The Daystarter: Family confirms Carla Stefaniak's body found in Costa Rica; commissioners to discuss Rays stadium, transit tax; vote for the PolitiFact Lie of the Year

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Published December 5 2018
Updated December 5 2018

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

• Dry air follows the recent cold front. Look for clear but cool skies with highs in the mid 60s across the bay area, according to the National Weather Service. The breeze will pick up compared to the typical Florida day, and zero chance of rain.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including Brian Setzer’s 19-piece orchestra rocking Christmas tunes and a Prohibition Day party.

Floridians in flip-flops will go ga-ga for lights and boat parades and even fake snow. Here’s 100 things to do for the holidays.

• The best journalism in the bay area is all in one place. Check out all the Tampa Bay Times investigations and special reports.

• A body found partially buried in the backyard of an AirBnB in Costa Rica has been identified as missing Miami Beach woman Carla Stefaniak, the woman's family and that nation’s authorities announced Tuesday. Costa Rican officials also said they arrested a security guard at the resort, 32-year-old Bismark Espinosa Martinez, in connection with Stefaniak's death.According to a post on the "Finding Carla" Facebook page, Costa Rican authorities allowed the family of Stefaniak to view the body on Wednesday around 12:30 a.m. Stefaniak's father confirmed the grim news.

• Florida voters spoke clearly four weeks ago: They restored the right to vote to most convicted felons who complete their sentences. When it becomes Florida law in five weeks, an estimated 1.2 million felons will be eligible to rejoin the voter rolls. But as the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reports, at a statewide elections conference Tuesday, it was obvious that confusion and uncertainty still hovers over implementation of Amendment 4.

PolitiFact will soon announce its Lie of the Year — the most significant falsehood of 2018 — as chosen by its editors and reporters. But readers can also pick their Lie of the Year. To vote for the Readers’ Choice award, click this link for the ballot.

• Sorry Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, you have to stay lieutenant governor. Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will delay taking his U.S. Senate seat to finish out his term as Florida’s governor, reports Samantha J. Gross. The governor could have resigned and let Lopez-Cantera serve out the final five days of Scott’s term. The governor made that decision even though it means he will be the most junior member of the U.S. Senate.

Ben Parham is a firefighter. Brittany Medina is a police officer. Cops don’t get with firefighters, she thought. But they made it work. Then Hurricane Michael devastated their home in Mexico Beach. So what did they do? Zachary T. Sampson reports that the couple decided to get married on the slab of what was once their home, to sympolize a fresh start.

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

• Marine Cpl. Kevin Harris felt the weight of history on Monday as he helped pull the flag-draped casket out of the gleaming black hearse. “Wow,” the 24-year-old New Port Richey native recalled thinking at that moment. “This is the 41st president of the United States.” Justin Trombly spoke to Harris about his brush with history as one of the eight U.S. military service members who carried former President George H.W. Bush’s casket into the U.S. Capitol.

• Any deal with the Tampa Bay Rays over how to fund a new ballpark in Ybor City will likely have to pass muster with Hillsborough County's new Democratic-controlled county commission. Today may provide the first insight into the board's enthusiasm. Commissioners are scheduled to get an update from County Administrator Mike Merrill on the status of the county's discussions with the team and its attempts to come up with a financing package. Stay with for updates.

• Newly elected U.S. Rep. Ross Spano acknowledged he used personal loans from friends to pay for his campaign. Now Steve Contorno reports that the Florida Democratic Party believes Spano should be disqualified from serving in Congress after he admitted that he “may have been in violation” of campaign finance law.

• Reporter Paul Guzzo helps clear up another Tampa mystery, this one about the Mystery solved, at least to the satisfaction of those who ponder the long history of the brick-lined tunnels beneath Ybor City. Find out the answer to the mystery.

• County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to invalidate a 30-year, $15.8 transportation sales tax that voters approved in November. White told reporter Catilin Johnston that “I’m doing this county a service by asking these questions” about the oversight committee that will monitor spending. But local leaders blasted White nonetheless.

• 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.

• Check out the Tampa Bay Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.

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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.

• When Urban Meyer announced he’s retiring as Ohio State football coach Tuesday, it sounded a little too familiar to Gators fans. And they aren’t the only ones with a complicated relationship with Meyer, writes columnist Tom Jones. Whatever your feelings about Meyer, Matt Baker examines how his impact on the sport is undeniable. And for those wondering where Meyer ranks among the greatest coaches in college football history, here’s columnist Martin Fennelly’s list.

• To get an idea of just how difficult it is to play in two straight high school football title games, consider that of the 16 teams competing in last year’s state finals, only seven are making a return trip to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium this weekend. Graduation, coaching changes and injuries can radically alter a team’s lineup, reporters Bob Putnam, who explains why two very different Armwood and Miami Northwestern teams will face each other in Sunday’s Class 6A championship football game.

• As the Bucs approach the final four games of the season, the Times looks at who is the team’s MVP so far, the one do-over they would like to have and what it would take to make their slim playoff hopes a reality. Check in on the Bucs channel this morning for those roundtable discussions.

• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season. For the latest updates on @Twitter, follow Lightning beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.

• 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 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.

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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.

• Pop music/culture critic Jay Cridlin slid a Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cake across the table at a weekly staff meeting and challenged food editor Michelle Stark to make one from scratch. Here's how it turned out.

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

• A lawsuit filed in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court reveals one employee’s glimpse behind the scenes of the merger of HSN and QVC. Sara DiNatale reports that a former HSN talent manager at its St. Petersburg campus filed a lawsuit describing a workplace culture that fostered long hours without complete overtime pay and a disparity in the way black and white workers were treated.

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The Tampa Bay Times online Opinion page has the latest editorials, columns and letters to the editor.