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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. George Levy, trophy store owner who helped put Tampa on sports map, dead at 83


    TAMPA — One day around 1995, George Levy walked into the office of Mayor Dick Greco with an idea.

    "How do you like this?" he asked Greco, then handed him a drawing of penny sliced in half.

    The image would become the signature in a grass roots campaign to persuade Hillsborough County voters to approve a half-cent Community Investment Tax for schools, libraries, roads, police and fire equipment, and other infrastructure. It also would fund a new pro football stadium....

    George Levy presents one of may awards he sponsored for students who did good work at Alexander Elementary School. [Times file photo [1999)]
  2. Search warrant offers new details, deepens mystery in toddler's shooting

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — When police arrived at Tampa General Hospital after last week's fatal shooting of a toddler, witnesses there initially described the gunshot as "self-inflicted," according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Tampa Bay Times on Monday.

    Investigators decided the evidence indicated otherwise and obtained the warrant to search the apartment where 17-month-old Amaya Shafi lived with her family. The affidavit by Detective Mark Seckley said the apartment might contain evidence related to a crime of aggravated manslaughter of a child or murder....

  3. Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, representing accused perjurer, calls Polk Sheriff Grady Judd unprofessional narcissist


    TAMPA — Tampa attorney Barry Cohen is speaking up for client Chester Kwitowski and lashing out at Polk Sheriff Grady Judd for what Cohen called a "total lack of professionalism" and a "transparent display of narcissism."

    Cohen sent a letter to Judd's office on Friday, a day after Kwitowski was arrested and charged with five counts of lying under oath about his credentials as an expert witness in computer forensics. The 57-year-old Tampa resident specialized in testifying for the defense in child sex cases. ...

  4. TECO streetcar starts slow with morning service to lure commuters

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — James Michael loves his job as a TECO streetcar motorman because of the riders.

    "I enjoy people," the 59-year-old Valrico man said. "And I meet people from all over the world."

    On Monday morning, though, Michael was mostly alone with his thoughts.

    Monday marked the first day of morning hours for the streetcar that runs between Ybor City and downtown Tampa. The streetcar now starts at 7 a.m., five hours earlier than before. ...

    James Michael, a TECO streetcar motorman, engages the 
trolley roof pole Monday morning before heading to Ybor City.
  5. Defrocked expert witness in child sex cases 'squeaked by' with little vetting


    Josh Adams thought he'd found a solid expert witness for his client.

    The Orlando lawyer was representing Jason Eugene Daniels, who faced more than a dozen felonies involving sexual abuse of a child. Adams said Daniels' cellmate William Teets had mentioned Chester Kwitowski, who had already appeared as computer forensics expert in other Polk County cases including Teets'. Adams called Kwitowski and asked for his resume. ...

    Chester Kwitowski is led away by Polk sheriff’s deputies in Winter Haven on Thursday after his arrest on perjury charges. Kwitowski specialized as a defense witness in sexual abuse cases.
  6. Tampa man charged with faking credentials, testifying for the accused in child sex cases


    WINTER HAVEN — A Tampa man who held himself to be an expert in computer forensics, and who testified in five recent Central Florida legal proceedings, has no such expertise, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday.

    In fact, Judd said, the resume of Chester Kwitowski, 57, is full of fictions, from his educational background and professional certifications to military service and time spent working on sensitive government projects....

    Chester Kwitowski, 57, is led by Polk County Sheriff's deputies to a waiting patrol vehicle Thursday in Winter Haven. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd  said Kwitowski falsely presented himself as a computer forensic expert and testified for the defense in five sex cases. Kwitowski might also have testified in as many as 50 other cases, Judd said. "He damaged the validity of the criminal justice system with his lies," Judd said, referring to Kwitowski as "Chester, the defender of molesters." [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]

  7. Former Bucs cheerleader who filed labor lawsuit talks about new ventures

    Human Interest

    Manouchcar Pierre-Val made headlines in 2014 when she slapped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a class action labor lawsuit demanding back pay for work she and other Buccaneers cheerleaders did for the team. The 27-year-old Haitian-born Tampa woman, who cheered for the team during the 2012-2013 season, argued that the cheerleaders deserved more than $100 per game because they worked many unpaid hours at tasks like practicing, running cheerleading clinics, visiting charity events and posing for swimsuit calendars. The Bucs settled for $825,000 to compensate Pierre-Val and roughly 90 other current and former cheerleaders but continued to deny the women were due more compensation....

    Manouchcar Pierre-Val, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader who sued the team over pay, says she wishes women of color were more represented among NFL cheerleading squads as well is in her new profession, nursing. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  8. Failed-gear indicator forces American Airlines emergency landing in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The sounds coming from beneath his feet told Kendall Stahl something wasn't right with Flight 574.

    "We could hear what we thought was the landing gear going up and down repeatedly," Stahl said. "I thought, 'That's not a normal sound you should hear.' It was like the landing gear wasn't locking into place or even going down."

    Stahl was one of 146 passengers aboard the American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Tampa International Airport. The Airbus 320 was supposed to land at Tampa International at 9:45 Monday night but it got a late start. ...

    “You could just see the panic on their faces,” said Kendall Stahl, 56, of the flight attendants.
  9. Police release name of toddler fatally shot at Tampa apartment complex

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Police have released the name of a 17-month-old toddler who was fatally shot Sunday.

    Amaya Shafi was shot one time shortly after 4 p.m. in her family's apartment at the Clipper Bay Apartments, 6727 S Lois Avenue, Tampa police said. The girl's parents took her to a local hospital, where she died.

    A family members owns the gun involved, police said.

    Detectives continued to investigate Monday to determine if the shooting was accidental. No arrests had been made and no other details were released....

  10. Tampa Bay's poor begin to share in economic recovery, survey shows


    Two years ago, Lorraine Major was making about $9,000 a year as a school cafeteria worker.

    Determined to raise her family's standard of living, the single mother of three got counseling and a small stipend to search for a new job. After a year as a co-teacher, she landed a job as a site director for the YMCA of St. Petersburg. Now she earns $32,000 a year, well above the poverty line.

    "Things are going really well," said Major, 36. "I think me and a couple of other young ladies influenced some people. They saw that we were African-American women, single mothers, and if we could do it, they could, too."...

  11. Riverview 9-year-old dies, family seriously injured after six-car crash on I-75


    BROOKSVILLE — He liked comic books and Walt Disney World and reading adventure stories. He was funny and was often told he was wise beyond his years. He wanted to be a professor like his mother and was learning how to play the piano.

    That's what friends will remember about 9-year-old Logan Andrew Scherer, who was killed Thursday afternoon in a six-car crash on Interstate 75 near State Road 50. ...

    Logan Andrew Scherer, 9, was killed Thursday and his family seriously injured in a six-car crash on the I-75 near State Road 50. His 4th grade classmates at Symmes Elementary School in Riverview made cards for the family Friday. HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
  12. Tampa police investigating decapitated animals found along Courtney Campbell Causeway


    TAMPA — Animal lover Lisa Hayworth stopped near the Courtney Campbell Causeway boat ramp Monday evening looking for stray cats to feed.

    Instead, she made a grisly discovery that disturbed her but didn't surprise her: Several beheaded chickens and, later that night in a different spot on the causeway, a beheaded goat and duck.

    Hayworth had found headless birds on the causeway about 20 times in the past. This time, she called Tampa police, which has launched an investigation....

  13. Hillsborough deputies search for driver who rammed sheriff's cruiser


    PLANT CITY — Hillsborough sheriff's deputies were searching Wednesday for a driver who they said rammed a patrol cruiser during a traffic stop, drawing gunfire from the deputy as the vehicle sped away.

    The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the incident took place around 10:45 p.m. at 3701 U.S. 92. The deputy, who was not identified, was on his way to an aggravated battery call when he spotted a car that may have been involved in the incident, the Sheriff's Office said....

  14. Activists call for action to reduce incarceration rates, improve policing in Hillsborough

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — A faith-based coalition of activists is calling on Hillsborough County law enforcement officials to take action to reduce the county's incarceration rate and build trust in the communities they serve.

    The call by Faith in Florida came Tuesday with the release of a study that shows, in part, the per capita jail population in Hillsborough increased by 45 percent between 1985 and 2014. The study also found that blacks are 3.8 times more likely than whites to end up in the county jail....

    The Rev. Russell L. Meyer speaks in Tampa on Tuesday at a news conference  for Live Free, a campaign by the PICO National Network to reduce incarceration rates in the country and in Hillsborough County. [Tony Marrero   |   Staff]
  15. Firefighter placed on paid leave after arrest in death of child left in truck


    TAMPA — A Hillsborough County firefighter charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child after leaving his son in a hot pickup truck Friday has been placed on paid administrative leave.

    Troy Whitaker, 41, was placed on leave Monday because of his arrest, county spokeswoman Michelle Van Dyke said.

    "The handling of each is determined on a case-by-case basis," Van Dyke said in an email. "As events in this particular matter progress, Hillsborough County will determine whether to maintain Troy Whitaker's paid administrative leave, or convert to a different type of leave."...