tampabay.com

Crime journal

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 5, 2008


DADE CITY

Second jury recommends death penalty

A jury recommended Tuesday that Lawrence Joey Smith should die for the execution-style shootings of two teens in 1999 that left one dead. It is the second time in seven years a jury has recommended that Smith, convicted in 2001, should die. His death sentence was overturned in 2004 because of a judicial error. Authorities say Robert Crawford, who was 17, and Stephen Tuttle, then 16, were taken by gunpoint to a remote stretch of State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes by Smith and co-defendant Faunce Pearce after losing $1,200 in drug money. Smith shot Tuttle in the back of the head. They drove on, not knowing that Tuttle, then 16, had survived because the bullet hit his fingers before entering his brain. He remains disabled by the bullet still lodged in his brain. Crawford was gunned down as he begged for his life.

ST. PETERSBURG

Man sought in threat at gunpoint

Police are searching for a 32-year-old man who they say threatened a woman with a gun at the Diva Day Spa at 6901 22nd Ave. N Monday afternoon after an argument over green cards. Police say Hung T. Ha, 32, was arguing with Hongphuc Thi Nguyen, 28, at the spa when he suddenly pulled her into an office, locked the door and then pulled out a gun. Police say Ha put the gun against the woman's back and squeezed the trigger twice. It is unclear why the gun didn't fire. Other employees at the spa unlocked the door, but Ha fled and left in a 2003 gray Acura hatchback, police said. Anyone with information can call police at (727) 893-7780.

Suspect caught in coin laundry thefts

A 26-year-old man was arrested early Tuesday after police say they found him stealing coins from laundry machines at the Valencia apartment complex on the city's west side. William McQuiston III admitted stealing coins from laundry machines in several other apartment complexes, St. Petersburg police said. He was arrested on charges related to burglary and possession of burglary tools. Police say McQuiston used a special key to break into the machines, and was caught when someone called authorities.

TOWN 'N COUNTRY

2-story house fire likely was arson

Hillsborough County fire crews extinguished a blaze early Tuesday believed to be the work of an arsonist. Fire crews arrived just before 12:40 a.m. to find flames shooting through the roof of a two-story, unoccupied home at 7349 W Pocahontas Ave. in Town 'N Country. No injuries were reported. Fire Rescue Capt. Ray Yeakley said the home is in foreclosure. Damage estimates were not available.

BROOKSVILLE

Deputies get more sanctions for chase

Three Hernando deputies who wrecked their patrol cars in a Dec. 13 chase of a stolen vehicle that resulted in a dozen suspensions received further sanctions following a review by the sheriff's vehicle damage review board. The board found Deputies Derik Deso, Christopher Croft and George Loydgren Jr. could have prevented the crashes that ended a 15-mile chase for a suspect in a stolen sports car at speeds that reached 117 mph.