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Friday, January 19, 2007

Florida Criminals Kept Busy In 2006

When it comes to crime, the Tampa Bay area sees its fair share. This year saw pain inflicted by drunk drivers, elation from parents who saw their son’s alleged killers arrested, and a new crop of ‘dumb criminal’ inductees.

The following is a review of some of the year’s major – and a couple minor – Bay area crime stories.

FEB. 25
Mayor Iorio’s Bodyguard Killed

After guarding Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio at a morning event, Detective Juan Serrano drove home when he was struck by a driver deputies say was drunk, unlicensed and an illegal immigrant.

Serrano is given a policeman’s burial; roughly 1,000 people from across the state attend.

The man accused of killing Serrano, Jose Luis Espinoza, is scheduled to go on trial in January.

March 21
That’s Not How the Pepsi Challenge is Supposed to Work …

Phillip Willams, concerned about the quality of his drugs, asks two Tampa police offers to test his crack pipe.

They do. The result?

Handcuffs and charged with felony cocaine possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The charges against Williams are later reduced.

The Department of Homeland Insecurity

Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle tries to impress a 14-year-old Florida girl by serenading her with talk of shoulder-fired missiles and his top-secret security clearance.

His love interest (actually a Polk County deputy posing as a teenage girl) was convinced that the official might divulge state secrets.

Authorities arrested Doyle soon after he sent pornographic videos to the detective. A Polk County judge later sentenced Doyle, 56, to five years in state prison and 10 years of sex offender status.

He’s currently due to be released in 2011.

April 5
How Many Strikes is that?

After admitting he violated probation by using cocaine, former Mets, Yanks (and yes, D-Rays) pitcher Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden is sentenced to serve a year and a day in state prison. He serves nearly seven months.

The punishment is the latest in a long list of legal problems for Gooden, who helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series. (He was arrested for domestic violence in 2005, then that year later fled police who tried to pull him over on suspicion of driving drunk.

For those keeping score, Gooden would have also made this list in 2003, 2002

Gooden was by no means the only local athlete to run afoul of the law.

Braves pitching prospect Steven Michael Evarts was recently arrested on suspicion that he bashed a former Robinson High School teammate’s SUV with a baseball bat. Authorities also recently arrested former Buccaneers running back Rabih Abdullah for violating his probation. (Both cases are still pending.)

Crash Leaves a Wedding Laced With Grief

A bride’s mother and two other relatives are killed by a driver, apparently drunk, the day before the wedding.

The wedding is held, with a memorial for Emily Manzano, 62, and the others killed and injured in the crash.

Deputies arrested Kenneth Delmar Stewart, 34, hours after a fourth member of the wedding party died a week later. Tests show his blood-alcohol level measured 0.12, deputies said.

In another tragedy, Stewart’s 4-year-old son drowned while his father was in jail.

Stewart, charged with four counts of DUI manslaughter, remains jailed without bail while he awaiting trial.

Tomb Opened, Wound Reopened

Thieves remove a 600 pound marble top from the gravesite of Stevie R. Dale and steal the young boy’s bones from a central Tampa cemetery.

The theft prompts a lawsuit, later settled, but has not resulted in a return of the 6-yer-old’s remains, who was killed by a motorist in 1975.

Despite a reward and repeated requests for the public’s help, police have never caught the thieves.

After 6 Years, Authorities Say They Have Their Man, Band Aids and All …

6 Years. 39 Banks. 9 Counties.

The reign of the Tampa Bay area’s most prolific bank robber in recent memory comes to an end after authorities link a car seen in a surveillance camera video to a Lake County man.

Agents raid the Clermont home of Rafael Angel Rondon, 50, and his suspected accomplice, Emeregildo Roman, 54, of Davenport. In Rondon’s home, authorities say they found more than $86,000 stuffed in a cooler, and Band Aids.

The Band Aid Bandits successful spree of bank robberies led authorities to establish a special task force to capture him and theories that he might fly in from another country to perform his heists.

In the end, Rondon was caught after detectives matched his getaway car with one seen in the bank’s parking lot two months earlier.

Credited with stealing more than $500,000, Rondon and Roman are scheduled to go on trial in late January.

AUG. 20
Just because the Republicans didn't want us …

The day a site selection committee arrived to review Tampa’s bid for the Republican National Convention, police convene on a south Tampa club during a suspected meeting of the Latin Kings gang.

The raid nets 40 suspected members of the gang – the culmination of a two-year investigation. The case eventually balloons to 52 defendants.

The bust was the most visible of Hillsborough authorities’ efforts to eradicate street gangs, which included numerous roundups and the announcement of a $2.5 million Justice Department grant to fight street gangs.

Sept. 11
Mother Delivers Baby, Dumps it in Trash, Returns to Work

A worker at a Pasco County Target store delivers a child in a restroom, then left it in a trash can before returning to work.

A worker later found the child, which was dead, and an autopsy reveals the baby was alive at birth. The mother, Christine Michelle Jamison, is charged with second degree murder.

Her defense attorneys and family have said Jamison is mentally disabled and thought the child was dead when she put it in the trash can.

The case was at least the third instance in the Tampa Bay area of a mother dumping a newborn child this year; a Tampa woman delivered her child and left it for dead in an alley after smoking crack in May.

The same day, a Lakeland man discovered the body of a newborn girl dumped in a trash bin.

SEPT. 28
A Speeding Stop, a Violent End

A traffic stop that should have ended with a speeding ticket explodes into a gunbattle that kills Polk County Deputy Matt Williams and his K-9, DiOGi and wounds another deputy.

The largest manhunt in county history ensues, and the cop killer, Angilo Freeland, is found clutching a gun nearly a day later. He is shot to death by a police team that riddles him with 68 bullets.

Williams’ and DiOGi’s funeral is attended by more than 3,000 people.

Detectives are still unraveling Freeland's suspected drug ties.

Oct. 23
The Tampa Bay Area’s Unofficial ‘War on Ninjas’

It begins on Aug. 8 when Tampa police arrest a man walking down the street with a T-shirt wrapped around his head “like a ninja mask.”

The charge? Wearing a hood on the street – a misdemeanor. (Court records show the accused man, Arthur Eugene Richardson, never showed up and for his arraignment and a warrant was issued for his arrest.)

In a (hopefully) unrelated incident two months later, four thieves dressed as ninjas steal an ATM machine by ramming a truck into a south Tampa gas station, then dumping the machine and getaway truck in the Hillsborough river.

None of the culprits were ever caught. Police are looking at them for possible connections to similar crimes.

NOV. 28
‘Justice For My Baby’

Nearly 11 months after Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died at a Panhandle boot camp, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober recommends indicting seven former instructors and a nurse on manslaughter.

The investigation was moved to Hillsborough County after Anderson’s family raised questions about an initial autopsy showed the teen died of a sickle-cell trait.

Ober’s office disagreed, saying that Anderson died as a result of “culpable negligence” on the part of the guards and nurse. A videotape released in February showed guards kicking and punching Anderson after he collapsed during calisthenics.

Ober personally told Anderson’s parents of his findings. At a news conference, his mother, Gina Jones told reporters, “I’m finally getting justice for my baby.”

The eight people charged all face up to 30 years in prison.

List compiled by Tribune Reporter Anthony McCartney.

Armed U.S. tax activist barricades self in home


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