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A killer, deadly crossings and a Miss Piggy encore

Convicted murderer Glen Rogers sits on Florida's death row for the murder of Gibsonton's Tina Marie Cribbs. A book scheduled to go on sale this fall contends the murder may not have happened if police had been more diligent.

Rogers was labeled the "the Cross Country Killer" for a string of murders he allegedly committed in California, Louisiana, Mississippi and here in 1995.

Prosecutors described Rogers as a smooth-talking drifter who began his killing rampage the day he raped and strangled Sandra Gallagher in California before setting her pickup truck on fire. After killing Gallagher, Rogers allegedly killed three other people.

He has been convicted for the murders of both Cribbs and Gallagher.

In Road Dog, reporters Stephen Combs and John Eckberg write that a series of mistakes by police and prosecutors allowed Rogers to go free and eventually embark on his string of slayings, even though he was a suspect in the murder of Mark Peters, an aging Army veteran who took Rogers into his home in rural Kentucky.

Eckberg is a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and Combs covered the Cribbs trial for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the Shreveport Times.

The book contends that one such mistake occurred when Rogers was arrested while living in California before the women's murders occurred. Police in Hamilton, Ohio, where Peters' body was found, were contacted, and detectives prepared to fly to California to question Rogers, Eckberg said.

But Eckberg said the chief of police canceled the trip because he thought it would be fruitless.

"The message I hope the book sends to police officers and chiefs who doubt questioning a criminal is think of Mark Peters and cut loose the checkbook," Eckberg said.

HARTLine public liaison and County Commission candidate Ed Crawford will appear tonight at 9 on a Discovery Channel special titled Deadly Crossings: American Intersections.

Crawford is appearing not just because he is a noted expert on urban design for pedestrians, but also because Tampa is the most dangerous major metropolitan area in the nation for people to walk in.

Crawford, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Pat Frank and Republican Brian Blair for the District 7 seat, said the show's producers spent a day and a half in Tampa.

They focused on the intersection of Fowler and 22nd Avenue near University Mall.

"It's an incredibly dangerous intersection," Crawford said. "It's a school crossing and they have two crossing guards."

So when I wrote about the oddity of Miss Piggy endorsing Denny's Grand Slam breakfast with bacon and sausage, I'm sure you thought I was the only one: a man with simply too much time on his hands.

Au contraire. People magazine makes note of Miss Piggy's twisted desire for pork in its July 29 issue. It even quoted the famed female Muppet about the campaign, which was developed by WestWayne, a Tampa advertising firm.

"Pork? What are vous talking about?" Miss Piggy said to People. "Moi is now 100 percent Botox! It's a diva thing, sweetie."

Is Shaquille O'Neal a Republican? I don't know. But the organizers of next month's Shaquille O'Neal Celebrity Basketball Weekend want it known that even though Gov. Jeb Bush is the keynote speaker at the Aug. 16 dinner, this is a nonpartisan event.

In fact, I listed an incorrect benefactor for the charity event. Proceeds from the dinner and the basketball game on Aug. 17 at the Ice Palace will go to Tampa Bay Reads, CITE, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and the American Stroke Association.

I respect the concerns of organizers, but I would be extremely disappointed if partisan politics prompted anyone not to support this worthy cause.

Who would do anything to upset a 7-foot-1, 315-pound man?

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or