Pasco County saw a steady wave of deaths due to crimes against and by youths in 2000. Some were drug-related.
Teddy Niziol. Eric Przybyszewski. Alex Curtis. Puirmesh Bobby Mangroo.
Two were teenagers, one was a toddler, and one wasn't even a month old. The short lives of these four boys didn't make headlines, but their deaths did.
Crimes and violence involving children in Pasco County happened at a steady pace in 2000. The area experienced two drug-related tragedies, a heartbreaking case of vandalism at an East Pasco school and the area's first school shooting.
To be sure, the majority of Pasco's 55,000 children stayed out of harm's way.
But Pasco mirrors the rest of the state, said Jack Levine, president of the Center for Florida's Children, a statewide advocacy group based in Tallahassee.
"Florida is truly a state of sunshine and shadows," Levine said. "The majority of children have the family lives or services they need to succeed. It is important for us as a community to not judge all children by the problems or perils of some."
Yet, Levine said, Pasco needs help, especially when it comes to quality health care for young children, child care and teen services.
"We can afford safe and secure children," Levine said. "What we can't afford is the costs of neglect."
Teddy Niziol, a Ridgewood High School student, was Pasco's first young victim in 2000.
Sixteen-year-old Niziol was known as a "hyperactive class clown" who never went anywhere without his best friend, Steven Moschella.
On Jan. 19, Niziol brought a stolen .22-caliber Magnum handgun to school; police said that Niziol and other teens stole the gun in St. Pete Beach.
During that school day, Niziol kept the gun in his Toyota 4-Runner, parked in a Ridgewood High lot. After school, Niziol, Moschella, Niziol's sister, Nicolette, and two other teens piled into the truck.
Niziol, who was sitting in the driver's seat, pulled out of his pants pocket a black case containing the gun and handed it to Moschella, who was sitting directly behind Niziol.
Moschella took the small gun out of the case and pointed it in the direction of Nicolette Niziol. "Steve, don't point that (expletive) at me," she screamed.