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Week in review

CRAIG DROPS OUT OF RACE: Carrollwood's Will Craig announced Thursday he is ending his bid for the County Commission seat representing northern Hillsborough. Craig, a former aid to Commissioner Chris Hart, had struggled to raise money for the Republican primary, receiving $12,225 in contributions since the campaign began. By contrast, Denise Lasher, the Republican frontrunner, has raised more than $85,426.

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002


CRAIG DROPS OUT OF RACE: Carrollwood's Will Craig announced Thursday he is ending his bid for the County Commission seat representing northern Hillsborough. Craig, a former aid to Commissioner Chris Hart, had struggled to raise money for the Republican primary, receiving $12,225 in contributions since the campaign began. By contrast, Denise Lasher, the Republican frontrunner, has raised more than $85,426.

Craig returned to his old job in Hart's office on Friday.

SURVIVOR MAKES PEACE WITH TOWN 'N COUNTRY DRIVER: After his wife and daughter died in a fiery car wreck in 1998, Bruce Murakami turned his life to a single goal: bringing charges against the 19-year-old driver he held responsible.

But in a Hillsborough County courtroom Wednesday, as Justin Cabezas pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter, Murakami became Cabezas' biggest ally. With tears in his eyes, Murakami asked a judge to withhold a finding of guilt. Instead of prison, Murakami asked that he and Cabezas be allowed to educate people together on the dangers of reckless driving. If something positive emerged from the tragedy, he said, "I think their deaths are not in vain."

Cabezas apologized to the Murakami family and said, "Thank you, sir, for your compassion."

Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta sentenced Cabezas to two years of probation and 300 hours of community service, with time at a program designed to discourage reckless driving among youths. He also ordered Cabezas' license be revoked.

On Nov. 16, 1998, Murakami's late wife, Cindy, and daughter, Chelsea, 11, were pulling out of a shopping center in the 10200 block of W Hillsborough Avenue in their Ford Aerostar. Cabezas, driving a rented Dodge Intrepid, slammed into the minivan, which struck a car and exploded.

Witnesses said Cabezas appeared to be street racing another car at speeds up to 100 mph just before the crash. But the Florida Highway Patrol said the accident was Cindy Murakami's fault, that she had pulled out in front of Cabezas' car. The FHP said he might have been going only a few miles faster than the 55 mph limit.

Murakami and Cabezas, now 23, intend to travel to Hillsborough schools together, telling their story and warning about the dangers of street racing.

"Sure, he robbed something very valuable from us," Murakami said. "But it's not going to bring my wife and daughter back by (him) sitting in a prison for 30 years."

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