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Firing preceded killings

By Compiled from Times wires
Published May 1, 2003

MIAMI - One of two business partners killed in a murder-suicide had fired the other's wife the day before, investigators say.

Michael Pecora, 51, a successful caterer, and Jerome Berlin, 60, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, were found dead shortly before noon Tuesday after they were heard arguing loudly in the second-floor office of the 100,000-square-foot Signature Grand in Davie, the political hot spot they opened together in 1995.

People who knew both men said they weren't aware of any personal problems between them.

But Davie Lt. Bill Bamford said Berlin fired Pecora's wife, Arlene Pecora, as the hall's catering director Monday, then posted a memo for employees saying she should not be allowed on the premises.

Police say Pecora shot Berlin twice in the chest as he sat at his desk, then shot himself in the mouth with the 38-caliber revolver.

Union chief on leave

MIAMI - The head of Miami-Dade County's teachers union agreed Wednesday to take a leave of absence pending the outcome of a public corruption task force investigation.

United Teachers of Dade president Pat Tornillo will be temporarily replaced by secretary-treasurer Shirley B. Johnson, the union's executive board said. Tornillo has led the union since the early 1970s.

FBI agents and Miami-Dade police officers searched the union's offices Tuesday, scouring computers and documents and leaving with boxes of records.

Van crash kills 2 workers

BRADENTON - Two Tampa men died when eight construction workers were thrown from a van that overturned on Interstate 75 early Tuesday, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Nine men, all from North Tampa, were in the 1999 Ford F-350 van that was headed to a job site in Manatee County when a rear tire blew out north of the Interstate 275 exchange near Parrish, the FHP said. The driver, Leovigildo Reyes Acosta, 32, lost control and the van overturned several times.

Orlin Acosta Maldonado, 20, died at the scene. David Acosta, 31, died at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Manatee Memorial spokesman Vernon DeSear said Werman Hernandez-Cruz, 24, Adalid A. Cruz, 43, and Rosali Acosta-Acosta, 24, were admitted there. Adin Funez and Humberlind Banegas Acosta, 31, were flown by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, the police report said. Reyes Acosta, the driver, was taken to Manatee Memorial but later discharged. One worker refused treatment.

FHP Lt. Michael Rushing said only Reyes Acosta was wearing a seat belt, though the van had "ample seating and ample seat belts."

Barry president to retire

MIAMI SHORES - Barry University president Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin announced Wednesday she will retire next year.

The board of trustees granted her a one-year sabbatical leave beginning in July 2004 and asked that she accept the title of chancellor.

O'Laughlin, 73, was elected as the fifth president of then-Barry College in 1981. During her tenure, the school grew from 1,750 to 8,500 students. Medical and law schools were added.

- Bradenton Herald, wire reports

[Last modified May 1, 2003, 04:06:34]


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