The Daystarter: Relief for Howard Frankland commuters; an accused serial killer's possible Tampa Bay ties; Romano on St. Pete's bet to keep the Rays

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Published November 29 2018
Updated November 29 2018


Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.


• It started to warm up a bit out there. Expect a sunny day but clouds could roll in later on. Expect highs in the mid-60s, according to the National Weather Service, but the lows will still dip into the 40s. Slight winds will come out of the northeast at about 5 to 10 mph.


• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay.


• The Tampa Bay Times has launched a redesigned website at with a new commenting platform. Executive Editor Mark Katches explains what’s new and how you could win $200 by taking a quick survey.


• After Johns Hopkins took over St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital in 2011, residents believed the beloved local hospital could only get better. But two of our investigative reporters started hearing troubling rumors that the exact opposite had happened in All Children’s heart-surgery unit. They spent a year digging into the program and discovered a litany of problems that were hidden from the public — and the parents who entrusted their kids to the hospital’s care. The consequences were tragic. Read Heartbroken, the investigation into Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital by Tampa Bay Times reporters Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi. Executive Editor Mark Katches also writes about the journalists who produced the report and how they did it.


• On Christmas Eve 1975 four people were killed in a Winter Garden furniture store. The next year a jury convicted Tommy Zeigler of the murders of his wife, in-laws and a longtime customer in one of Florida’s most infamous crimes. He was sent to Death Row, but has maintained his innocence ever since. But again and again for the past two decades, the state has refused to allow for full DNA testing of the evidence in his case. In fact, the state has rejected post-conviction DNA tests 70 times, or almost three out of every four requests, according to a review of 500 death penalty cases going back four decades. Times reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton and photographer Cherie Diez chronicle the Zeigler case in the multipart series “Blood and Truth: The Lingering Case of Tommy Zeigler.” Read a new chapter online every day this week:


• Blood and Truth Chapter 1: The lingering case of Tommy Zeigler.


• Blood and Truth Chapter 2: Finding a killer.


• Blood and Truth Chapter 3: Trial and errors.


• Blood and Truth Chapter 4: Science offers scrutiny.


• Blood and Truth Chapter 5: Could he be innocent? The latest installment goes online today at


Elton John apologized to Florida fans after an ear infection forced him to cancel concerts in Orlando and Tampa at the last minute. Pop music critic Jay Cridlin explains why the pop superstar had to postpone this week’s shows and how fans will be able to attend the rescheduled shows.


• The bottleneck driving north on the Howard Frankland Bridge is one of the most frustrating and rage-inducing in Tampa Bay. The interstate drops from four lanes to two at the West Shore interchange, causing backups that can span the length of the bridge. The traffic leads to missed flights, late work arrivals and profanity-laced rants. But state officials say it’s about to get better — just give them two years. Caitlin Johnston explains the plan to start adding lanes next year in time for 2020.

• Dan Sullivan has the story of retired FBI agents who are seeing a shortened sentence for the cook on a Panamanian ship who was convicted after a 17-hour search uncovered more than $40 million worth of cocaine. He says he didn't know the drugs were there, and a polygraph test suggested he was telling the truth.

• Time is running out for Tampa and Hillsborough officials to figure out a way to build a baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in the team’s preferred site of Ybor City. But back on the other side of the bay, where the Rays actually still play, columnist John Romano writes that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s bet three years ago that Tampa couldn’t put together the financing still looks good — and St. Pete is still in the best postion to build the Rays a new stadium across from its old one at Tropicana Field.


• To get the latest Rays’ news from the Times this offseason, click here and follow baseball writer Marc Topkin on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

• For the latest in Tampa Bay politics, make sure to check out The Bay Buzz.


• The idea of taxing carbon to combat climate change isn’t new. But a bipartisan grroup of Congressmen that includes U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat and two Republicans, fellow Floridian U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania believe they have come up with a way to make that more palatable, reports Steve Contorno.


• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.


• On a Lightning team full of talent, Brayden Point just might be the best of the best, columnist Martin Fennelly writes. Coach Jon Cooper concurs: “There are rare players who can excel at every inch of the ice. He’s one of them.” Point will be back in action tonight as Tampa Bay takes on Buffalo at home. For the latest game updates on @Twitter, follow Lightning beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.


• Brightline, soon to be known as Virgin Trains USA, on Wednesday cleared a key state hurdle in its quest to create a $1.7 billion privately financed passenger rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Richard Danielson explains the latest step forward for connecting Tampa to Orlando via rail, and what comes next to get the service in 2021.


Florida reporting a record number of visitors in the first nine months of the year, or about 95.8 million people, despite the outbreak of Red Tide afllicting the west coast, reports Sara DiNatale. That’s a 6.7 percent increase compared to the number of visitors who came last year from January to September. But while Gov. Rick Scott calls 2018” the most robust year for travel to Florida ever,” don’t forget that the third quarter just as Red Tide started to enter the picture.


• Check out the latest business news from the Times on the economy, jobs, real estate and retail.


• Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published their end-of-season summary on Wednesday to mark the unofficials end to an active Atlantic season that saw two devastating hurricanes make landfall on the continental U.S. Josh Solomon explains why it was such an active, and destructive, storm season.


• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook.


• The latest Times coverage of the Bucs is just a click away at For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow beat writers Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.


• Check out the Times coverage of Gator football all season long and keep up with college football beat writer Matt Baker on Twitter at @MBakerTBTimes.


• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.


• Check out the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay led by veteran sportswriter Rick Stroud.

• On Dec. 7, Barry Manilow, 75, will bring “A Very Barry Christmas” to Tampa, mixing Christmas standards and originals in with hits like Copacabana and I Write the Songs. He’s also hosting an instrument drive benefitting local schools, offering tickets in exchange for gently used instruments at the Amalie Arena box office. Calling from his home in Palm Springs, Manilow spoke with Jay Cridlin about Christmas songs, his holiday traditions with long-term partner Garry Kief, the likelihood of a Barry Manilow hologram and more.

• Listen to our new podcast, Life of the Party, that keeps you caught up just enough to get by in small talk. Times staffers Stephanie Hayes and Brittany Volk will discuss what’s going on, from celebrity news to movies and music, plus offbeat info that will make you the most interesting person in the room.


• Don’t just write the right way — write the Lane way. Keep up with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lane DeGregory’s podcast, WriteLane, and learn about her approach to the craft of storytelling.


• Education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a talk every week on the latest in Florida education. Check out the Gradebook podcast.