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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. Crime Stoppers targets captive audience in Hillsborough County jail


    TAMPA — The 1,600 inmates staying at the Falkenburg Road jail on any given day are the very definition of a captive audience.

    They amount to a treasure trove of potential tipsters for Hillsborough sheriff's Master Deputy Kelly McLaren, whose job as coordinator for Crime Stoppers Tampa Bay is to release information to the public about unsolved crimes and wanted fugitives.

    "Criminals know criminals," McLaren said. "That's the bottom line, and this is a way to get the information out there so the right person is going to see it."...

    Master Deputy Kelly McLaren, coordinator for Crime Stoppers Tampa Bay, broadcasts information about unsolved cases and wanted fugitives to televisions inside the Falkenburg raod jail. "Criminals know criminals," McLaren said. [Tony Marrero   |   Times]
  2. With no one else to help, home-bound Hillsborough man calls 911 to use the bathroom

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Paralyzed from the waist down, Khalid Mahmud spends most of his time in a hospital bed in his living room.

    For the most part, Mahmud and his wife are able to meet his daily needs. But when the 72-year-old needs to use the portable toilet at his bedside, they summon help.

    They call 911.

    When they do, a fire engine with a three-person crew from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue's Station 19 makes the two-mile trip to the Mahmuds' Carrollwood home. Firefighters lift Mahmud out of bed and onto the toilet, wait for him to finish his bowel movement and clean himself, and then ease him back into bed....

    Hillsborough County Fire Rescue sends a fire truck and crew whenever a Carrollwood man calls 911seeking help getting to the toilet. The man is paralyzed from a car accident. The calls come every day. [Times file photo]
  3. Riverview girl, 11, drowns trying to retrieve shoe in swimming hole near her home


    RIVERVIEW — An 11-year-old girl drowned Wednesday while trying to retrieve a lost shoe in a swimming hole near her home, deputies said.

    D'Asis Baldwin was with friends at the swimming hole on Ivy Flower Loop about 2 p.m. when she came out of the water, went back in to get the shoe and never resurfaced, said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

    Members of the Sheriff's Office dive team retrieved Baldwin from the murky water. Hillsborough Fire Rescue crews took her to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Carter said....

  4. Homes evacuated during standoff in Town 'N Country mobile home park

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Deputies evacuated some homes in the Carefree Village mobile home park after a man barricaded himself inside a home Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

    The four-hour standoff began shortly after noon when the man got into an altercation with his girlfriend in the home at 9059 Allen Circle, said Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon. The girlfriend fled from the home and the man, who is reportedly armed with a gun, remained inside, McKinnon said....

  5. In a flash, young and old can fall victim to gator attack in Florida

    Public Safety

    They typically hunt at night, lurking motionless, waiting for their quarry. And when they hone in on a potential target, they strike in a flash.

    That's likely what happened Tuesday night when an alligator dragged a 2-year-old boy to his death in the water near Disney's upscale Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as his family lounged on the sandy beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon, authorities said....

    Visitors might be less aware than state residents about the need to watch for alligators in Florida's waters, said Marty Main with the University of Florida. [University of Florida photo]
  6. Tampa man bitten while trying to catch and release trespassing alligator

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Kenny Long decided to take matters into his own hands Tuesday when a scaled, 5-foot-long trespasser wandered up to his back door.

    It didn't end well.

    The alligator bit the 50-year-old Long on the calf as he tried to wrangle the creature with a rope near his home on Delano Avenue, near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Orient Road, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life threatening. He couldn't be reached Tuesday....

    An officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided not to charge Kenny Long for trying to move an alligator on his own, but they did have some advice for him: Call next time. 
  7. Tampa babysitter arrested after setting off chemical bombs with 10-year-old boy, deputies say


    TAMPA — Joshua Lapin-Bertone decided to give the boy he was babysitting a hands-on learning experience, deputies say.

    But the lesson was in making acid bombs and it ended Monday in the arrest of the 30-year-old Tampa man on child abuse charges, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    A deputy working off duty in the Logan Gate neighborhood near Veterans Expressway and Gunn Highway heard a loud explosion about 11:15 a.m. The deputy went to Monterey Lakeside Park and saw Lapin-Bertone setting off acid bombs — an acid and a base chemical combined in a container that swells and explodes....

  8. After Orlando massacre, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor calls for renewal of assault weapons ban


    TAMPA — The worst mass shooting in America's history is the latest evidence that the country needs to bring back a ban on assault-style weapons, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Monday.

    "All you had to do was watch these iPhone videos of what happened at the Pulse club in Orlando as this terrorist walked in and shot," Castor, D-Tampa, said during news conference Monday. "Forty-eight people he was able to take down in a very short period of time."...

    Black students education project: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) talks outside of Campbell Park Elementary Friday afternoon in St. Petersburg. Castor was to meet with Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education John King and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who both also visited the school Friday.
  9. Gov. Rick Scott asks President Obama to declare state of emergency after mass shooting at Orlando nightclub


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has asked President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in Florida in the wake of Sunday's mass shooting at the Pulse night club in Orlando.

    "During a June 12 press conference, you accurately characterized the terrorist attack as a 'horrific massacre,'" Scott wrote in a letter to Obama. "I urge you to declare an emergency under the Stafford Act so the 'full resources of the federal government' can be made available for the individuals, families and communities impacted by this 'horrific massacre.'" ...

  10. Hillsborough deputy faces DUI charge in wrong-way crash on I-75


    RUSKIN — Matthew Crane was at the wheel of a semitrailer truck early Friday morning heading north on a dark stretch of interstate when a pair of headlights drifted into view.

    He couldn't make out what kind of vehicle it was or how fast it was moving. But as the lights grew bigger, he knew it was heading toward him.

    "Now, he's coming into my lane," Crane said later. "This ain't good."...

    A Hillsborough depty faces a DUI charge after troopers say he struck a tractor-trailer while driving the wrong way on I-75 near the Hillsborough-Manatee county line. [Florida Highway Patrol, via Twitter]
  11. Man sentenced to life for killing Tampa men he planned to use as sex slaves


    TAMPA — Fourteen years after her son was killed in a crime that shocked Tampa Bay, Pam Williams finally got to stand face to face with one of the killers.

    At a Tampa courtroom lectern, as television news cameras rolled, Williams held up a framed photo of her son and asked Scott Paul Schweickert to take a long, hard look.

    "I look at it every single day," she said. "I don't even have a grave, a body or a tombstone. I have the city dump with my son ground up like hamburger meat in the dirt. So I hope you're satisfied. I hope you rot in hell."...

    Michael Wachholtz
  12. Family of Treasure Island man who fell overboard Sunday launches intensive private search

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — Patti Velasco believes her husband is out there somewhere, alive.

    "I do not want anybody giving up on my husband," Velasco said Wednesday morning, three days after 78-year-old Arthur "Dennis" Velasco fell off a sailboat north of Anclote Key. He was not wearing a life jacket.

    "He is a survivor," his wife said. "He has a strong will to live. In my heart, I believe he's alive and waiting for us to come get him."...

    This photo of Dennis Velasco steering his friend's 32-foot catamaran Bolero was taken hours before he fell overboard about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday. The boat was about 15 miles northwest of Anclote Key at the time. The U.S. Coast Guard has been searching for Velasco with the help of an intensive effort launched by his family friends, who have enlisted private planes, helicopters and boat captains.
  13. Coast Guard resumes search for Treasure Island man who fell off sailboat northwest of Anclote Key

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — Authorities have resumed their search for a missing Treasure Island man who fell off a sailboat northwest of Anclote Key early Sunday.

    Arthur Velasco, 78, fell overboard into the Gulf of Mexico about 3:40 a.m., according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The 32-foot boat was roughly 15 miles northwest of Anclote Key at the time, the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Velasco was not wearing a life jacket....

  14. Engine trouble forces pilot to land on street in Temple Terrace

    Public Safety

    TEMPLE TERRACE — A stalled engine forced a private pilot to make an emergency landing on N 56th Street Sunday night, police said.

    Lefferts Mabie III was piloting the single-engine Cessna T-210 from Pensacola International Airport to Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands, said Temple Terrace police spokesman Michael Dunn, when the plane started to experience electrical surges over the Gulf of Mexico....

    Lefferts Mabie III was flying a Cessna T-120 from Pensacola to Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands. There were no close calls with road traffic reported after he landed on a two-lane road.
  15. For mother, terror and loss in Belgium attacks linger

    Human Interest

    ODESSA — Sitting in a hotel lobby in Brussels, Sheila Shell answered her cellphone and heard a familiar voice.

    President Barack Obama was calling to offer condolences. He told Shell he'd been reading about her son Justin Shults and his wife, Stephanie. He said they epitomized everything that was good about America.

    "Just be thankful you can hug your kids tonight, because I can't," Shell recalls telling the president. "These evil cowards who killed my son need to be stopped because no one should go through what we went through, what we're going through and what we will continue to go through."...

    A traveler runs through the smoke-filled terminal in the Brussels Airport on March 22. Twelve people were killed at the airport. Stephanie Shults’ mother just checked in for a flight, waved to Justin and Stephanie, turned around, and a bomb went off.