Daystarter: 49 people were killed in New Zealand mosque terror attacks; Steven Stamkos finally ties Vinny Lecavalier’s scoring record; trial of John Jonchuck comes down to one question: Evil or insane?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Everything you need to know to start your day is at tampabay.com.
Everything you need to know to start your day is at tampabay.com.
Published March 15
Updated March 15

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

• The rain returns this weekend. Friday should be relatively dry, with highs reaching the mid to low 80s. But on Saturday morning, waves of showers coming in from the north reaching the bay area should be at about 30 percent, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will drop down to the upper 70s, but forecasters don’t expect thunder. By Sunday morning the temperatures will drop to the 60s, but intermittent showers will remain as the highs reach into the 70s.

• It costs money to produce quality journalism. Please support the Tampa Bay Times by buying a digital subscription to Florida’s best newspaper and its redesigned website tampabay.com.

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

• Wallet a little light? Here’s 5 things to do under $5 this week including free concerts, a Mermaid Festival and a free Comic Con at the Clearwater Public Library.

• New Zealand — Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 49 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities charged one person, detained three others and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack.

• As the Lightning race toward the postseason, Diana C. Nearhos reports that Steven Stamkos knocked out one more goal: He finally netted goal No. 383 against the Red Wings on Thursday night to tie Vinny Lecavalier for the franchise mark.

• Stamkos couldn’t have scored at a better time, either, in the second period to help the Lightning stage a furious rally to overcome a 3-0 deficit and top the Red Wings 5-4. Mari Faiello explains how Tampa Bay did it thanks to two goals and an assist from Nikita Kucherov.

• For the latest on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup, click here throughout the season and follow beat writers Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Faiello at @faiello_mari.

The first-degree murder trial of John Jonchuck is set to start Monday. His lawyers will admit that he did it, that he dropped his daughter, 5-year-old Phoebe, to her death off a bridge in 2015. But the defense will still implore jurors not to convict him, reports Josh Solomon, be employing the rarely used and even more rarely successful insanity defense.

Jonchuck also made his first court appearance in years on Thursday and Solomon reports on the last-minute legal maneuvers as both sides prepare to go to trial next week.

• Port Richey has had two mayors arrested in 20 days. Justin Trombly reports on why the acting mayor was arrested this week: State agents say he conspired with the ex-mayor, now in jail, to intimidate a Port Richey police officer at the center of the ex-mayor’s legal problems. There’s more to read about this bizarre case.

• The defendant in the Tarpon Springs triple murder, Shelby Nealy, made his first appearance Thursday in a Pasco County courtroom on the fourth murder charge he faces.

• Meanwhile in Tampa, the last two candidates standing in the mayoral contest faced each other for the first time since the election and as Charlie Frago reports, it was an emotional affair as David Straz went after the frontrunner, Jane Castor as they focused on the needs of Tampa’s black community.

• There was also controversy earlier in the day, Frago reports, as Straz and Castor can’t even agree on how many debates to hold through the April 23 election. Straz said he’s ready to face Castor in three mayoral debates — two on television and one on radio. But Castor has agreed to at least eight debates.

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

Bank of America’s Cathy Bessant has been called “the most powerful woman in banking”. She sat down with the Tampa Bay Times recently and said she sees lots of upside in the Tampa Bay area.

Free swimming lessons will be made available to an extra 700 children this year as Hillsborough County officials hope to counter a recent spike in the number of the children drowning.

• The mayoral candidate David Straz will attend few forums so voters can learn about him. What happened to the civic-minded guy we once knew?. These days, Straz is the guy spending nearly $3 million — more than the other candidates combined — to win a distant second to former police chief Jane Castor to be Tampa’s next mayor.

• Gov. Ron DeSantis did as he said he would and put three conservative justices on Florida’s Supreme Court immediately after taking office. Florida Insiders think that move all but guarantees his plans to expand the state’s private school voucher program will survive a constitutional challenge.

• Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

Four Tampa Bay Times staffers have been honored by the Society of News Design for their page designs for major stories.

• A free meal from a food bank can serve as an instant boost for a family struggling to afford to be able to eat. But when that family still needs help the following day, and the following week, free meals alone are not the answer. Christopher O’Donnell writes that Feeding Tampa Bay is shifting its mission and trying an ambitious new approach. The goal: end hunger and food insecurity in the Tampa Bay region by 2025.

• In 100 days, about 300 wounded, ill and injured troops and veterans from the U.S. and five partner nations to compete in the Department of Defense Warrior Games. The event is being hosted in the Tampa Bay area by U.S. Special Operations Command. It opens June 21 and runs for 10 days. Howard Altman profiles some of the competitors who will be taking part in the games.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

Walt Disney World raised admission prices starting Tuesday, making it much more costly to go to its theme parks during busy times of the year ­— up to as much as $159 for a single day in the world’s busiest tourist attraction. The price hike of 15 to 30 percent comes in advance of the opening of a new Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios later this year.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

• Spring training is here. Plan your spring training trips by using the Times’ handy 2019 spring training guide for Grapefruit League schedules, maps and daily planners.

New rules will limit the number of pitcher appearances in a game, was well as callups from the minors. Just the fact that Major League Baseball and the players union could agree, given their cantankerous relationship and antagonistic attitudes, made Thursday’s joint announcement of a series of on- and off-field rule changes in the midst of the current labor agreement a significant development.

• FSU’s Terance Mann nails a falling-down, rim-rattling, glass-kissing 3 to put FSU into the semifinals against top seed Virginia.

Anyone agonizing over the NIT chances for the Bulls men’s and women’s teams probably should consider the bright side. For the first time in seven years, the men (19-13) have posted a winning regular season and remain in contention for more competition of some sort. The women (18-15), who had three starters on the shelf by early January, somehow rallied to finish three games above .500.

• Get the latest Rays’ spring training news from Marc Topkin and follow him throughout baseball season on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

• Last year Gators quarterback Felipe Franks threw 31 touchdowns, led Florida to a 10-win season, a top 10 finish and a Peach Bowl beatdown of Michigan. But Matt Baker writes that Franks still has a lot to prove as the Gators take the next step to return to championship form.

• Get the latest sports news, reaction and analysis from Times sportswriter Rick Stroud and the rest of the crew on the Bucs, Bulls, Lightning, Gators, ‘Noles and Rays via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.

Advertisement