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Award is for bravery, not weapon fired

Published March 18, 2004

Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Rod Reder wants to make one thing clear: The department doesn't reward deputies for shooting suspects.

The department does, however, recognize deputies whose bravery and extra efforts stop the bad guys from doing bad deeds, he said.

Hence the Deputy of the Quarter award given this week to Steve Favors, who in late January shot dead a man suspected, along with his girlfriend, in several local bank robberies.

"I know it sounds funny," Reder said. "I mean, we don't like these situations to end that way, and it's not like we award people for shooting somebody.

"But this was an act of bravery. If the deputy hadn't been so observant, those two would probably still be robbing banks."

Brian McPhee died at the scene of the Jan. 23 shootout, which began when Favors was patrolling along Memorial Highway and saw a Toyota that looked like the suspected robbers' getaway vehicle.

Authorities said Favors went after the Toyota and confronted the driver, McPhee, who admitted he was a wanted bank robber before speeding off.

Then he turned his car around and aimed it at Favors.

Favors yelled at McPhee to stop, and when the car kept coming, the deputy fired his .45-caliber handgun. McPhee died at the scene.

Last month, police charged Catherine Ann Flynn, 41, who was also in the car, with his death.

She's in the county jail on a second-degree murder charge, plus three counts of robbery and one count of cocaine possession.

SNIFFING ABROAD: A Tampa Bay team of eight police dogs, along with their handlers, will spend the next week in Panama sniffing for the remains of former dictator Manuel Noriega's victims.

They'll also look for the body of an 18-month-old girl who was kidnapped last year and is presumed dead.

Leading the group that departs Friday from Tampa International Airport is Sharon Scavuzzo, a Stetson University College of Law administrator who founded K-9 Search and Rescue Teams of Florida.

The nonprofit volunteer group uses dogs and their powerful noses to help investigators search for missing people.

In 2002, the group traveled to Ecuador to look for a missing college student.

Earlier this year, the group helped local law enforcement officials search Tampa Bay for the body of Bonefish Grill co-founder Chris Parker, who drowned after his boat flipped.

The Panamanian Truth Commission, established by Panama President Mireya Moscoso, asked for the group's help after Scavuzzo, two Pasco County deputies and several police dogs found several grave sites during a trip in September.

This time the mission is more urgent than ever: The son of late dictator Gen. Omar Torrijos, a Noriega ally, is running against Moscoso.

"If Torrijos gets in, he'll cease all of this searching," said Scavuzzo, who is taking her German shepherd, Kato, for the expedition.

"So this could be our last chance."

TOO MUCH INFORMATION: It took nearly three years to bring William Kenneth Taylor to trial on murder charges at the Tampa courthouse this week.

And it took two full days of careful questioning to pick 12 jurors - plus four alternates - fit to decide his guilt or innocence, and, if he is found guilty, whether he should live or die.

Hours into the state's case Wednesday, though, jurors heard something they shouldn't have.

On the witness stand, a Hillsborough sheriff's detective read a letter from the defendant in which he admitted to a series of burglaries in Miami.

While the court had ruled other incriminating evidence inadmissible before trial, the bit about the burglaries - how mention of it might damage Taylor's right to a fair trial, at least - apparently snuck past prosecutors and defense attorneys until it came out in court.

Result? Mistrial.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Taylor, 45, of Tampa, who is accused of murdering a Riverview woman, Sandra Kushmer, and severely beating her brother, William Maddox, during a May 2001 robbery.

He is scheduled to go on trial again June 1.

- Contact Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler at 226-3373 or Chris Goffard can be reached at 226-3337.

[Last modified March 18, 2004, 01:20:35]

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