The Daystarter: Brace for a stormy Thursday; vows to rebuild in storm-damaged Mexico Beach; an early signing day recap

Published Dec. 20, 2018

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

• Cloudy. Rainy. All day long. From morning to night, there will be no break in the wet weather, according to the National Weather Service. Expect 2 to 3 inches of rain throughout the day and temperatures in the low to mid 70s. And Friday doesn't look any better either, right now. Check our interactive radar to see where the storms are headed.

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

• A Tampa boy was born unable to breathe or swallow, doomed to die. But across the country, researchers were fixing floppy dogs with the same condition. Could his parents keep him alive long enough for science to come up with a cure? Read "Lincoln's Shot," the new eight-part series by Pulitzer-Prize winner Lane DeGregory and watch the documentary video, "The Journey," by John Pendygraft.

Every chapter is now online:

Chapter 1: The curse.

Chapter 2: The hope.

Chapter 3: The boy.

Chapter 4: The science.

Chapter 5: The life.

Chapter 6: The rescue.

Chapter 7: The wait.

Chapter 8: The answer.

Chapter 9: The journey.

• Two months after Hurricane Michael, people still live in the destroyed town of Mexico Beach — and they are vowing to rebuild. "We don't even have a Band-Aid on us yet," one resident said. Some worry they've already been forgotten, Zachary T. Sampson reports.

• A Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter early Wednesday morning, then confessed to their murders over his agency radio before killing himself. Dan Sullivan and Tony Marrero report on what the Sheriff's Office is saying about Deputy Terry L. Strawn, 58, a former "Officer of the Year" who killed his family in a domestic violence-related murder suicide.

• Florida authorities have arrested nine people on animal cruelty and racketeering charges after a year-long investigation found they allegedly used and abused wild black bears to train and sell hunting dogs. In videos posted to social media and obtained by law enforcement, large packs of dogs can be seen mauling bears that fall out of trees, in some cases egged on by bystanders. At least two black bears are confirmed dead, though authorities expect more as the investigation continues.

• Nothing like singing Christmas carols to put you in the holiday spirit. Times columnist John Romano offers his annual list with a Florida spin. And for all you angry elves, he came up with a handful of cranky carols to help you drown out the incessant good cheer.

• The Groveland Four are four black men falsely accused of rape in 1949 who were then beaten and even murdered. Their innocence is not in doubt, but Florida has been slow to try to correct this old injustice. At his final clemency board meeting earlier this month, Gov. Rick Scott made no attempt to give the men a posthumous pardon. Now comes the latest news: Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has asked to speed up the pardon process for the Groveland Four. Attorney General Pam Bondi also weighed in, saying the state should review their cases. Bondi had eight years to take action, however, and is days away from leaving office.

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

• Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev is still without a goal on the season and it's not for lack of trying. But as Diana C. Nearhos reports, the Lightning don't seem too worried about Sergachev, who has proven himself to be a productive and valuable teammate on and off the scoresheet. Everyone is pretty sure it's just a matter of time.

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• Meanwhile it looks like that in the early signing period that Florida and Florida State have compiled solid recruiting classes. But they're not great classes, Matt Baker explains, and the two power programs failed to sign any of the nation's top 100 prospects.

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• The Bucs need this kind of help: wide receiver DeSean Jackson returned to the practice field on Wednesday, catching passes in drills for the first time in two weeks. That means he could return in time for Sunday's game in Dallas.

• 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.

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

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

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

• It's almost time for that annual holiday tradition: Festivus. The Seinfeldian holiday is quickly approaching on Dec. 23, so the Times decided to ask readers and staffers what grievances they wish to air during this joyous holiday season.

• 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.

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