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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff and wire reports

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2001

    Robbery suspect still in critical condition

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Lorenzo Darlington, who was shot during a robbery attempt at a convenience store Friday, remained in critical condition Saturday at Bayfront Medical Center.

    Police say he was shot after he entered the Food Max grocery store, 1400 18th Ave. S, waved a revolver and demanded money. As the man took the money and slightly lowered his weapon, the clerk removed a gun from behind the counter. The suspect went back toward the door as the clerk fired, witnesses said. Darlington, 20, was shot at least twice in the upper body, police said.

    Police expect that Darlington will be charged with armed robbery when he is released from the hospital, spokesman Rick Stelljes said Saturday.

    As for the clerk facing charges, Stelljes said, "The detectives are carefully examining witness statements and the evidence at the scene and will present that information to the state attorney's office for determination at a later time." Police have not released the clerk's name.

    Alzheimer's association to hold intensive seminar

    Does your loved one have dementia? Here's a chance to learn more about the disease and how to cope with it. The Tampa Bay chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is holding an intensive seminar for caregivers and professionals Tuesday and Wednesday at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St. Topics include medical research, financial planning and caregiving strategies. Sessions begin at 8:45 a.m. and run all day. The fee is $60 for one day and $110 for two days, and covers breakfast, lunch and resource materials. Some scholarships are available for people who cannot afford the fee. For more information, call 1-800-772-8672.

    Man dies in morning shooting in Tampa

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies found a dead man in the parking lot of an apartment building early Saturday.

    Spokeswoman Debbie Carter said deputies responded at 3:30 a.m. to a call about gunshots at the Fredericksburg Apartments at 13144 N 20th Street. They found a white man in his 40s dead of a single gunshot wound. He was in the parking lot in front of his apartment, No. 110.

    The Sheriff's Office did not release the victim's identity. Detectives are investigating the death as a homicide.

    Carter said police are looking for a compact yellow pickup truck, occupied by three males, that had been seen leaving the apartment complex about the time of the shooting.

    Toddler dies in dirty backyard swimming pool

    JACKSONVILLE -- A 2-year-old boy died Saturday after falling into an algae-covered pool in his back yard, police said.

    Sirayto Gantt was playing with some older children before anyone noticed he was missing said, Sgt. Jim Parker.

    The boy was in the pool about 20 minutes and couldn't be seen because of the dirty water, police said.

    Sirayto died shortly after his arrival at Shands Jacksonville hospital, police said.

    Space agency manager accused of embezzling

    MELBOURNE -- A Spaceport Florida Authority finance manager has been charged with embezzling more than $57,000 from the agency, which promotes the state's $4.5-billion space industry.

    Faith Clayton Riley, 38, surrendered Friday after she was charged with scheming to defraud and grand theft. She was released on $4,500 bond. Brevard County sheriff's detectives say she stole at least $57,289 and may have taken up to $100,000.

    Detectives said that between Oct. 14 and March 14, Riley transferred payroll funds from a Spaceport Florida Authority account to her personal account.

    Riley, who has been employed by the agency for eight years and has been a finance manager for three, has been suspended by the agency.

    Greg Eisenmenger, Riley's attorney, did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday.

    State says Ponzi scheme collected $117-million

    ORLANDO -- State officials say they have broken up a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars over the past four years.

    The Florida Department of Banking and Finance said Friday it has issued cease-and-desist orders against companies and individuals suspected in organizing the scheme that collected more than $117-million during the past four years. The mostly elderly victims were promised 100 percent returns on investments of $5,000 to $450,000 if they bought an interest in the life insurance policies of terminally ill people.

    But most of the policies sold didn't exist, and whatever money investors did receive came from payments made by other investors, regulators said.

    "It was my life savings, but it just sounded like something that could absolutely never go wrong," said victim Clara Sullivan, 79, of West Palm Beach. She lost most of the $25,000 she invested.

    No arrests or criminal charges have been filed, but the investigation continues.

    "Nobody will recover," said Gil Robinson, director of the banking and finance department's central Florida office.

    Two disabled men die in fire at group home

    PORT CHARLOTTE -- Two developmentally disabled men died when a group home about to be shut down by the state for numerous safety violations caught fire.

    The Aburto Manor Group Home caught fire about 11 p.m. Thursday as a lightning storm dumped up to five inches of rain on Charlotte County. Caretaker David Bonnaci and the other four disabled residents made it out.

    Firefighters found the bodies of the two most severely disabled residents, Rufus Jackson, 37, and Nathaniel Taylor, 42, on the floor in Jackson's back bedroom.

    Bonnaci said a wall of flames and smoke stopped him from reaching Jackson and Taylor.

    Jackson had severe cerebral palsy and could not speak. His friend Taylor had been with him watching television.

    Authorities said the pair hid from the flames in the bedroom and died as they sat on the floor waiting to be rescued.

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