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Tampa Bay briefs

By Times staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001

Murder suspect to be committed to institution

TAMPA -- Since Dexter Levingston was charged in October with the gruesome murders of his grandmother, great-aunt, great-uncle, cousin and a disabled girl in his grandmother's care, no one has been able to figure out what's going on in his head.

Not his attorneys, not his mother and stepfather, not the court-appointed psychiatrists who were supposed to determine if Levingston, who is deaf and is not communicating with authorities, is competent to stand trial.

On Wednesday, Levingston's attorneys recommended he be committed to an institution with the resources to penetrate his wall of silence and determine whether he's mentally able to defend himself against five first-degree murder charges.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe agreed and ordered that Levingston be transferred to the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee.

Levingston, 25, suffered spinal meningitis as a baby, which left him deaf in one ear and with 10 percent hearing in the other, his family said. His brain stem was damaged, and he is mildly retarded, they said.

Suspect in llama attack faces burglary charge

An East Lake resident already charged with felony cruelty to animals in the beatings of two pet llamas was charged Wednesday in a Dec. 9 burglary of the Tarpon Springs Driving Range on U.S. 19.

Robert B. Pettyjohn Jr., 18, of 594 Ranch Road confessed to the burglary in a written statement, said Tarpon Springs Detective Khris Walguarnery.

Pettyjohn was arrested on charges of domestic simple battery and domestic simple assault Sunday night after getting into a fight with a relative. Monday evening, Pettyjohn told Pinellas sheriff's detectives that he had taken part in beatings that killed one pet llama and severely injured another Sunday, authorities said.

Pettyjohn remained Wednesday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail on the four charges. The Sheriff's Office has accused a second person in the llama beatings. Brandon Eldred, 17, of East Lake faces two counts of felony cruelty to animals and one count of armed trespass. Police say Eldred was found walking in the neighborhood where the llamas lived carrying a broken golf club and wearing a blood-spattered shirt.

Mayoral candidate Baker has Fischer's backing

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor David Fischer and two former St. Petersburg mayors said Wednesday that Rick Baker should have the job next.

At a news conference by an oak tree at the Crescent Lake Park playground, Fischer called Baker "the best person to carry on my legacy."

"He's very mayoral," Fischer said. "That's important. He's totally qualified. He's everything you want a mayor to be."

Baker helped engineer all three of Fischer's mayoral campaigns before announcing last year that he would seek the job himself. Fischer left the door open for his own candidacy until December, when he announced he would retire instead.

Former Mayors Bob Ulrich and Corinne Freeman joined Fischer in endorsing Baker, allowing Baker to claim the support of the people who have held the job for 22 of the past 24 years.

Former Mayor Ed Cole served the other two years, from 1985 to 1987. "I'm not supporting anybody right now," Cole said from his home Wednesday, adding that Fischer did ask him to endorse Baker.

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