YOUNG SUSPECT IN UNIVERSITY-AREA MURDER: Sheriff's deputies charged a 13-year-old boy with the murder of a 61-year-old man who was walking down the street with his wife. Officials said Aaron T. Ashley, 2032 Garden Lane, who has 19 arrests on his record, admitted to participating in the killing and robbing of Donald Richard Rogers, 1817 Winn Terr.
Rogers was shot Dec. 27 about 7:30 p.m. after telling a man with a pistol that he had no money. Deputies said the man with the pistol was Mario Preston, 26. Preston turned himself in on Wednesday. Rogers had been walking with his wife, Martha Rogers, to their son's apartment on N 19th Street a few blocks away from their apartment near the University of South Florida. An employee of a plumbing company and the father of two grown children, Rogers was planning to retire in a few months.
BOYFRIEND CHARGED IN GIRL'S DEATH: Hosie Eason, 23, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of a 2-year-old girl whose mother found her dead in a bedroom Monday afternoon. Eason said he accidentally landed on Quadasia Howard after stumbling over a toy, deputies said Wednesday. But they said his story does not fit the facts. "'It is not consistent with the extent of the injuries and the force needed to cause these injuries,"' sheriff's spokeswoman Lisa Haber said.
The girl's mother, 18-year-old Jonquetta Williams, had recently moved into an apartment on E 140th Avenue with Eason. The 2-year-old's death came five days after the death of the couple's 2-month-old daughter, who had pneumonia. That death was under investigation last week. Wednesday, a judge gave the state custody of the couple's two other daughters, a 2-month-old twin of the deceased infant and a 1-year-old.
Eason's friends and relatives said they were shocked by the murder charges. Eason was a family man, they said. Eason attended Hillsborough High School and had worked at Checkers as a cashier for the past five years. He had also spent time in prison on convictions for possession of cocaine, witness tampering and battery on a law enforcement officer.
BICYCLE THIEF THWARTED: Having been warned about a rash of bike thefts in his Lake Magdalene neighborhood, sheriff's Cpl. Dave Feenaughty decided the crash he heard in his garage Sunday afternoon deserved attention. Feenaughty, 52, stepped away from the football game on his TV in time to see someone attempting to steal his 14-speed, $350 Raleigh mountain bike. "I yelled at him a few expletives," Feenaughty said Monday, "and started chasing."
The man dropped the bike and ran. A neighbor helped keep the suspect in sight while Feenaughty radioed to the Sheriff's Office. Soon, five patrol cars responded, including a canine unit. Since the suspect was seen running into woods off Fletcher Avenue, canine Deputy Chris Greco released his partner, Razor. The dog soon found 29-year-old Orlando Mojica of 7210 Manhattan Ave.
Mojica had tried to hide himself under two feet of water, mud and branches, deputies said. "He was completely submerged," Sgt. Clyde Eisenberg said, "except for his face." Deputies charged Mojica with burglary and resisting arrest without violence.
LUNG TRANSPLANTS AT TGH: Tampa General Hospital won approval for a lung transplant program, enhancing its stature as the only transplant center on Florida's west coast. About 10 lung transplants a year are expected to be performed now that the state Agency for Health Care Administration has approved the program, which will start in April. Last year TGH performed 47 heart transplants, 179 kidney transplants and 40 liver transplants.
Officials estimate about 60 people in Florida and more than 3,000 nationwide are waiting for lung transplants. Transplant physician Mark Rolfe estimates between 20 and 30 people around Tampa Bay are awaiting the second chance at life that a lung transplant represents.
TGH will become one of three hospitals in the state performing lung transplants. The others are Shands Hospital in Gainesville and Jackson Memorial in Miami.
DEADBEATS STILL ELUSIVE: Two companies hired by the state to search for parents who failed to pay child support were paid $4.5-million the first year but managed to collect only $162,000 in support payments. Lockheed Martin IMS and Maximus Inc. say that even with that level of payment, they can't make a profit and are pulling out of their state contracts to find non-custodial parents who haven't paid court-ordered child support. On average, taxpayers paid the companies about $25 to collect 3 cents from non-paying parents during the past year.
The Florida Department of Revenue, prodded by the federal government to find parents who weren't paying their support, hired the companies. They soon found out what the state already knew: Many of the parents it found were broke and that finding people, getting warrants and court orders, and doing other collection-oriented activities are expensive endeavors. "They ran into exactly the same problem we ran into," said Larry Fuchs, director of the Revenue Department.
Fuchs said the loss from the companies' bailing out will be small because so little was being collected anyway. But the impact could come from the loss of federal incentives to cut deadbeat backlogs. That could "have some budget implications for us down the line, with lost federal incentives," Fuchs told the Tallahassee Democrat. The Revenue Department now will have about 900,000 child support cases, including about 100,000 that it will take back early next year from the two companies.
GRECO TO RUN AGAIN: Dick Greco made it official: He's running again for mayor. The 65-year-old mayor, whose infectious energy has brought new hotels to Tampa's skyline and more police officers to the streets, said he wanted to stick around another four years to finish all the projects he has started. "I see that convention center hotel coming out of the ground, and I feel like I've done something," Greco said.
So far, the only potential challenger is Anthony Candela, 37, who was unemployed when interviewed in November and has a conviction for domestic violence. Candidates have until Jan. 15 to qualify for election and must either pay $6,700 or provide 2,900 signatures to get on the ballot. Greco has never lost an election.