By Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer
Some people smile for the birdie even when they're being booked into jail. Others seem aghast. Whatever the expression, those faces fascinate.
TAMPA - Every day, hundreds of people are booked into Tampa Bay area jails.
Drunken drivers, accused burglars, suspected murderers. Men charged with beating their wives. Women charged with abusing their children. Petty thieves caught stealing a few shirts from a department store.
No matter their crime, every one of them gets their picture taken.
That booking mug becomes a record of one of their lowest, most vulnerable moments - and how they reacted to it.
Some people seem confused, shell-shocked. Their faces betray their fear, or their amusement. In some cases, we shudder because the looks on their faces are so scary.
Whatever the expression, we can't help but stare. And wonder.
Why is this accused murderer smiling? Are those the steely eyes of a rapist, or the dead eyes of a man wrongly accused? Did somebody tell that guy to make such a silly face?
We look at the worn face of a woman charged with prostitution for the umpteenth time and try to imagine the life that led her there. Staring into the clear blue eyes of a pretty young blond, we think, Did she do that?
Jim Gross, special projects manager for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Detention Department, said he can often tell whether someone is being booked into jail for the first time by the way they pose for their mug shot, one of the last steps in the booking process at Orient Road. First-timers often look terrified, ashamed.
People arrested for drunken driving often smile, Gross said. "They're so wasted they have no idea where they are."
They also might smile if they're returning for the third or fourth or eighth time, he said. Sometimes they look at the camera as if they're bored.
The tough guys cross their arms and tilt their chin up. Go ahead and arrest me, their stance says. I've been through this before.
Women smile more often than men, at least according to the unscientific observations of detention deputies.
"Some women are just trained," said Sgt. Scott Smith, who's in charge of booking at the Orient Road jail. "They see the camera, and they smile. It doesn't matter that they're going to jail."
At Orient Road, some people are so impressed with their booking mugs, they ask for a copy to take home. They can't have one, but many of them keep their wrist ID bracelets (with a small version of the mug shot on it) as a souvenir, said Deputy Decondra Williams.
The fascination with mug shots isn't just local. Consider the popularity of the Web site the Smoking Gun (www.thesmokinggun.com) with its mug shots of dozens of celebrities and famous figures, from Bill Gates and Frank Sinatra to actors Nick Nolte and Vince Vaughn.
Here's a look at some memorable local mug shots:
|Alicia Denise Latimore
Alicia Denise Latimore: It has been more than a year and a half since Latimore was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, charged in the brutal murder of an east Hillsborough man with a drug debt.
But detention deputies William Nicholson Jr. and David Youmans can't get Latimore, with her tattoos and mohawk, out of their heads. They still remember how she smiled as she stood before a camera to have her booking mug taken.
"She was just milling around here like it was no big deal," Nicholson said. "It was inappropriate, considering the crime."
If convicted, she could get the death penalty.
"Unfortunately," Youmans said, "some of them just stick in your head. That's one of them."
Donald O'Neal: O'Neal was arrested Jan. 1 on a warrant for not having a proper rabies tag for an animal. Florida criminal records show that O'Neal, 28, has been arrested several times before on far more serious charges, including larceny and driving under the influence.
Maybe because this latest charge seemed so frivolous in comparison, O'Neal decided to pose for his booking mug by showing what a football fan he is. He held the logo on his Philadelphia Eagles jersey up to the camera and grinned. Now that's loyalty.
"Some of these people have been here so many times," Gross said, "it's just a game to them."
Debra Lafave: Sometimes, mug shots are a study in contrasts. When Lafave was booked into the Hillsborough County jail on June 21 amid allegations that she had sex with a 14-year-old Greco Middle School student, she looked dazed. Odds are, she wasn't expecting police to be in the teen's driveway that morning when she went to pick him up.
In the mug shot, she wears little makeup. Her long, blond hair is tucked behind her ears.
A week later, Lafave turned herself in to authorities in Marion County, where she faced additional charges in the alleged affair.
For that mug shot, Lafave had time to plan her appearance. She wore smoky eye shadow, dark eyeliner and dark lipstick. Her cheeks were well-rouged, her hair pulled back tight in a bun. She could be one of the dancers in Robert Palmer's Simply Irresistible music video.
|Joshua Troy MacGeorge||Melissa Ann Smith|
Joshua Troy MacGeorge: MacGeorge was arrested Jan. 19 and charged with burglary and felony hate crime, in what police described as a hate crime against a black woman living next door. In court the next day, MacGeorge cried. But he smiled during booking.
Melissa Ann Smith: Smith also was arrested in connection with the hate crime. She posed with the black eyes to prove she was in some sort of brawl.
Jason Funk: In 2003, Funk was arrested on a charge of domestic battery, yet smiled brightly for the deputies taking his picture. A year later, accused of killing 25-year-old insurance adjuster Katrina Froeschle, his expression is cold, distant. Investigators later said that when they went to Funk's Sulphur Springs house and pulled Froeschle's body from the river behind it, Funk was more concerned about the police distracting him from his birthday cake baking in the oven than about Froeschle.
Kenya Allure: His real name is Alexander Vann, but he likes to be called Kenya. He sometimes goes by Kenya Frezzell, and he is well-known among Tampa police for his multiple arrests over the years on prostitution and drug charges. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he stands out when he walks along Nebraska Avenue in a tight, short dress. With his lipstick and little black mole, he's more photogenic than many of the women booked into the jail.
Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's a few more booking mugs worth a second glance.
|A frequent visitor to the Hillsborough jail, Johnny Dwayne Carlton was most recently arrested Jan. 9 on a charge of marijuana possession. Jail officials say first-timers often don't know where to look when their picture is taken, but he's no first-timer.|
|Audrey Lavonne Brown was arrested Jan. 27 after police say she drove drunk down Bayshore Boulevard through barricades set up for the Gasparilla parade. Her blood alcohol level, police say, was 0.252, more than four times the level at which someone is presumed impaired.|
|Jessica Sue Lynn, listed in jail records as a dancer at Deja Vu, was arrested in May 2003 on a domestic battery charge.|
|George Rada, a Plant City pediatrician, posed for this mug shot after fatally shooting his wife in their driveway in June 2003 as their young sons sat in a van nearby. He was convicted in November and sentenced to life in prison.|
|Tampa attorney David Stahl was convicted last year for his part in an underage sex ring, 31/2 years after his arrest amid allegations that he had sex with a teenage girl. This mug shot was taken the day the jury declared him guilty. He's serving six years in prison.|
|Mario Carlos Castillo was still smiling after his arrest in August 2003 on a domestic battery charge. He posted $500 bail and was released from jail. A judge sentenced him to a year of probation.|
|Another happy arrestee. Amber D. Williams was arrested Aug. 16 and charged with violating the terms of probation for a 2003 case of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In December, she was sentenced to more than a year in state prison.|