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Teen charged in man's beating

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published June 7, 2007


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TAMPA - Detectives say it was a teenager who brutally attacked Kris Scheppe, 27 and blind, in the broad daylight of May 25, a short stroll from downtown.

Michael "Mike-Mike" Watts, 16, has an arrest record that includes assault and carrying a concealed weapon. On Friday he was booked into a juvenile detention center and charged with two felonies - robbery by sudden snatching with force and adult abuse.

He stands accused of punching, kicking and robbing Scheppe, who was in town from Fort Myers for a National Federation of the Blind of Florida conference.

Scheppe had been walking from the Amtrak station on Nebraska Avenue to a bus stop on Marion Street when he took a wrong turn near the Central Park Village public housing complex, he said in an interview after the attack. He saw a figure he has central vision of 20/100 and asked for directions.

Then came the punches and kicks and Scheppe fell to the ground. The attacker took Scheppe's walking cane, phone, wallet and duffel bag, which included clothes, a knife and blank checks.

Detectives subpoenaed phone records for Scheppe's stolen cell. They learned the mugger had called his mother 57 seconds after the attack.

Detectives went to Central Park Village on Friday to question Watts.

"Tell the truth, " his mother said as police hauled him away, according to an arrest report.

He did not.

Watts told police he found the phone in an alley three days after the attack.

But when interrogators presented the phone records, Watts said he saw the cell on the ground next to Scheppe. He claimed he grabbed the phone and pulled Scheppe's bag, and the blind man fell.

He told detectives he never punched or kicked Scheppe, and didn't steal his walking cane.

Scheppe tells a different story, and despite his impaired vision, police say he saw well enough to pick Watts from a photo lineup.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

[Last modified June 7, 2007, 01:30:55]


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