LARGO - The Largo Elks used a chain saw over the weekend to carve a notch in the city's recent recognition as a "Tree City USA." Four large oak trees that once separated East Bay Drive from the lodge's parking lot were sheared of almost all their branches and leaves, leaving only stumps 4 to 5 feet high. If the oaks do not grow back quickly, the Elks' treasury could undergo some serious trimming, also.Under the city's tree ordinance, excessive trimming is the same as removing the trees. Violators could be subject to fines up to $500 per tree. Parks Supervisor Carl Sagro said the Elks "were told they could
only trim the top branches." Sagro said he "almost had a heart attack" when he passed the lodge Monday and saw that the trees had been cut. Sagro said the Elks wanted the oaks removed because they were blocking a new metal sign identifying the lodge. Parks Superintendent Bob Cooper said that if the trees don't come back the Elks will be required to replace them inch for inch, at a cost of as much as $1,500.
City stops funds for drug program ST. PETERSBURG - The City Council voted Thursday to withdraw its support of Blacks Against Dangerous Drugs (BADD) after learning the state had not renewed its grant to the organization. BADD will get the $15,000 the city had promised last month to pay overdue bills but an additional $15,000 will be withheld. The action apparently removes the last of the financial support for the organization, although its chairman, the Rev. Wayne Thompson, said the drug counseling program will not fold. BADD had recently been criticized for poor bookkeeping and lack of performance.
Holdups similar to 9 earlier robberies BRANDON - In just over an hour Wednesday night, three men robbed patrons in the parking lots of three motels in the Brandon area and one in Tampa, police said. Authorities believe the incidents may be related to nine other robberies between Jan. 19 and Wednesday morning.
Descriptions by victims of the robberies Wednesday were similar, police said. No serious injuries were reported. As of Thursday evening, no arrests had been made. Sheriff's officials said there were five similar attacks on guests of Tampa motels Jan. 19 and 21. They suspect that three convenience store robberies, a fast-food store robbery and another in the parking lot of an apartment complex, all of
which took place Tuesday and Wednesday, may be linked.
Tarpon Springs to get moment on TV TARPON SPRINGS - Viewers of Good Morning America soon can catch a glimpse of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. As part of its live broadcast from The Pier in St. Petersburg next week, the program will show footage from a sponge warehouse, a pastry shop on Athens Street and a restaurant facing the Anclote River. The taped segment will be fleeting and will air between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The show, anchored by Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson, will broadcast from the top floor of The Pier. It is one of five broadcasts from Florida
throughout the week. For the taped segment, producers also shot footage of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary and Roy Parke's 140-acre strawberry farm in Dover.
Searchers find swimmer in apartment CLEARWATER - A man who swam across Clearwater Pass on a bet Wednesday night set off a rescue operation involving firefighters, the Coast Guard and the Pinellas County sheriff's helicopter. After rescuers gave up, 21-year-old Bradley Shephard was found safe at a friend's apartment, said police spokesman Wayne Shelor. Rescuers were called by people who had not seen Shephard after he swam out into the pass channel about 10 p.m. One of two men who attempted to find Shephard in the water got caught in the swift currents and had to be rescued from a channel marker. Police found Shephard ashore about an hour later.
Shelor said Shephard swam across the pass to Sand Key after making a
$100 bet. No charges were filed.
Hernando athlete to be tried as adult BROOKSVILLE - A star football player at Hernando High School charged in the sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl will be tried as an adult.
After originally being charged as a juvenile, Freeman Bennett, 17, was arrested this week on charges of sexual battery of a child under age 16. The football running back will turn 18 on Feb. 22. Bennett was arrested Jan. 29 along with two other Hernando High football players, Johnnie Hudson and Mike Frazier, both 18. All three are accused of having sex with the girl in the back seat of a car near the girl's Spring Hill home Jan. 28. The victim and the three youths had been at a party and had been drinking, court records say. Bennett was jailed Wednesday, then released.
Evangelist's son arrested in Hillsborough TAMPA - The son of controversial evangelist LeRoy Jenkins was arrested Thursday by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies, officials said.
David LeRoy Jenkins, 25, was charged with burglary, dealing in stolen property and grant theft, records said. Deputy Ryan Balseiro said Jenkins was being held on $3-million bail. Jenkins was picked up driving in his car about 8 p.m. at Maple Dale Boulevard and North Dale Boulevard. Circumstances surrounding the warrants for his arrest were unavailable late Thursday. The Rev. Leroy Jenkins, Jenkins' father, is the controversial evangelist who nearly bought St. Petersburg's landmark Coliseum Ballroom in 1987. The self-described faith healer was released from prison in 1984 after serving five and a half years
for conspiring to burn a man's house down.
Third Hernando jail fugitive is caught BROOKSVILLE - Police in New York City have captured the third of four inmates who escaped from the privately run Hernando County Jail on Jan. 8. Darin Wilson, 29, was arrested Monday in Queens, N.Y., on car-theft charges. The Sheriff's Office learned of Wilson's arrest in New York through a tip from a source in Hernando County, authorities said. Before he escaped, Wilson had been sentenced to 22 years in prison for violation of probation for forgery and fraud. The jail is run by Corrections Corporation of America.
Planners fined for illegal meeting BROOKSVILLE - Three Hernando County Planning and Zoning Board members pleaded no contest Thursday to violating the state's open meetings law and were assessed $50 in fines and court costs. The three, Virginia Brown-Waite, Robert Bubb and Oscar Zullo, met with state Rep. Chuck Smith, D-Brooksville on Oct. 12 at the Weeki Wachee Holiday Inn, where the four discussed state regulation of hazardous-waste burning in light of Florida Mining & Materials Corp.'s request to burn hazardous wastes in cement kilns north of Brooksville. Assistant State Attorney Jim McCune said that Smith was not charged because he is not a member of the same governing body as the other three and because
investigators uncovered evidence that Smith was not aware that the Planning and Zoning Board had voted to look into hazardous-waste regulations.
Pregnant woman shot three times TAMPA - A pregnant woman, caught in the crossfire of a domestic argument, was shot three times Thursday night, police said. The 21-year-old woman, whose name was not released, was in stable condition late Thursday at Tampa General Hospital. The woman was five months pregnant, and her baby was in no danger, Cpl. D. L. Gulledge said. The shooting happened about 8:40 p.m. at 3708 N Avon St. in the Robles Park public housing complex. According to Gulledge, a woman and her adult son went to the Robles Park address and confronted the woman's ex-boyfriend, who was standing out front with two other women.
Insults were exchanged, and the son then pulled out a gun and, aiming for the ex-boyfriend, opened fire. He missed and hit the pregnant bystander three times. A 22-year-old woman also was grazed in the leg by a bullet, Gulledge said, but she was not admitted to the hospital.
Police were still looking late Thursday for the son, she said.
- Compiled by JAY PITTS from staff reports