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Earsplitting Corvette is sound winner

The $63,000 audio system in Sean Morrison's 1987 Corvette is louder than a jet plane, a racing car or a motorcycle. Last weekend Morrison's sound machine out-boomed 254 other sound systems to claim best of show honors at Tampa Stadium's first Auto Sound Challenge. Morrison, 30, who owns Car Tunes in Largo, said that with its 2,800 pounds of extras, the car's value exceeds $91,000. The Corvette has a special suspension, 42 speakers, nine amplifiers, and a VCR and TV in the glove compartment."It's just ridiculous the kinds of things we did" to the car, Morrison said.Opponent of Bilirakis announces

CLEARWATER _ A nurse from Safety Harbor announced Wednesday that she will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael

Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, in the next election for the District 9 seat. The district encompasses upper Pinellas County and parts of Pasco and Hillsborough counties. "Michael Bilirakis has run unopposed too often," said Cheryl Davis Knapp, 42. A Democrat who has never run for office, the Ohio native expressed support for national health coverage, protection of the environment, civil rights, pre-natal care for women and abortion rights. Knapp announced her candidacy at the headquarters of the Upper Pinellas Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). The chapter interviewed Bilirakis several weeks ago and said it would seek an opponent for his office. Knapp said she has experience lobbying the state legislature and the Congress, is an active member of NOW and the Harbor Oaks Homeowners Association in Safety Harbor.

Claim filed in fatal police chase

DADE CITY _ The families of two people killed during a police chase through rural eastern Pasco County have filed a claim for damages with Dade City. The claim letters, dated Wednesday, contend that negligence by Dade City police in conducting the chase contributed to the deaths of Bonnie Jean Biddle and Robert Wayne McCullough on Feb. 5. The claims were filed on behalf of Biddle's husband, David Biddle, and McCullough's father, William McCullough. The two victims, both 19, died when their vehicle hit a front end loader on Burn Bridge Road. The driver, Christopher Bryant, 21, was listed Wednesday in fair and stable condition in Tampa General Hospital. Bryant was suspected of stealing a case of beer from a Dade City convenience store. Under state law, the city has six months to settle a claim out of court before the case can be tried.

Tapes in triple murder ruled admissible

DADE CITY _ A judge has ruled that jurors may hear tape-recorded statements by Henry Thomas, who is accused of beating three fellow retirement home residents to death on New Year's Day 1989. In the statements, Thomas, 89, says the residents were killed by an intruder wearing a Santa Claus mask. He said he heard an assailant speak of killing everyone and fled. Authorities found Thomas walking downtown, his cane and pajama top stained with blood. Thomas' attorney, assistant public defender William K. Eble, sought to exclude the two-hour tape by claiming authorities misled Thomas, allowing him to believe he had to answer questions. But Circuit Judge Wayne L. Cobb ruled that Thomas clearly understood his rights when he answered investigators' questions.

Police chief to head county drug unit

ST. PETERSBURG _ St. Petersburg Police Chief Sam Lynn will retire next month after 26 years to head up a new countywide narcotics bureau, he said Wednesday. Pinellas Sheriff Everett Rice appointed Lynn to the new post. Observers say Lynn's new appointment should help minimize the turf rivalries that have sidetracked multi-agency drug operations in the past. Lynn, 48, will lead a squad of 67 sheriff's narcotics detectives, including 25 detectives that the Pinellas County Commission is expected to approve financing for next week. The bureau eventually will include detectives from local departments and federal and state investigators.

Hillsborough okays alcohol warnings

TAMPA _ Drinkers in Hillsborough County will soon be getting a health warning served up with their beer or bourbon. County commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday to pass an ordinance requiring bars, restaurants, stores and other places that sell alcohol to post signs warning patrons that alcohol can cause birth defects, addiction and intoxication. Proponents said the signs will help high-risk groups, such as teen-agers and pregnant women, make informed decisions about drinking. Alcoholic beverage industry representatives said the signs are ineffective. The county Health Department will distribute the signs and enforce their use. The ordinance is expected to become effective in about a week.

Opponent of Bilirakis announces

TAMPA _ After complaints from black activists that minority contractors get less than 1 percent of school construction dollars, the School Board has ordered a new plan to give them a larger part of the work. The board expects to spend $518-million on such construction in the next five years. The board told Superintendent Walter Sickles and his staff to meet with representatives of the Suncoast Minority Contractors Association to come up with a new and possibly more aggressive plan. Sickles agreed to make a recommendation to the board within a month.

APOLLO BEACH _ Manatees died in record numbers during the cold of December and early January, a report from the state Department of Natural Resources says. For many manatees, death came as a result of slow starvation or hypothermia. "We've never observed a die-off this big," said Dr. Bruce Ackerman, a marine biologist with the state. Two manatees died in the Tampa Bay area and one died in Citrus County during the freeze. Most of the deaths occurred in the large, shallow basins near Indian River in Broward County. About 57 manatees died from exposure to cold and related illnesses in December and January. Another 10 died of unknown causes, but Ackerman speculated the deaths were due to the cold.

Bulletproof enclosures urged in stores

TAMPA _ Tampa convenience store clerks on duty after dark would be required to work behind bulletproof glass enclosures under a ordinance proposed for discussion by the Tampa City Council next week. The measure was endorsed Wednesday by the city's public safety committee, which also favors security requirements adopted by the Hillsborough County Commission two weeks ago. Those rules require convenience stores and service stations to have unobstructed windows, brightly lighted parking lots, a drop safe inaccessible to employees, security cameras, robbery-prevention training and signs indicating security measures. The committee decided against requiring two clerks to be on duty at night, when most convenience-store crimes occur. Some convenience store owners endorsed the proposal, but others said the $5,000 to $8,000 enclosures are too costly, especially for small, independent stores.