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The Daystarter: Prepare for NHL All-Star Game, Gasparilla; will parents of suspected Seminole Heights killer be held in contempt?; no remorse in Pasco shooting; why the farewell tour is so hot

 
The Jose Gaspar will make its way along Seddon Channel on Saturday with hundreds of pirates aboard -- and the Stanley Cup this year! -- before docking in downtown Tampa. The pirates will invade the city for the annual Gasparilla celebration. [Times (2014)]
The Jose Gaspar will make its way along Seddon Channel on Saturday with hundreds of pirates aboard -- and the Stanley Cup this year! -- before docking in downtown Tampa. The pirates will invade the city for the annual Gasparilla celebration. [Times (2014)]
Published Jan. 26, 2018

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

• Mostly sunny with highs in the mid 70s, according to 10Weather WTSP. Looks like the weather will hold for Gasparilla on Saturday: the forecast shows no rain with temperatures in the 70s. But boaters, check the chop.

• As you head out for your morning commute, check out our live blog for the latest traffic updates and road conditions across Tampa Bay.

• Ahoy mateys! We have all you need to know about Gasparilla before the pirates invade on Saturday, including insider tips on plundering the most loot, plus recipes, decorating tips and a guide to pirate parties.

• The hockey celebration known as NHL All-Star Weekend swings into action Friday around Amalie Arena. To get in the celebratory mood, Martin Fennelly marked the NHL's 100th birthday with a list of 100 things we love about hockey.

• President Donald Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive. The New York Times reports the West Wing confrontation marks the first time Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.

• A court hearing is scheduled this morning in the case of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who is accused in four murders in southeast Seminole Heights. Attorneys will address the civil contempt case against Donaldson's parents, who have refused to answer prosecutors' questions about their son. Earlier this week, State Attorney Andrew Warren announced he intends to seek the death penalty for Donaldson. The hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Follow @TimesDan for updates.

• Carrie Dempsey was bubbly and bright. The cheerful "Coupon Queen" led penny-pinching seminars at local libraries and had a warm, fluttering laugh often described as contagious. She was healthy and active, a regular in fitness classes at the North Tampa YMCA. Yet the 42-year-old mother of two was the only passenger to die after jumping from a casino shuttle boat that caught fire off New Port Richey. Her death remains a mystery to home owners along waterfront Harborpointe Drive. Anastasia Dawson has the details.

• The proposed ban on single-use plastic bags is still on the table for St. Petersburg City Council. But the city isn't ready to act just yet. Officials are still surveying the public and businesses to find out what they think and are also waiting to learn the fate of an existing ban in Coral Gables. Read more from Divya Kumar.

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• One night in 2012, a driver went the wrong way on Interstate 275 in Tampa and slammed into another car, killing William Angel and severely injuring two other men. Florida Highway Patrol troopers later arrested Christopher Ponce, whom they said was driving drunk when he caused the crash. Ponce later jumped bail, sparking a manhunt that included a feature on CNN's The Hunt with John Walsh. In 2016, Ponce was arrested in Spain. This afternoon, he will be in a Tampa courtroom, where he is expected to enter a plea and face his punishment. The hearing begins at 1 p.m.

• This week, a handful of iconic artists announced farewell world tours, all with stops in Central Florida. First it was veteran speed metal band Slayer, who booked a show at the Orlando Amphitheater in June. Then came Elton John, whose three-year, 300-date farewell tour features five shows in Florida, including one in November at Amalie Arena. Then on Thursday, Florida's own Lynyrd Skynyrd announced it was putting Free Bird out to pasture with a tour that hits Tampa in May. Te idea of the farewell tour might be changing in 2018 and beyond, as the deaths of legends such as Tom Petty, Glenn Frey and Prince prove it's no longer prudent to take your rock gods for granted, Jay Cridlin writes.

• Ryan Callahan's slump-busting goal had plenty of style points. His highlight-reel, shorthanded goal late in the second period was a game-changer in the Lightning's 5-1 win Thursday over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Arena, Tampa Bay's last game before the All-Star break.

• On any given day at the Dunedin Causeway, there are kayakers paddling out to St. Joseph Sound, runners winding along the roadway leading to the state parks, and wildlife around them hanging on to the last pieces of old, natural Florida. As development marches on in the most densely populated county in the state, each new project tests the boundaries of those relationships. The latest one: Dunedin Community Sailing Foundation's proposal to build a $1 million sailing center on a vacant lot at the corner of the Causeway and Woodette Drive. Tracey McManus has the details.

• Many Florida Republicans are skeptical about Adam Putnam's ability to win the gubernatorial nomination in today's GOP. This is not the climate for a conventional, career politician to succeed with Republican primary voters, they say. But the doubters should have braved the near-freezing weather last week at the M&B Dairy in Citrus County along with more than 400 hardy souls who turned out for a gubernatorial rally for Putnam. Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam C. Smith explains the advantage Putnam has on his rivals.

• Before Sunday's Grammy Awards, pop music critic Jay Cridlin notes the Grammys have a deserved reputation for ignoring the great and rewarding the so-so, making them the biggest running joke of any trophy show this side of the Cable Aces. He predicts this year's head-scratchers.

• Also at the Grammys this year will be USF jazz professor Chuck Owen, whose latest album is nominated for four Grammy Awards. We talked to him about his plans for Grammy weekend in New York and what it's like to be among the A-listers.

• For the latest legislative coverage from Tallahassee, keep checking The Buzz, which is updated throughout the day by the reporters of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.

• In case you missed it, check out the nugget about Wayne Gretzky's final All-Star Game that columnist Martin Fennelly uncovered this week during a phone interview with The Great One. Also, Roger Mooney checked in with Phil Esposito. You may be surprised to read what the Godfather of Tampa Bay Hockey thinks of the All-Star Game.

• And don't forget to check out your guide to enjoying NHL All-Star Weekend.

• Fun doesn't have to be tough on your wallet. Here's 5 things to do under $5 this week, including a free concert by sax hitmaker Richard Elliot at Clearwater's Blast Friday block party, the Tampa Bay Home Show and Dade City's charming Kumquat Festival.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay, including the opening of the NHL All-Star Pregame Fan Festival, singer Paul Anka and the Florida Orchestra playing the music of the Final Fantasy video game series, with its lauded composer in attendance.