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Tampa Bay briefs

By Times staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2001

Dallas flight returns to TIA after smoke scare

TAMPA -- An American Airlines flight to Dallas returned to Tampa International Airport shortly after takeoff Wednesday night because someone smelled smoke in the cabin.

Flight 871, with 135 passengers, left TIA at 7:15 p.m. At 7:20, the airport was alerted that the plane intended to return and land as a precaution. Firetrucks were standing by on the runway while the plane landed.

The plane landed without incident.

Woman's body found in Coffee Pot Bayou

ST. PETERSBURG -- The body of an elderly woman was found floating in Coffee Pot Bayou early Wednesday, but police do not suspect foul play in her death.

St. Petersburg police think they know who the woman was. They think she was in her 80s and had health problems, said police spokesman George Kajtsa.

But they did not release her name Wednesday because relatives hadn't yet identified her body.

The woman was found floating near a dock at Coffee Pot Boulevard and 24th Avenue NE.

Police were trying to determine whether her death was an accident or suicide.

Deputies identify body found in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG -- Deputies have identified a man whose body washed ashore Tuesday in the Bay Pines area, but they have been unable to reach anyone related to him.

Charles Walter Jr., 61, worked at VA Medical Center at Bay Pines but may have been a transient, said Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita. His only known address was a post office box.

Walter's body washed up near a boat ramp in the Seahorse Mobile Home Park at 8713 44th Ave. N.

Authorities do not suspect foul play in his death.

"We believe he drowned after falling off a boat that was at a nearby dock," Tita said.

Authorities still hope to notify Walter's relatives of his death.

Anyone with information about Walter is asked to call Pinellas sheriff's Detective Mike Bailey at (727) 582-5808.

Woman charged with exploiting her grandfather

TAMPA -- A woman who was supposed to be paying her grandfather's nursing home bills has been charged instead with using his money for herself.

Police arrested Joann F. Flemister, 51, Wednesday and charged her with one count of exploitation of an elderly person and one count of public assistance fraud.

Flemister, of 1743 Spruce St., is accused of having diverted about $32,000 of her grandfather's money for her own use, according to a news release from Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

That office's Medicaid fraud unit also found evidence that Flemister provided false information to the state to qualify her grandfather for Medicaid payments.

The charges are punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

Caseworker charged with having sex with teen

TAMPA -- A caseworker at the county juvenile detention center has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Police arrested James W. White, 40, early Tuesday and charged him with three counts of lewd or lascivious battery.

White, of 4311 Dunbarton Avenue in Tampa, is accused of having started a relationship in June 2000 with a girl who was incarcerated at the detention center for a three-week term.

They continued to meet after the girl left the detention center, Tampa police said.

The arrest report notes that the girl voluntarily went to White's apartment in July 2000 and again in January 2001.

White teaches tae kwon do classes for the city recreation department at the Kate Jackson Center, 821 S Rome Ave.

His attorney, David Weisbrod, says White will not be teaching there again until the charges against him are resolved.

White, who has no criminal record, was to be released on his own recognizance Wednesday from the Orient Road Jail.

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