After hearing an hour of arguments from both sides in Largo, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer said no Thursday to a motion to grant convicted triple murderer Oba Chandler a new trial. Chandler, 48, was found guilty last month of luring three Ohio women aboard his boat and then killing them five years ago. Chandler's attorney, Fredric Zinober, argued that there were several reasons why the judge should grant Chandler a new trial. One argument he put forward said Schaeffer erred in allowing the prosecution to present evidence Chandler may have raped a Canadian tourist he lured aboard his boat 18 days before the discovery of the bound and gagged bodies in Tampa Bay. Prosecutors contended the two crimes were similar. Schaeffer said an appeals court may disagree with her ruling, but she had heard nothing to make her change her mind. She is scheduled to sentence Chandler at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 4. By a vote of 12-0, the jury recommended she sentence him to death.
VA PLANS 100-BED SPINAL INJURY CENTER. More than 20 years after moving their patients into "temporary" facilities, doctors and administrators at Tampa's veterans hospital announced plans Thursday for a 100-bed Spinal Cord Injury Center. The hospital has room for 68 spinal cord patients, and the existing center is frequently full, said Sandra Janzen, chief nurse at the James A. Haley VA Hospital in north Tampa. The new center will give patients and staff more room and free up space to expand the hospital's ambulatory care program, she said. Hospital officials held a reception and news conference Thursday to announce plans for the center even though there's no money to build it. "This is a very important step. The design is now complete," said U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
U.S. ATTORNEY SWORN IN. It's time to take "acting" out of the title of U.S. Attorney Charles Wilson. Wilson was sworn in Wednesday by Chief U.S. District Judge John Moore in Jacksonville, several days after the U.S. Senate quietly confirmed Wilson. Wilson, 39, a former Hillsborough County judge and federal magistrate, took over as the top federal law enforcement officer in Florida's 35-county Middle District on Oct. 1.
PARENTS OF ABANDONED BABY STILL SOUGHT. One week after a newborn was found, authorities are no closer to finding Baby Friday's parents than they were the day he was born. With Baby Friday sleeping comfortably at a news conference Thursday, Hillsborough sheriff's officials issued a plea to the parents to come forward to claim their 5-pound 1-ounce boy. He was found Oct. 21 on the front lawn of Diana Martinez's house in Ruskin. Doctors said he was in good condition and only hours old, thus he was nicknamed Baby Friday. HRS officials have placed Baby Friday in a foster home for now. Anyone with information about Baby Friday or his parents is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 247-8201.
JOE REDNER WINS $230,000 IN DAMAGES. Chalk up a victory for nude dance czar Joe Redner in his fight against local government adult-use ordinances. A federal jury decided Thursday that Hillsborough County violated Redner's rights with its adult use ordinance. It awarded Redner $230,000 in damages. Redner opened the Mons II nightclub in Brandon in March 1990, but the county said the club was too close to a school. Redner was arrested. He challenged the ordinance in state court and closed the club. Since then, the school and the Mons II are history. Redner sold the property in 1993. Bob Warchola, an assistant county attorney, said the verdict surprised the county and an appeal is being considered.
TRIO RESCUED FROM LIFE RAFT. Three men were pulled from a life raft after their fishing boat began taking on water Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard said. The 80-foot boat New Dawn was about 70 miles west of Egmont Key. Water began leaking into the boat about 11:30 a.m., and it appeared the boat would sink, the Coast Guard said. Onboard were Capt. James W. Whitfield of Arapahoe, N.C.; Jason Tackett of Houston and Duane Banks of Scituate, Mass. They radioed the Coast Guard and jumped into the life raft. A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued them about 1 p.m. The captain and crew were not injured. They were staying in a St. Petersburg motel late Thursday.