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Deputy in bank inquiry is murder suspect

Former Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Rickey Dawes, charged recently with leaking a list of targets in the Key Bank investigation, is also a suspect in the 1982 murder of his father.

The elder Dawes was found hogtied in the trunk of his 1973 Cadillac in Pasco County in the midst of a less than amicable divorce, according to Pasco County Sheriff's Office records.

During the investigation of the death of his father, Ricky Dawes told Pasco detectives that his father was a driver for organized crime. Now, the younger Dawes has been charged with leaking the list of targets in the Key Bank investigation to organized crime figures.

Pasco deputies questioned Dawes and his mother, Frances Dawes, about the murder in 1982 after evidence pointed toward them, records show.

Dawes and his mother refused to take polygraph tests, and Mrs. Dawes told deputies she would forsake her husband's pension and life insurance benefits if they meant taking a polygraph, according to records.

Dawes and his mother could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Manuel Lopez, the Tampa lawyer who represents Dawes in the Key Bank case, said Wednesday night he was aware that Dawes had been questioned in the murder, but did not realize anyone still considered him a suspect.

"Rick's been a detective for more than 10 years," Lopez said. "You'd think that if there was anything to it other than some wild speculation, they would have done something."

A former Pasco sheriff's official says the murder investigation hit a roadblock when Hillsborough sheriff's officials refused to cooperate with Pasco detectives.

"We got zero cooperation from Hillsborough County," said Jim Francis, former chief deputy for Pasco County. "I was livid over it, but we reached a point where he (Rick Dawes) basically told us to get lost. We tried to get the Hillsborough S.O. to put some pressure on them and they wouldn't do it."

Hillsborough County Sheriff Walter Heinrich said he was never contacted by Pasco County officials, and other officers say the agency extended the cooperation that was requested.

Records of the 10-year-old murder investigation suggested plenty of reason to be concerned about connections between Deputy Dawes and organized crime figures.

But Heinrich and other deputies denied knowledge of the connections when asked about the reports Wednesday.

Dawes' father, George Herbert Dawes, a 53-year-old former merchant marine, had been a driver for organized crime figures, Deputy Dawes told Pasco deputies a day after the body was found.

Dawes said his father's connections dated back to days when the family lived in New York. He also said his father had talked about selling a horse trailer to a member of the Trafficante family in Tampa in the months shortly before his death.

Dawes said one of the people his father chauffeured was a "famous gangster" in New York, and Mrs. Dawes is the sister of a New York organized crime figure, deputies reported.

Asked about the murder case Wednesday, Chief Assistant Hillsborough State Attorney Chris Hoyer, one of the prosecutors in the Key Bank case, said Dawes remains a suspect in his father's death.

Hoyer said he has not seen the Pasco County report, but plans to take a look at it in light of the Key Bank charges against Rickey Dawes.

A spokesman for State Attorney James T. Russell said details of the case never were presented to prosecutors in Pasco County but will be referred to the state and federal task force investigating Key Bank. Rickey Dawes, accused of leaking a list of suspects in the Key Bank investigation, has been charged with perjury and disclosure of a criminal investigation.

The elder Dawes was found gagged and hogtied in the trunk of his own car Nov. 13, 1982. An autopsy indicated he was strangled, probably with the bright yellow nylon cord tied around his neck and attached to his feet. The car had been parked at Albertsons in Holiday for at least a week. Dawes was last seen by friends in Tampa during the early morning hours of Halloween day.

Mrs. Dawes said she had last seen her husband Oct. 29 and reported him missing to Hillsborough authorities Nov. 3. In that report, Mrs. Dawes said they were in the process of getting a divorce and had not been speaking to each other. She told authorities she suspected he had been seeing other women.

Friends and associates of Herbert Dawes told detectives that he did not get along with his son and had been dating another woman while planning a divorce. Mrs. Dawes advised officials that she had received a letter from her attorney dated Oct. 26, 1982, indicating that she could keep their house and most personal property but would receive no more financial support from her husband after Nov. 15, 1982.

In January 1983, when Mrs. Dawes was unable to collect her husband's pension, she called Pasco detectives to complain. She said her husband's former employer had blamed the situation on the murder investigation. Detectives initially told her she was not a suspect and invited her in to discuss the matter. On Jan. 6, 1983, in a discussion with sheriff's Detectives Mike Phillipa and Augie Stahl, Mrs. Dawes was asked if she would take a polygraph and answer questions pertaining to her husband's death.

"Do you want me to hang myself by taking a polygraph?" Mrs. Dawes asked, according to a written report made by the detectives.

If taking a polygraph was the only way to gain access to the pension and $23,000 in life insurance benefits, she would forgo the benefits, she told the detectives.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Capt. Richard Cipriano, a sergeant in charge of internal affairs at the time of the 1982 investigation, said Wednesday that he recalled helping Pasco detectives set up an interview with Ricky Dawes. Cipriano said the department did nothing to block the investigation.

"All they wanted to do is talk to him," Cipriano said. "I remember distinctly some loud conversation. I was about 30 feet away. They suspected that he and his mother had something to do with his father's death."

Cipriano said he did not recall Pasco detectives telling anyone about organized crime connections to the Dawes family and does not recall being advised that Dawes was refusing to take a polygraph.

"He's a citizen, he's got that right," Cipriano said.

Deputy Dawes has now been accused of leaking from the department's intelligence files a list of 40 targets, including some identified as members of organized crime families. Dawes, Key Bank vice president Michael Pupello and reputed crime family member Santo Trafficante III have been charged with perjury, and criminal disclosure in connection with the leaked list.

Prosecutors in Tampa say the premature leaking of the list led to a premature end of extensive wiretaps on targets of the Key Bank investigation.

Dawes resigned his law enforcement job the day he was interviewed by investigators. He has denied ever having seen the list, but investigators say Dawes' thumbprint was found on the list.

_ Staff writer Jeff Testerman contributed to this report.

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