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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2000


Jury can hear reaction of dead boy's parents

TAMPA -- A jury will be allowed to hear most of the statements a couple accused of child abuse made after their toddler died from 400 yellow jacket stings, a circuit judge ruled Wednesday.

Attorney George Tragos, representing Wylie and Kelly Johnson of Melbourne, argued at a hearing last month that the couple's reaction to the accident would prejudice jurors and had no connection to the pending charge.

Two-year-old Harrison Johnson stumbled onto an underground nest of yellow jackets Sept. 28, 1998, in Town 'N Country, where he and his parents were visiting. Detectives say the Johnsons, whose religious beliefs eschew medical treatment, did not call paramedics for seven hours. The Johnsons counter that their son did not appear to be in peril.

A nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital testified last month that the couple showed no remorse after the boy died.

Most evidence is prejudicial to defendants, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe said in his five-page ruling Wednesday, and the test is whether the evidence would inflame jurors or appeal to their emotions. He ruled that the Johnsons' statements would do neither.

Cleared of manslaughter, man still going to prison

LARGO -- Joseph Adamo was sentenced Wednesday to just over eight years in prison on burglary and violation of probation charges.

A jury's November verdict in a manslaughter trial assured Adamo didn't face what he once did:

The possibility of another 20 years in prison.

In November, a jury decided Adamo wasn't directly responsible for his former girlfriend's death, refusing to convict him of a manslaughter charge and its 20-year penalty. Instead, a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor culpable negligence.

The charge carried a one-year jail sentence. Adamo, who had spent more than a year in jail awaiting trial and sentencing, was sentenced to time served on the misdemeanor.

Prosecutors say Adamo, 23, of Palm Harbor, was chasing his former girlfriend, Nicki Koumoundros, 19, in 1995 as she sped to get away from him. The woman, prosecutors said, feared for her life as Adamo, driving in a Camaro behind her, followed her out to a Tarpon Springs park.

As she tried to turn at a high speed, Koumoundros' Jeep Cherokee overturned, killing her.

The burglary and violation of probation charges are unrelated to the death of his girlfriend. Adamo pleaded no contest a year ago to breaking into a stranger's home and stealing a television set.

The violation of probation charge relates to an unrelated aggravated assault.

Hospitals jointly hire medical affairs executive

ST. PETERSBURG -- Bayfront-St. Anthony's Health Care has hired its first vice president of medical affairs since the two hospitals joined as part of the BayCare Health Alliance nearly three years ago.

Dr. Rex Ragsdale, who held the same post at Deaconess Hospital in Evanston, Ill., began work last week. He is a board-certified family practitioner and will serve as a liaison between doctors and the administration.

"It helps to have insight into both of those sides ... to know the clinical language, and to also understand the language that the business heads are using," he said Wednesday.

Bayfront and St. Anthony's each had a vice president of medical affairs before they joined BayCare in 1997. The hospitals have consolidated several medical functions, such as labor and delivery. Ragsdale is the first to hold the position for both hospitals.

Museum promoter will cut short Delaware shows

The man who brought the first blockbuster museum exhibitions to St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s, then left to begin a similar series in Wilmington, Del., has entered into a legal settlement that essentially cuts short the Delaware agreement.

According to the News Journal of Wilmington, exhibitor Broughton International Inc. has agreed to stage one more show in the state-backed Riverfront Arts Center before severing its ties to the Wilmington center and its state-created developer. The company is led by St. Petersburg resident James E. Broughton.

Contacted Wednesday, Broughton said he currently has no plans beyond staging a "World of Faberge" exhibit this September in Wilmington for a five-month run. The Faberge show would be Broughton's third -- and final -- exhibit after signing a 1997 contract to bring at least one world-class exhibit a year for five years to the city.

Last week's settlement was intended to end six months of legal skirmishing between Broughton and the center's board over the financing and the logistics surrounding the last two shows there. In St. Petersburg, Broughton staged the first three so-called "blockbuster" exhibits at the Florida International Museum.

Despite strong initial attendance, the exhibits generated financial losses that widened over time. In late 1996, the museum's board voted to end its relationship with Broughton.

Men accused of $200,000 insurance scam

ST. PETERSBURG -- A St. Petersburg man has been accused of paying an acquaintance $5,000 to sink his yacht so he could collect $200,000 in insurance.

Both men were indicted Tuesday on federal charges of insurance fraud, mail fraud and fraud by wire.

Prosecutors say James Lee McKeown Jr. paid William Francis Chapoutot to sink his 46-foot Sea Ray boat, the Marlintini. Chapoutot tried to scuttle the boat in April 1997 and seriously damaged it, according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa.

The two are accused of defrauding Zurich Insurance Co., which had insured the yacht.

McKeown Jr., 38, of 9677 62nd Ave. N, and Chapoutot, 39, of 2917 Seventh St. N, were arrested by FBI agents, U.S. postal inspectors and state insurance investigators, the FBI said Wednesday.

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