By TIMES STAFF
Published June 28, 2007
MURDER CONVICTION IS OVERTURNED
An appeals court on Wednesday reversed the first-degree murder conviction of a St. Petersburg man who shot a rival drug dealer four years ago. But Deontae Thomas, 25, is not likely to ever leave prison. He is serving three life sentences on charges stemming from a drive-by shooting and shootout with police two days after he killed the drug dealer. In the drive-by shooting, Thomas killed Cynthia Bethune, 41, a mother of four who was walking home with a loaf of bread for her children. A series of other drive-by shootings between Thomas and Johnson associates terrorized the Midtown area in April 2003. On Wednesday, the Second District Court of Appeals ruled evidence about the drive-by shooting that killed Bethune and the police chase was not relevant to the other murder and distracted the jury.
Deputies find suspect stuck
Apparently intent on siphoning some gas from the vehicle of an employer who had fired him, Carlos Santiago used his finger to push open the gas tank filler tube. Big mistake, authorities said. His finger got stuck in the tube and held him there until a worker at Home Design Center at 6836 Ridge Road saw him and called authorities. He was charged with petty theft.
Fire does $800, 000 damage at store
Shiraz Oriental Rug Gallery and the Pine Shop furniture store suffered almost $800, 000 in damage after an electric closet caught fire Wednesday morning, said Tampa fire investigators. Ala Falasiri, owner of the rug store at MacDill Avenue and Bay to Bay Boulevard, was on the phone at 11:45 a.m. when the line went dead, investigators said. Employees noticed smoke billowing out of the closet. Investigators say an electrical short started the fire.
Candle blamed in fire at home
Justin Murdock, 21, awoke about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday with his hair burning. A citronella candle he had left on his window sill lit a curtain, causing a fire between his mattress and the wall, he said. "I tried to put it out with two buckets of water, " he said. "It just wasn't enough." The fire spread up the wall and through the attic of the home at 2157 Beverly Lane. Damage is estimated at $60, 000 to $70, 000, said Clearwater fire spokeswoman Elizabeth Daly-Watts. The home, which is unlivable, had a smoke alarm that did not work. All five family members escaped unhurt.
NEW PORT RICHEY
Man accused of running down wife
Lisa Walters sat in front of her husband's Chevrolet Blazer Tuesday to stop him from driving off with their baby girl, the Pasco Sheriff's Office said. But that didn't stop Jamey Vernon Warsecke, officials said. He hit the gas and ran over his spouse. The sport utility vehicle passed over her, the Sheriff's Office said, while the tires missed her. She lay motionless for a few minutes and then started moving again, a neighbor said. Warsecke was arrested Wednesday on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and held in lieu of $5, 000 bail.
[Last modified June 28, 2007, 00:38:21]
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