Saturday, September 22, 2018


Zachary T. Sampson, Times staff writer

Zachary T. Sampson, Times staff writer

Zack covers crime and breaking news in the St. Petersburg office. He joined the Times in September 2014 and previously worked for the Boston Globe and the New Bedford Standard-Times in Massachusetts. He was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Northeastern University, where he studied journalism and sociology.

John Jonchuck appears on a video monitor before a judge on Jan. 8, 2015, hours after authorities said he threw his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe off a bridge and to her death. His trial on a charge of first-degree murder has faced numerous delays. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]

John Jonchuck will go to trial soon, but first lawyers will fight over an expert witness

The judge rested her chin in her palm. The prosecutor marched in circles, then threw up his hands and rubbed them across his head.Plans were crumbling before them.The defense team stood in a huddle, whispering frantically. They had just...
Published: 09/21/18
Robert Butler III has signed an agreement to plead guilty in federal court, records show, admitting he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for drugs in recent years. [Photo courtesy St. Petersburg Police Department/McAllister family]

Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir paid hundreds of thousands dollars for drugs, federal court records show

Robert Butler III, an heir to a well-known local flooring chain that bears his father’s name, participated in a money laundering scheme and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for cocaine and marijuana in recent years, according to federal court...
Published: 09/21/18
John Jonchuck, now 28, faces a charge of first-degree murder. Authorities say he dropped his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge, killing her in 2015. A judge on Monday delayed the long-awaited murder trial. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

Murder trial delayed once again for John Jonchuck, father accused of throwing 5-year-old daughter off bridge

CLEARWATER — A late fight over a crucial witness forced a judge Monday to once again delay the murder trial of John Jonchuck — accused of throwing his daughter off a bridge in 2015 — just one week before jury selection was set to begin.The...
Published: 09/17/18
A growing memorial seen Tuesday morning for Jordan Belliveau, the 2-year-old killed last week in Largo. (JIM DAMASKE   |   Times)

Day before Jordan Belliveau’s death, case worker warned parents the 2-year-old could go back to foster care

LARGO — The day before 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau was killed, a case manager warned his parents that the toddler could once again be taken from them if they did not fix mounting problems.The Aug. 31 reprimand capped a tumultuous summer for...
Published: 09/12/18
Jordan Belliveau, 2, was found dead in Largo last week. (Photo Courtesy the Warren Family)

Family of toddler killed in Largo taking down GoFundMe page

The family of Jordan Belliveau, the 2-year-old killed last week in Largo, said it plans to take down a GoFundMe page meant to raise money for the boy’s funeral amid confusion about where people should donate to the cause."The family shut it...
Published: 09/10/18
Alberto Salinas with Lewis Tree Services, a contractor for Duke Energy, cuts a tree near power lines in the Lakewood Estates neighborhood of St. Petersburg on Friday. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

A year after Irma knocked out power, Duke Energy spending more on trimming trees

In the dark and sweaty aftermath of Hurricane Irma a year ago, Duke Energy assured its Tampa Bay customers that cuts to its tree-trimming budget did not make widespread outages even worse.But records show the utility company is now throwing...
Published: 09/10/18
A sign warning visitors of Red Tide can be seen on Longboat Key beach on Aug. 30. [BRONTE WITTPENN  |  Times]

Tropical Storm Gordon may have broken up some of Florida’s Red Tide

Curse Tropical Storm Gordon for washing out Labor Day plans in Tampa Bay, but the storm may have carried a silver lining in its outer bands: it may have broken up the Red Tide bloom plaguing southwest Florida.The Florida Fish and Wildlife...
Published: 09/07/18
Juliet Warren (left) with her foster child, Jordan Belliveau. The 2-year-old toddler went missing for more than two days and was then found dead late Tuesday. His 21-year-old mother, Charisse Stinson, now faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of her child. [Photo Courtesy the Warren Family]

Guardian objected to Largo boy being reunited with mother

LARGO — Five months before Jordan Belliveau was found dead, the person tasked with advocating for his best interests told a magistrate that the toddler should not be returned to his mother.Her objection was overruled.Tuesday, 2-year-old...
Updated one month ago
Police: Mother faces murder charge in death of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau

Police: Mother faces murder charge in death of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau

UPDATE: Charisse Stinson admitted to hitting the child, causing seizures and resulting in his death, according to the arrest affidavit. [
Updated one month ago
JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
Largo Police Major Stephen Slaughter talks to the media Tuesday morning 9/4/2018 about the search for missing two-year-old Justin Belliveau. The boy was last seen after his mother, who has not been named by police, told officers she was offered a ride by a stranger while on a long walk with him. The stranger, who she said identified himself as

Amid strife, missing boy’s father says he doesn’t believe mother’s story

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hours after this story was posted to, Largo police announced that they had found the body of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau and arrested his mother, Charisse Stinson,
Updated one month ago