Make us your home page

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. St. Petersburg swiftly moves Confederate marker while monument debate persists in Tampa


    Without public comment or deliberation, St. Petersburg officials on Tuesday quietly removed an obscure reminder of the Confederacy sitting on the city's downtown waterfront.

    Meanwhile, a debate over the future of Tampa's Confederate monument — one that began long before last weekend's violent white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., but persists today — will likely continue during today's Hillsborough County Commission meeting....

  2. New Hampshire authorities say Tampa man is suspect in camping murder cold case


    TAMPA — One day during the summer of 1984, two friends went camping in New England. One returned, and the other, 25-year-old Christopher Bird, is still missing.

    Now the second camper, Richard Brunt, a man with ties to Tampa and a previous manslaughter conviction, is a suspect in Bird's murder, court records show.

    The cold case came to light in Hillsborough County through a summons issued by a New Hampshire judge ordering Brunt's son Samuel to testify before a grand jury last week....

    Christopher Bird, then 25, disappeared during a 1984 camping trip with his friend Richard Brunt.
  3. Volunteers stand guard over Confederate monument in downtown Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — With images of a toppled North Carolina statue fresh in their minds, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are now standing guard over the Confederate monument in front of the historic county courthouse in downtown Tampa.

    Several members of the group gathered at the courthouse Monday night to watch over "Memoria In Aeterna" after hearing rumors that activists were planning to try to topple it, said David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp. ...

    Protesters climb the Confederate Memorial in Tampa on Sunday night after more than 200 people marched down the streets of downtown Tampa to protest white supremacy. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Hillsborough Flaggers plan are standing guard now to protect the statute. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  4. Hillsborough deputy responding to call in Apollo Beach fatally shoots neighbor's dog

    Public Safety

    APOLLO BEACH — A Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy fatally shot a dog Sunday after the dog charged, according to the Sheriff's Office.

    Deputies responding to a call about an open door at 315 Francis Drive arrived at the house about 1 p.m. and began to search the property, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter. As deputies walked around the house, two dogs in a neighboring yard began to growl and bark as they tried to jump the fence, Carter said....

  5. Attorney: Driver had two seizures at work the day she killed family of three on Selmon Expressway

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The driver who police say caused a fatal crash that killed a couple and their 8-year-old daughter on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway had two seizures earlier in the day and one right before the crash, her attorney said Monday.

    Amber Nicole Perera faces three counts of DUI manslaughter, among other charges, for the crash Thursday that killed Luiz Felipak and, pending confirmation from the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, his wife Rita Felipak of Tampa and their 8-year-old daughter, Giorgia. But Perera blacked out during the seizure and was disoriented immediately after the crash, not intoxicated from her medication as Tampa police have charged, said defense attorney Hubbell Losson....

    Rita Felipak, 29, and her daughter Giorgia, 8 are seen in this Facebook post by Josh Unser. Rita, her daughter Giorgia and husband Luiz were killed Aug. 10 in a hit-and-run crash on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. [Facebook]
  6. Deputies investigating vandalism at Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating after granite monuments at the site of the massive Confederate flag that flies over Interstate 75 were vandalized over the weekend.

    Deputies responding about 11 a.m. Sunday to a vandalism call at Confederate Memorial Park, 10418 Highway 92 East, discovered red paint had been thrown on all of the granite memorial pillars, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. There were also derogatory comments written in paint on the memorial....

    Deputies are investigating a case of vandalism at Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa. Red paint was splashed on all of the memorial's granite pillars, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

[JIM REED/Times files]
  7. Oldsmar man accused of offering Tampa cop $10,000 to get out of pot, DUI arrest


    TAMPA — The officer, it seemed, had made up his mind. Michael Schaedel was going to jail.

    Arrested about midnight Wednesday on suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession, all that was left for Schaedel was a patrol car ride to central booking.

    But Schaedel made a list-ditch effort to buy his freedom, according to an arrest report: He offered Officer Douglass Bailey $10,000 to let him go....

  8. Valrico pet resort owner loses five of her own dogs in fire (w/video)


    VALRICO — Betsy Hicka ran into her burning home and spotted her standard poodle Lacey lying by the door.

    The fluffy white matriarch of an award-winning show dog family looked liked she was sleeping. Hicka scooped her up and ran outside.

    "But she was already gone," Hicka said Wednesday morning as she wiped tears from her cheek.

    Hicka tried to run back inside to save the four other dogs in the home but firefighters told her it was too dangerous. None of them survived....

    Lacey, an 11-year-old, award-winning standard poodle, was one of five of Betsy Hicka's dogs that died Tuesday when fire broke out at her home on North St. Cloud Avenue in Valrico. 
[TONY MARRERO/Times staff]
  9. Health care IT firm chooses Tampa for new office because trained workers are here


    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott swung through Tampa on Tuesday to celebrate the opening of Think Anew's first Florida location.

    The company, based in Madison, Miss., specializes in providing information technology infrastructure and support to health care companies and just moved into a suite at an office park on Tech Boulevard, off Columbus Drive.

    The company picked Tampa over locations in Florida and in other states mainly because of its stream of potential workers coming from local colleges and universities, said Don Glidewell, Think Anew's chief executive officer....

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces the creation of new jobs at the new offices of Think Anew in Tampa. The Mississippi company specializes in IT services for small to midsize healthcare companies. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  10. Valrico man charged with DUI manslaughter in November crash that killed passenger


    TAMPA — A 25-year-old Valrico man has been arrested and charged in a fatal crash that killed his passenger last November.

    Andrew John Wallace Jr. was under the influence of alcohol when he crashed a 2003 Nissan 350Z on Brandon Parkway on Nov. 23, killing 23-year-old Ivan Ordonez, court records state. Wallace was arrested on a warrant Friday and charged with DUI manslaughter.

    Wallace was driving east at a high speed about 12:20 a.m. when he lost control at a right curve in the roadway near Pauls Drive, records state. The Nissan struck a raised concrete median and the car's passenger door slammed into a palm tree....

  11. Hillsborough Sheriff's Office ramps up public alerts on missing persons

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has begun to alert the public of all missing persons reports, a change from a prior focus on those considered "endangered."

    Questions about how the agency decides whether to publicize such reports arose after the July death of 13-year-old Janessa Shannon, who was missing from her Riverview home for nine days before her body was found in a woods. Friends and family decried a lack of media coverage....

    Col. Donna Lusczynski speaks in July about the murder of 13-year-old Janessa Shannon, whose disappearance was clouded by reports that she had previously run away from home. Lusczynski said more than 500 Hillsborough juveniles had already been reported missing this year. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  12. Shot-spotter technology alerts deputies to fatal shooting in Tampa's university area


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a fatal shooting early Thursday along a residential street northwest of the University of South Florida.

    Deputies were alerted by an electronic detection system to shots fired just after 2:30 a.m. and found 28-year-old Michael Jamar Bethel wounded near 1603 143rd Ave. E. Bethel had been shot a number of times and was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries, said sheriff's Col. Donna Lusczynski....

  13. Police charge Tampa man with murder in fatal Sulphur Springs shooting


    TAMPA — Police have arrested a Tampa man in connection with a fatal shooting last month in Sulphur Springs.

    O'Brian Kelly, 24, was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the July 20 shooting of Antwan Dixon, 35.

    Police released details of the arrest Tuesday.

    Officers responding to call about a person shot on the 900 block of E 93rd Avenue arrived to find Dixon injured by gunfire, police said. The Tampa man was pronounced dead at Tampa General Hospital....

    Tampa police say O'Brian Kelly, 24, fatally shot 35-year-old Antwan Dixon during an argument in Sulphur Springs on July 20. Kelly was arrested July 28 and charged with second degree murder with a firearm.
[Tampa Police Department]
  14. Victims disfigured by unlicensed Town 'N Country liposuction center, authorities say


    TAMPA — Two people have been arrested after performing liposuction without a license at a self-described Town 'N Country medical center, causing complications that left at least some patients permanently disfigured, authorities said.

    Claudia Patricia Orozco, 44, and Marlon Ricardo Barcelo, 40, were arrested Tuesday and charged with practicing medicine without a license and aggravated battery causing bodily harm, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Orozco also faces four counts of organized fraud....

    Claudia Orozco, 44, is accused of performing on the victims.
  15. Police make second arrest in fatal shooting at north Tampa apartment


    TAMPA — Police have arrested a second man in connection with a fatal shooting during a drug buy at a North Tampa apartment complex last week, records show.

    Xabiel Villalba, 22, was arrested Sunday and charged with third-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in the July 26 killing of 20-year-old Antonio Roman.

    Villalba's arrest report wasn't immediately available Tuesday, but an arrest report for another man charged in Roman's killing, Alexeis Perez, lists Villalba as a co-defendant....

    Xabiel Villalba has been charged with third-degree murder.