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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. Largo man arrested after passenger falls out of minivan and dies

    Public Safety

    PLANT CITY — A Largo man struck a pedestrian with a minivan last Friday, authorities said. Five minutes later, his female passenger was fatally struck by on-coming traffic after falling out of the vehicle.

    Plant City police arrested Todd Charles Riggs, 55, and charged him with leaving the scene of a crash without rendering aid and injuring a person while driving intoxicated.

    At the time of his arrest on Dec. 8, Riggs was already out on bail. He was most recently arrested in Hillsborough County in August on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He was being held without bail Tuesday in the Hillsborough jail....

  2. Buchanan Middle aide used Instagram to seek nude photos, sex from students, deputies say

    Crime

    TAMPA — A 24-year-old aide at Buchanan Middle School was arrested Monday and charged with using Instagram to ask for sex and nude photos from female students at the school, deputies said.

    Between Sept. 1 and the time of his arrest, Quinton J. Bradford used the social media application to ask one of the girls for nude photos and sex, and a second girl for nude photos, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Both girls are 13, deputies said....

  3. Valrico man charged with attempted murder after trying to stab man in Seffner, deputies say

    Crime

    SEFFNER — A 52-year-old Valrico man faces an attempted first degree murder charge after he repeatedly tried to stab a man last month, deputies said.

    Ronald C. Westendorf was arrested Tuesday on a warrant in Pinellas County and booked into the Hillsborough County jail on Thursday, records show. According to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office arrest report, Westendorf showed up at the victim's mother's home on the 5300 block Murrhee Street because his wife was there at the time....

  4. Deadly Tampa race leaves husband dead, wife critically injured

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Bill and Jane Swartz nearly had their bungalow in sight. Driving back from a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning, the couple needed only to cross Sligh Avenue to reach their home on Highland Avenue.

    They almost made it.

    As Jane Swartz entered the westbound lanes of Sligh in a Toyota RAV4, a racing pair of pickup trucks barreled toward them at more than twice the speed limit, police say. One truck, a Dodge Ram, slammed into the Toyota. The force of the crash tossed the small SUV into a utility pole and in an instant ended a 15-year marriage....

  5. He went to jail for selling drugs at a strip club, but Tampa cops got the wrong guy

    Civil

    TAMPA — John Kural was driving to his job as a tattoo artist last year when he saw the flashing lights of a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy in his rearview mirror. When Kural pulled over on Bearss Avenue, the deputy asked if he knew why he was being stopped.

    Kural figured it was because he wasn't wearing a seat belt.

    "He said, 'No, you have a warrant for selling drugs to an undercover cop,' " Kural, 38, recalled. "I said, 'I think you have the wrong guy. Check your computer again because I never sold drugs to nobody.' "...

  6. Former employee sues Tampa claiming now retired-Fire Marshal sexually harassed her

    Civil

    TAMPA — A former administrative assistant for the City of Tampa is suing the city, claiming the now-retired Fire Marshal sexually harassed her when she worked for him.

    Tara Crawford claims then-Fire Marshal Charles W. Owen III told her he wanted to have sex with her, showed her pictures of his genitals and of naked sexual partners and, on one occasion insisted she go to his house, where he told her to try out his bed, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 22 in Hillsborough County....

    An employee who worked for now-retired Tampa Fire Marshal Charles Owen, above, is suing the city of Tampa, claiming the city failed to take "prompt and effective" action after she reported that she sexually harassed her. [Photo: WTSP 10News]
  7. Four shootings. One gun. Police wanted to find it. Turns out, the gun found them.

    Crime

    TAMPA — In an investigation that drew a blizzard of tips and for seven weeks seemed to revolve around grainy video showing a man in a hoodie, police knew one thing for sure.

    Four shootings. One gun.

    Police didn't release that fact publicly until this week, but they knew it before Tuesday, thanks to lab analysis of shell casings from four different fatal shootings in southeast Seminole Heights....

    Ronald Felton, 60, was shot to death Nov. 14.
  8. Now that police have a suspect in Seminole Heights killings, will anyone get the $110,000 reward?

    Crime

    TAMPA — Now that a McDonald's coworker of the man charged with shooting four people in Seminole Heights has been credited with helping break the case, will she get the $110,000 reward money?

    Authorities are still sorting that out, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. But the McDonald's worker has already received $9,000 of the reward after restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart stopped by the restaurant to hand her a personal check on Wednesday....

    Local restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart, shown in this file photo in the dining room of the Columbia Restaurant, hand delivered a $9,000 check Wednesday to a McDonald's coworker of suspected Seminole Heights killer Howell Donaldson III. The coworker, a woman whose name has not been released, gave a Tampa police officer a gun that Donaldson gave her to hold Tuesday, leading to his arrest, according to police.

  9. Arrest report details evidence that led police to suspect in Seminole Heights slayings

    Crime

    TAMPA — Shell casings and cell phone data link the man police arrested Tuesday to four recent murders in Seminole Heights, an arrest report shows.

    The two-page report released Wednesday offers new details in the evidence against Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, the 24-year-old Tampa resident charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

    Investigators found SIG Sauer brand.40 caliber shell casings at all four of the locations where Monica Hoffa, Benjamin Mitchell, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton were found shot to death between Oct. 9 and Nov. 14, the report states. ...

    Tampa police examine a red sports car parked at the McDonalds off 13th Avenue and 22nd Street in Ybor City on Tuesday. Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested on four counts of first-degree murder.  [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES  | Times]
  10. Tampa couple killed after tire blows out on Alligator Alley

    Public Safety

    With precious seconds ticking by, Michael Welbaum ran into the murky waters of the canal with his boots still on his feet.

    The battalion chief for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue had just arrived to a frantic scene on the shoulder of Alligator Alley. Witnesses said a sport utility vehicle had blown a tire and veered into the canal. Now it was completely submerged and Welbaum and two of the bystanders were swimming toward some small bubbles gurgling to the surface....

    Rescue crews work the scene on Alligator Alley at mile marker 32 where Kevin and Michelle Livingston's Ford Expedition plunged into a canal. The Tampa couple died at the scene. [Photo courtesy Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue]
  11. 60 candidates, including St. Petersburg's Holloway, sought Tampa police chief job

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — When Mayor Bob Buckhorn decided to conduct a national search for Tampa's next police chief, he had a hunch the post would attract some of the nation's top law enforcement talent.

    Buckhorn ultimately decided to halt the search earlier this month and tap interim Chief Brian Dugan, citing his leadership during Hurricane Irma and the Seminole Heights murders as evidence he's the right person for the job. By then, though, the application period had ended and a city consultant tasked with the search had a stack of five dozen applications....

    Chief Anthony Holloway said he applied for the Tampa job because he might not have been kept on had Rick Baker been elected mayor of St. Petersburg. Rick Kriseman won, though, and Holloway said he's happy in his job. [Times file, 2014]
  12. Newly engaged couple among three killed in wrong-way crash on I-75

    Accidents

    GIBSONTON — Last month, LaShay Waiters got down on one knee and proposed to Yvette Alexandre in front of a room packed with family and friends. She said yes.

    About two weeks ago, it was Alexandre's turn to surprise him: She was pregnant. It wasn't planned, but the young couple was excited about being parents.

    "They had a great future together," said Waiters' mother, Tamika Snipes. ...

    LaShay Waiters, 24, and Yvette Alexandre, 21, had gotten engaged last month and just found out they were expecting.
  13. Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.

    Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeast Seminole Heights. The house had been the family holiday center since Vivian's parents built it in 1951. After they died, Vivian and Bob moved in. ...

    Holiday traditions at the  Seminole Heights home of Bob and Vivian Fiallo  include the handmade reindeer they place outside each year. Vivian's parents, the late Joe and Vera Muley, lived in the house before them and Muley made the reindeer. [LOREN ELLIOTT/  Times]
  14. Training in sport plane comes under scrutiny following death of pitcher Halladay

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Spirits were soaring last year when an airplane manufacturer named ICON opened its new flight center at Peter O. Knight Airport.

    At a grand opening on a clear November day, guests gawked at the company's new A5 airplane and company executives gushed about the location . They were marketing their product as a Jet Ski with wings and their new second home in Tampa was surrounded by water....

    Plane maker ICON was flying high when it opened its East Coast Flight Training Center last November at Tampa's Peter O. Knight Airport. Now, the company is reeling from money problems and crashes that caused three deaths. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]

  15. Hundreds of students at Hillsborough high schools walk out to protest teacher wage freezes

    K12

    TAMPA — A protest over teacher pay that began with some 15 students early this week mushroomed into much larger movement Wednesday as hundreds of Hillsborough County high school students from eight campuses briefly walked out of their classes.

    Students at Alonso, Armwood, Freedom, Jefferson, Middleton, Robinson and Sickles high schools filtered out of classrooms and gathered outside their respective buildings, district officials said. Leto High students released a video indicating they held a demonstration too. Many were clad in black in a show of solidarity. Some held signs that said, "Dig deeper, pay my teacher," and, "Praise the raise."...

    Students at Middleton High joined hundreds of their peers from other Hillsborough County schools Wednesday in protesting expected teacher salary freezes. [Twitter]