is now more popular than he was then.

    There's his family at the PDQ restaurant in South Tampa, where he has greeted customers with a wide smile for more than three years.

    There's his family at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, where he fills roles ranging from youth group leader to parking attendant....

    Cindy Kurth joins some 200 people in a vigil Thursday for her son, Dustin Kurth, at Palma Ceia Methodist Church in Tampa. Kurth, a Plant High graduate, was in intensive care undergoing treatment for pneumonia. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]