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    By Times staff writers

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


    Widower sues factory in wife’s machinery death

    PINELLAS PARK -- The husband of a woman killed during a gruesome accident on an assembly line in 1999 is suing the Pinellas Park company where she worked.

    Deborah Felmly, 39, a machine operator died instantly when her shirt and hair became caught in a shaft that moved the assembly line at Adva-Lite Inc., a manufacturer of penlights, key ring lights, laser pointers and lanterns.

    James Felmly Sr. filed suit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court on behalf of himself and her three children, 18-year-old twins and a 20-year-old daughter.

    After the June 11, 1999, accident, federal investigators found several safety violations at Adva-Lite and fined the company more than $9,000 for 11 violations, many involving a lack of protective guards on moving equipment.

    However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stopped short of blaming the company for Felmly's death at the plant at 7340 Bryan Dairy Road.

    Adva-Lite officials said they had not had time to evaluate the lawsuit and declined comment.

    Voters sent outdated absentee ballots

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Absentee voters in St. Petersburg's District 5 received outdated absentee ballots that list a City Council primary that no longer will take place.

    Originally, three candidates qualified to run for the council seat, which represents the southernmost section of the city, so the district needed a primary to narrow the field to two.

    But candidate Jim Gary recently withdrew from the race after learning that his father-in-law has terminal cancer. So no primary is necessary Tuesday; voters will choose between the two candidates in the March 27 general election.

    City Clerk Jane Brown said the absentee ballots were mailed before Gary's exit. She said any absentee votes marked for the District 5 race will be discarded. Ballots at District 5 polling places on Tuesday will not list the council primary.

    Final mayoral forum is Sunday at cathedral

    The last forum for St. Petersburg's nine mayoral candidates will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at St. Peter's Cathedral, 140 Fourth St. N. The forum, sponsored by the Downtown Clergy Association, is free and open to the public. Each candidate will answer six questions about their vision for the city.

    The primary election is Tuesday. The top two finishers will advance to the general election March 27.

    Council member wants parade flashers arrested

    TAMPA -- On Nebraska Avenue, flashing too much flesh can land women in jail under prostitution laws.

    At city parades, it wins them cheers, plastic beads and, if they get caught, warnings from police.

    Council member Rose Ferlita sees a double standard in that. "We're being hypocritical," she told council members Thursday.

    Ferlita said people have complained to her about women baring their breasts at last Saturday's night parade in Ybor City, and she worries that the events have grown increasingly raunchy.

    On Thursday, she asked City Attorney Jim Palermo to investigate how to change laws to permit police to arrest flashers at parades.

    The city is now governed by a county charter that requires police to give flashers a warning on their first offense, since the city lacks its own public nudity ordinance.

    Teen pleads guilty in DUI deaths of three friends

    TAMPA -- When it came time to hear the case against Michael Dale Jones, the teenage girls stood up in court to be seen.

    They were friends of three teenagers killed by Jones in a car crash in September 1999 on Sheldon Road in northwest Hillsborough. Jones, 17 at the time, pleaded guilty Thursday to causing the death of his three friends.

    As Jones stood, prosecutors described how he drove dangerously as the teenagers begged him to stop.

    "God damn it, don't tell me how to drive," he responded, prosecutors said.

    Then, he jerked the wheel of his mother's black Acura and swerved. The car struck two utility poles, throwing 15-year-old Ashley A. Rubera, and 19-year-old Jodee Suzanne Beam from the car. Marc A. Berenguer, 19, also died in the crash.

    On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI manslaughter, and to drug charges on an unrelated case.

    Jones' sentencing is April 6.

    Meat cutter convicted of first-degree murder

    TAMPA -- A jury on Thursday convicted a Tampa meat cutter of first-degree murder for killing a 78-year-old man by delivering 31 blows to his head.

    Prosecutors charged that Kenneth Edward Banaszek, 42, killed Stanley Yabach, 78, in an apartment in Ybor City in September 1999 a day after an argument.

    The blows to Yabach's head cracked his skull and broke his jaw, prosecutors said.

    Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta will sentence Banaszek on March 1.

    Teen sues organization after leader’s conviction

    ST. PETERSBURG -- A teenager is suing a worldwide boys organization whose youth leader in St. Petersburg was sentenced to life in prison for molesting 14 teenagers he supervised.

    The lawsuit claims the group, DeMolay, should have known John Shirley had a history of inappropriate behavior including providing drugs and pornographic movies to members and should not have been left alone with children.

    DeMolay "knew or should have known of John Shirley's propensity for sexual contact with minors and knew or should have known of his actual sexual contact" with members, according to the lawsuit.

    The lawsuit was filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court under the name "John Doe" to protect the name of the teenager who joined the group in 1997 when he was 15.

    Concerns about Shirley arose a year before his arrest, when fellow DeMolay leaders and Masons, the fraternal group that sponsors DeMolay, were told that Shirley took photographs of his St. Petersburg youth group "mooning" his camera at a Masonic camp.

    Instead of removing Shirley from his voluntary position as a DeMolay Chapter Dad, national and state DeMolay officials said they investigated the complaints and concluded Shirley used "bad judgment."

    "We warned him that's completely inappropriate," Jeff Speaker, executive director of DeMolay, said after Shirley's 1998 arrest.

    In 1999, Shirley was found guilty of 27 of 36 felony charges and 13 misdemeanors, including charges he contributed to the delinquency of minors. But jurors found him innocent of some of the more serious sex charges he faced, including allegations that he raped some of the teens under his charge.

    DeMolay is a fraternal organization for boys between 13 and 21, and has more than 1,300 chapters in the world, according to the suit.

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