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Week in review

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


ODESSA LAWYER QUESTIONED IN SEX CASE: An Odessa lawyer wanted on charges he had sex with a 13-year-old girl turned himself in Thursday, officials said. David Russell Stahl, 58, of 10203 Tarpon Springs Road appeared before Judge Walter Heinrich on the charge of committing a lewd and lascivious act with a child. Investigators say Stahl had sex with a 13-year-old runaway being harbored by Shawn Robert Martin, a paralegal in his firm. The incident happened at Martin's apartment, which Stahl leased. Martin was advertising the girl for prostitution on the Internet, deputies said.

CITY GREEN-LIGHTS ANOTHER NEW TAMPA DEVELOPMENT: A developer received permission Thursday night to build up to 350 apartments on rural land recently annexed by the city. City Council approved 4-3 the rezoning for Star Development Inc., to include apartments, an elementary school and 150,000 square feet of commercial property on 132 acres just south and east of Heritage Isles, at Cross Creek Boulevard and Morris Bridge Road. Council member Shawn Harrison of Tampa Palms voted no because the site plan did not specify the kind of multifamily units to be built. "I have no problem with about 75 percent of this," said Harrison. "The problem I have is . . . with this coming through with us not knowing what this is going to be."

One issue barely mentioned was how much wildlife habitat would be protected on the 132 acres. A decision will be made by the city's naturalist, who oversees the upland habitat ordinance.

LOST HOME OVER $500: A Plantation mother and her 14-year-old son are living in a neighbor's house after losing their own for failing to pay homeowner dues. Lynn Myers, 40, had to leave her $88,000 home shortly before Christmas. "I'd been functioning in my busy life in total blissful ignorance," said the physical therapist. "I'm not sure I believed anything like this was possible or legal."

Myers said she owed $58,000 on the mortgage when Plantation placed a lien for failure to adhere to the deed restriction that requires homeowners to pay dues of $39.90 a month. Silverback Properties Inc. bought the two-story home for $4,651 at a courthouse auction and paid the back dues and legal fees. The $58,000 mortgage was paid, then Silverback sold the house for $88,000 to Francisco Soto and Lidia Suarez.

Several Plantation homeowners have gone to the brink of foreclosure for not paying their dues, but Myers is the first to lose her home, said Tom Jones, Plantation's property manager. Jones said Myers had not paid her homeowners dues since 1998. In 1999 the association placed a lien on Myers' house, but she failed to contact the association, Jones said. In the end she owed $497.75, in fees, interest, penalties and attorney costs.

Myers said she thought her attorney had handled the matter; but the attorney dropped her, saying Myers failed to return phone calls and pages. Jones said he works with families in this predicament and would not have taken Myers to court if she had answered one of several letters.

FREEMAN'S POVERTY IS QUESTIONED: Prosecutors asked a judge Wednesday to decide whether the Public Defender's Office should continue to represent Katherine Freeman at taxpayers' expense. Freeman, accused of murdering her ex-husband, Carrollwood lawyer Grover Cleveland Freeman Jr., qualified in June 2000 for a public defender when she claimed to have no income.

When authorities arrested Freeman in May 2000, her ex-husband's law partner said Freeman's only income was $1,450 a month in child support. Freeman, 42, is accused of shooting her ex-husband to death and attempting to strangle his new wife in their lakefront home in Original Carrollwood. Prosecutors told Circuit Judge William Fuente that Freeman sold her own home for $74,000 in November. Prosecutors said she has a trust fund worth more than $100,000 established for her daughter, now 14. Freeman acknowledged she had a trust fund but said the money was for her daughter's college.

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