Just shy of completing his probationary period, the officer admitted to the charges.
By CHRIS TISCH
Published September 18, 2004
LARGO - A probationary deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office was fired Friday because he was having sex with a convicted felon he met while on a call, sheriff's officials said.
Sheriff Everett Rice fired Deputy David J. McDonough, 25, after investigators learned of the allegations, to which McDonough admitted, sheriff's officials said.
McDonough would have celebrated his one-year anniversary with the agency next week. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Sheriff's officials released little information, other than to say McDonough had been to the woman's home recently on a call. There, he found drug paraphernalia.
Instead of seizing it as evidence, McDonough threw the paraphernalia into a garbage can. He then initiated an "ongoing sexual relationship" with the woman, a Sheriff's Office news release said.
Sheriff's officials did not release the name of the woman. But Kelly Garza, 42, who was featured in an article in the St. Petersburg Times Dec. 24, confirmed she is the woman.
Largo police arrested Garza on a child neglect charge in 2002, after she left her two sons, ages 7 and 9, home alone on Christmas Day while she went to smoke crack cocaine in St. Petersburg. Garza pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation and drug treatment.
She later violated her probation, but successfully completed drug treatment and eventually got her sons back. The Times article last Christmas featured her efforts to make the holiday a happy one for her boys despite her past struggles with addiction.
Garza, who remains on probation, said Friday she recently has started experiencing some family problems. She had become suicidal, which prompted someone to report her condition to the Sheriff's Office late last month.
Garza said McDonough came to her St. Petersburg apartment Aug. 28. She confirmed that he tossed drug paraphernalia in the garbage, but said it belonged to a woman staying with her for a weekend. McDonough then took her to a mental health treatment center because of her suicidal state, Garza said.
She said after she was released from treatment, McDonough returned to her apartment to check on her. He gave her his card and phone number, she said. He returned again and had sex with her, at times insinuating that if she told anyone what was happening, he would violate her probation, Garza said.
Garza said she "felt obligated" to have sex with the deputy. He returned several times to have sex, she said.
McDonough also told her he was married with one child and had another on the way, Garza said.
Their meetings didn't go unnoticed by neighbors, including Kristie Springel, one of Garza's friends who works as an assistant property manager at her apartment complex.
She saw McDonough come to Garza's apartment three times. His routine was to park his squad car across the street, then have Garza pick him up with her car.
Springel said Garza told her they were having sex. At some point, someone made a complaint to the Sheriff's Office.
On Thursday night, Springel said she noticed what she believed were undercover deputies watching Garza's apartment. She said McDonough again followed his routine.
Minutes later, deputies started banging on the door and yelled for Garza to open up and for McDonough to come outside, Springel said.
After several minutes, Garza opened the door. McDonough then came outside and began speaking with investigators, Springel said.