Temporary chief hired for public safety unit

By Times Staff Writer
Published January 4, 2008


An associate criminal justice professor who served as police chief at Michigan State University will lead the University of South Florida's newly created Division of Public Safety - for now.

USF officials announced Thursday that Bruce Benson, a visiting instructor of criminology at USF's Sarasota-Manatee campus, will be interim assistant vice president for the safety division starting later this month.

Administrators recently created the division in hopes of improving campus safety and emergency response plans, and amid tense contract negotiations with police union leaders.

The division includes the USF police department, security, emergency operations, parking enforcement and other safety-related services.

Benson, described by USF chief financial officer Carl Carlucci as a "seasoned university administrator," starts Jan. 14.

USF spokesman Ken Gullette said the university will conduct a national search for a permanent director in the coming months.


Third passenger dies from injuries in crash

A 66-year-old Hudson woman died Wednesday from injuries she suffered in a crash on U.S. 19 on Christmas Day, family members and authorities said.

Linda McWilliams was in the front passenger seat of a Chevrolet Tahoe that had stopped at the traffic light at Little Road about 2:20 p.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Her husband, Raymond, was driving. Linda McWilliams' daughter, Denise Bassi, was in the back seat with her husband, Gerard.

Authorities said David Belniak, 34, of Spring Hill, was northbound on U.S. 19 in a Nissan pickup and failed to stop at the light, crashing into the back of the Tahoe.

Gerard Bassi, 51, died at the scene. Denise Bassi, 50, died later at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. They lived in Connecticut.

The McWilliamses lived next door to Linda's brother, Michael Burkoski, 62. Burkoski said his sister suffered severe brain injuries in the crash and was removed from life support Wednesday at Bayfront. Raymond McWilliams is recovering at home.