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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero covers breaking news and general assignment stories in Hillsborough County. A Baltimore native, he joined the Times in 2009.

Phone: (813) 226-3374

Email: tmarrero@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

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  1. Lawsuit against Tampa police in diabetic man's death shifts to another court

    Courts

    TAMPA — A family's effort to hold the Tampa Police Department responsible for the death of a diabetic man during a traffic stop has shifted from federal to circuit court.

    Lena Young, the widow of longtime Tampa Heights resident and community activist Arthur Green Jr., has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Tampa on behalf of his estate. The suit, filed this month in Hillsborough Circuit Court, accuses two officers of using excessive force while trying to arrest Green and failing to recognize he was in the grips of a medical episode. He stopped breathing and later died....

    Arthur Green Jr., a diabetic, shown with wife Lena Young, died during a traffic stop in Tampa in July 2014.
  2. Tampa police ask residents and businessowners to register their surveillance cameras to help fight crime

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — After a thief stole his lawn mower from a shed and another tried to break into his historic bungalow in Tampa Heights, Justin Ricke figured it was time to get security cameras. He has since upgraded to high-definition models that peer out from under the pale yellow home's eaves.

    "As a deterrent, it's great thing," said Ricke, who lives in the house with his wife and 12-year-old daughter. "I know that if anything occurs in front of my property, I have a peace of mind that I'm going to have some kind of record of that."...

    Sgt. Kelley Spanglo of the Tampa Police Department speaks to reporters about TPD's new Rec program, which stands for "Register Every Camera," during a Tampa Police Department news conferenceThursday  in front of the home of Tampa resident Justin Ricky. Through the Rec program, Spanglo said, Tampa residents and businesses can volunteer the existence and location of security cameras on their property so that investigators can be aware of potential footage in the event of nearby crime. Police will not be able to tap into a live feed, and camera owners are free to refuse requests for footage if they feel so inclined, she said. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  3. Deputies on ranch shooting: Woman shot ex-husband in self-defense after he killed his brother

    Public Safety

    PLANT CITY — Milton and Perry Varn grew up on Rocking V Ranch, working cattle together as kids and later as men. When their father died, they took the reins of the operation.

    At times, records indicate, the sprawling ranch on the road that bears the family name wasn't big enough for the two of them. Milton was arrested twice, both times accused of punching his older brother. Two years ago, Perry asked the court for a protective injunction, claiming his brother threatened to mete out some "cowboy justice."...

    Milton Varn, shown here, fatally shot his brother Perry during a domestic dispute at the Varn family ranch in Plant City on Saturday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Then, according to investigators, Milton was shot dead by his ex-wife, Joanne Varn, who feared she would be his next victim. [Photo courtesy of Brad Sparkman]
  4. Tampa man treated for hypothermia after hiding from deputies in A/C duct

    Crime

    TAMPA— File this one under "Hiding Places that Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time."

    Deputies who arrived at 4004 W. Hamilton Avenue looking for Larry G. Puleo Thursday evening didn't see Puleo, who was wanted on outstanding warrants for violating probation, but they did hear someone scurrying around in the attic above them, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office. Figuring it was Puleo they ordered him to surrender....

    An image from sheriff's investigators shows Larry G. Puleo, 47, stuck in an air conditioning duct while trying to hid from them, the sheirff's office said. Puleo was being sought on outstanding warrants. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  5. 'Of course I'm a miracle,' says beloved Plant High grad who was given just hours to live

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    About 24 hours after an ambulance rushed Dustin Kurth to the hospital, his heart stopped.

    As doctors and nurses pumped their son's chest, Cindy and Steve Kurth stood in the corner, struggling to understand how this could be happening. It was Jan. 22, and just days earlier, Dustin was fighting a cold.

    But the cold turned out to be the flu, the flu became pneumonia and then organ failure. Now, the 23-year-old Plant High School graduate's doctors were telling his family to say their goodbyes....

    Dustin Kurth, 23, enjoys his first day back to his job at PDQ on South Dale Mabry in Tampa. The Plant High School graduate nearly died after a bout with pneumonia resulted in organ failure. His family said an outpouring of support from the community got them through the ordeal. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]


  6. Hillsborough sheriff creates new Brandon-area district to help improve response times

    Public Safety

    TAMPA

    For two decades, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office has divvied up the sprawling county into four patrol districts.

    That changes May 8, when a fifth district goes live.

    Patrol District V — the Sheriff's Office uses Roman numerals — includes most of Brandon and the communities of Bloomingdale, Palm River-Clair-Mel, Grant Park, Orient Park and Progress Village....

    Maj. Kyle Robinson, a 22-year-veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, will lead the agency’s newly created Patrol District V from the district’s new headquarters on Windhorst Road. 

  7. Navy lieutenant at MacDill charged with torching his house for insurance payout

    Crime

    TAMPA — After fire gutted his home three years ago, Navy Lt. Nolen Zander told investigators the burns on his face and hands were from the radiator in his Volkswagen Jetta.

    On Tuesday, the intelligence officer stationed at MacDill Air Force Base was arrested and charged with first-degree arson and burning a building to defraud an insurer. Investigators say that on March 17, 2014, Zander used gasoline to set fire to the house at 6512 36th Ave. S he owned with his wife, then filed a claim for damages with his insurance company, Tower Hill Insurance....

    Navy Lt. Nolen Zander said he was out of town at the time.
  8. Hillsborough deputies: Ex-boyfriend fatally shoots woman, then turns gun on himself

    Crime

    WIMAUMA — Joanna Morales was sitting in her grandparents' living room Tuesday night when she heard arguing in the bedroom shared by her mother's friend, and the friend's 7-year-old son.

    "Then I heard someone go, 'Ahhh,' and heard three gunshots," Joanna, 13, said. They boy ran to the living room, yelling "They killed my mom, they killed my mom."

    Santos Simiona Gonzalez-Lopez, a 32-year-old migrant worker from Mexico, was fatally shot three times by her ex-boyfriend, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office....

    A woman was killed by her ex-boyfriend in a domestic dispute in Wimauma on Tuesday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  9. Father fatally shoots son in Riverview murder-suicide, deputies say

    Crime

    RIVERVIEW — Authorities released the names of two people found dead in a townhome early Monday but provided no details about what was behind the fatal shootings.

    Zoltan Ambrus, 63, shot his son Tamas Ambrus, 41, once and then shot himself, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

    Deputies were called to Zoltan Ambrus' home at 4663 Pond Ridge Drive, in the Valhalla community, about 4:45 a.m. on Monday. They discovered the father's body in the garage and the son's body in the house, in an area between the living room and dining room. Both men died from a single gunshot wound to the head....

    Zoltan Ambrus, 63, shot his 41-year-old son, Tamas Ambrus, and then turned a gun on himself at this townhome in Riverview’s Valhalla community on Monday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The men’s bodies were discovered after deputies were called to the residence at 4663 Pond Ridge Drive about 4:45 a.m. Monday. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  10. Firefighters in Hernando, Pasco counties battling brush fires fueled by Florida's drought

    Fire

    Just as crews knocked down a wildfire in Hernando County, two other brush fires flared up in Pasco County.

    In Hernando County, firefighting crews had contained about 90 percent of what they're calling the "water tower fire" by Monday afternoon. They hoped to have the fire fully contained overnight after it consumed 1,100 acres.

    The more pressing concern Monday evening were the two smaller brush fires off State Road 52 and Hays Road in Pasco County that firefighters were trying to contain....

    Crews continued to battle a brush fire Sunday night near Hernando Beach.
  11. Tampa woman arrested in connection to hit-and-run crash that killed Palmetto man on Interstate 75

    News

    TAMPA — A 25-year-old Tampa woman was arrested this week, accused of driving away after she struck a Palmetto man on Interstate 75 last year, leaving him for dead.

    Endea I. Brown was arrested Tuesday afternoon at Adventure Island, where she works in customer service, on charges of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death and destroying evidence, Hillsborough County jail records show....

    Brown
  12. Body of missing Hailey Acierno, 17, found in police search of Flatwoods Park

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The search for 17-year-old Hailey Acierno ended sadly Friday, in a corner of the sprawling wilderness park where the Wharton High School junior found respite from a sometimes overwhelming world.

    Tampa police officers on off-road bicycles discovered Hailey's body shortly before 9 a.m. off the main bicycling and hiking trail south of the Morris Bridge Road entrance to Flatwoods Park. She was found about two miles south of her house in the Arbor Greene subdivision, where she was last seen on March 28, Police Chief Eric Ward said at a news conference....

    Hailey Acierno, 17, of Tampa has been missing since March 28. [Tampa Police]
  13. Mom of missing New Tampa teen: "Horrible things are going through our heads"

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Lisa Acierno wants to remain optimistic, and if you catch her at the right moment, she is.

    "As parents, there are horrible things going through our heads," Acierno said Thursday. "It changes every minute of the day."

    It had been nine days since her 17-year-old daughter Hailey disappeared from her New Tampa home. Authorities have been searching since then, focusing their efforts on Flatwoods Wilderness Park, a short walk from the Aciernos' home in the Arbor Green community and a place where Hailey liked to go with her friends or to be alone with nature....

    Fish and wildlife officers search Flatwoods Wilderness Park for Hailey Acierno, 17, who has been missing since March 28. She liked to visit the park and needs medication. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  14. Temple Terrace woman plans roadside plea to Chinese president over imprisoned mother(w/video)

    Human Interest

    One day in 2006, Iris Lu came home from high school in rural southern China to find her family's home ransacked and her mother gone.

    Cuiping Deng, a primary school teacher, had been hauled away to a detention center, her second trip to prison for practicing a Chinese spiritual discipline called Falun Gong. Deng would be subjected to psychological and physical torture by a Communist regime determined to make her recant her beliefs, according to Lu....

    Cuiping Deng, seen here in a photo from spring 2016, is imprisoned in China for distributing materials about the Chinese goverment's persecution of Falun Gong, according to her daughter, Iris Lu. Lu is an accountant at the University of South Florida. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  15. Teen charged in death of man found on fire behind Tampa home

    News

    TAMPA — A Tampa teen arrested in connection with the death of a man whose body was found burning behind a vacant house last week has been charged with second-degree murder.

    Sigfredo Espinel turned himself in to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on Sunday after detectives secured a warrant for his arrest the previous day. The Sheriff's Office initially said Espinel was wanted in the slaying of 23-year-old old Jose Zarragoitia, 23, who was found dead in the back yard of 12015 N Oregon Ave. on Thursday....

    The body of 23-year-old Jose E. Zarragoitia of Tampa was found burning Thursday behind a vacant home on North Oregon Avenue in the Forest Hills neighborhood. [From gofundme.com]