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Domestic strife began chase in Citrus

INVERNESS - A chase through downtown Inverness started when a doctor allegedly hit his wife, then drove after her as she tried to leave their house with their children, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office reported Monday. Dr. Robert LaCava, an Inverness gynecologist, was arrested Friday night after four county and Inverness law officers chased him through the Highlands area until he reached State Road 44 and N Independence Highway. He was charged with two counts of fleeing and attempting to elude an officer and wanton and reckless driving.LaCava posted $750 bail Saturday morning and was released from the Citrus County Jail. About 10 p.m. Friday, Deputy Jim Bergman responded to an assault and battery complaint at the LaCava residence, 8711 E Cresco Lane. Reports say that LaCava drove faster than 50 mph as he raced through downtown Inverness and the Highlands, at one point hitting Bergman's patrol vehicle.

Crystal River officers plead innocent

INVERNESS - Suspended Crystal River Police Chief David Cook and Cpl. Arthur Sams Jr. entered innocent pleas Monday to a variety of charges that a grand jury handed up two weeks ago. Brooksville attorney Chip Harp asked Circuit Judge John Thurman to hear both of Cook's cases together in Circuit Court. Cook, 38, faces a felony grand theft charge and a charge of obstructing an investigation, a misdemeanor. County Court traditionally handles misdemeanors. All four of Sams' cases are felonies and will be handled in Circuit Court. Sgt. Ron Roppolo, the third Crystal River officer named in the indictments, faces three misdemeanor charges, which will be handled in County Court at a later date. Thurman ordered a hearing to decide the issue. The cases of Cook, Sams and Roppolo originated from a five-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the 5th Circuit State Attorney's Office.

Blind Services snack stand protested

BROOKSVILLE - Today, finally, Edgar Culbertson will begin frying eggs and serving sandwiches at the Division of Blind Services snack bar on the third floor of the Hernando County Government Center. Culbertson, who is legally blind, said he moved to Brooksville on Nov. 20. Some downtown restaurants, however, have looked on the opening with dread. "It's not fair competition," said Wanda Varvaresos, co-owner of the Towne Deli, 273 W Jefferson St. She said she resents the fact that her tax money is going to support a store that will sell the same things she and her husband, George, sell, but at a reduced rate. Culbertson will serve sandwiches, salads, drinks, snacks and some breakfast food.

Stands such as Culbertson's employ about 250 people across the state.

New Deal legislation passed in 1935 allowed the stands to be operated in federal buildings. A state law passed in 1978 required state-owned buildings to allow the stands to operate and encouraged the stands locally.

Hearts, flowers ... and traffic congestion

BROOKSVILLE - Valentine's Day traditionally is a day for love. But on the holiday this year, residents will get a chance to tell state officials about something they hate: traffic jams. The District 7 Transportation Coalition, a group of businesspeople and local officials in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, will sponsor a "Kiss Traffic Congestion Goodbye" campaign Wednesday. Motorists sitting at red lights or stuck in traffic jams throughout the counties will be handed postage-paid cards that will be forwarded to the state Legislature and Gov. Bob Martinez to tell them about frustration over Florida's choked roads. The cards, which are addressed for delivery to the transportation coalition, state that the sender supports additional money for transportation. The transportation coalition plans to deliver the cards to Tallahassee at the start of the session to demonstrate public support for widening roads and building new ones to clear traffic congestion in the four counties.

Lutz man charged in Belize smuggling

TAMPA - The FBI has charged a Lutz man with conspiring to smuggle 4,000 pounds of marijuana from Belize to Mississippi. Charles Hayward Faircloth of 1021 Lake Charles Circle was held without bail pending a hearing in federal court today. Faircloth, 38, also known as "Tater," arranged for a 60-foot boat, The Patriot, to go to the South American country of Belize and pick up 4,000 pounds of marijuana, according to a sworn statement from FBI Agent Charles Falls. The boat had been docked at a small pier in Ruskin, Falls stated. When Faircloth was arrested, he had $7,000 in cash, enough to buy fuel for such a trip, according to the agent. His affidavit said Faircloth, Dennis Smith, Mark Kyle and Ed Cowart had plotted the smuggling since August. Smith was arrested Jan. 31 in Greenville, Miss., and Kyle was arrested last week in Tampa.

Pirates' mayoral buttons called a joke

TAMPA - The pirate fantasy that occupied Tampa on Saturday was not without a political edge. Along with earrings and scarves, scores of Gasparilla pirates donned buttons promoting Gasparilla King Ted DeLaVergne as Tampa's next mayor. The buttons, "Get Ahead with Ted! - Mayor," did not daunt the current mayor, Sandy Freedman, whose surrender to the pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla was a daylong affair. "Ted told me it was a joke and not to worry, that he was a supporter," Freedman said Monday. "It was just all in good fun. I have got campaign checks from (Gasparilla Captain) Jim Warren and a lot of the Krewe members, and they're supporters." Freedman, who faces no challengers, has amassed more than $150,000 in campaign contributions.

DeLaVergne, a real-estate adviser, said he will not challenge Freedman.

Warren, captain of the private club, said the buttons were made as a joke by a few close friends of DeLaVergne, who did consider running for mayor in 1987. The all-white, all-male Krewe includes some of the city's most powerful and influential businessmen, some of whom have been known to grumble about Freedman's leadership.

Woman, 76, raped and robbed at church

ST. PETERSBURG - A 76-year-old woman was robbed and raped in the downtown area about 2:20 a.m. Saturday. The woman, who told police she left her apartment to go for a walk, was grabbed by a man and was pulled into an alcove at First Congregational Church, 240 Fourth St. N, police said. After the attack, the man took the woman's purse, which had about $5, police said. The woman was treated at Bayfront Medical Center and released.

Man is jailed over Mace spraying

GIBSONTON - A Riverview man barged into his estranged wife's apartment and sprayed her and a companion with Mace early Monday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies said Eddie Terry, 25, of 8615 Miller St. broke into an apartment house at 8504 Symmes Road just after midnight and sprayed Mace in the faces of Mamie Terry, 23, and Robert Dees, 25. Deputies said Dees hit Eddie Terry on the head with a beer bottle, cutting him slightly. Eddie Terry was arrested and charged with armed burglary and aggravated battery.

Clothier finds stolen goods at flea market

TAMPA - When Ron Neald went to a Seffner flea market last week, he noticed that a pile of clothing looked familiar. Upon inspection, he realized why: The clothes were his. Neald's clothing was taken in a massive break-in at a ministorage warehouse in December, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Late last week, deputies arrested Agnes Schaffer, 49, and Kenneth Murrow, 21, and charged them with several counts of grand theft for the break-in. Officials said almost $25,000 worth of clothing was taken from Neald's miniwarehouse room at 105 Falkenburg Road. Neald, 31, is the owner of a clothing store in Seffner and he stores excess stock in the warehouse.

- Compiled by DAIL WILLIS from staff reports