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Tampa Bay briefs

By Times staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001


Top Pinellas Park officer off the force

Top Pinellas Park officer off the force

PINELLAS PARK -- Though the details remain secret, one thing is now clear: Capt. Robert Hempel, once touted as the next chief, no longer works for the Police Department.

Confirmation of Hempel's exit came in a letter from assistant city attorney Tom Reynolds to Pinellas Park human resources director Tom Owens: "Effective as of April 6, 2001, Robert Hempel is no longer an employee of the city of Pinellas Park."

Despite the fact that Hempel has been the subject of a sheriff's and internal affairs investigation into his use of his private computer on city time and city business, Reynolds classified him as being " "in good standing' for purposes of entitlement to accrued vacation pay and normal separation benefits."

An injunction temporarily is preventing the release of investigators' findings and details regarding Hempel's departure from the city.

Ex-student files lawsuit against school district

NEW PORT RICHEY -- A former Ridgewood High School student who said he warned authorities that Teddy Niziol had brought a gun to school has filed a negligence lawsuit against the Pasco County School District.

Andrew Enerson, 19, filed suit on Monday in Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Court, asking for damages because officials allegedly refused to stop other students from picking on him and didn't listen to him when he told them Niziol had a gun on campus.

Niziol, 16, was killed Jan. 19, 2000, in the Ridgewood High parking lot by his best friend, Steven Moschella, who was holding a loaded .22-caliber pistol when it accidentally discharged. Niziol had just handed the gun, which had been stolen during a rash of burglaries in St. Pete Beach, to Moschella as the teens drove out of the school parking lot.

Hours before the shooting, Enerson gave school officials a note that contained a written exchange between Enerson's girlfriend, Samantha Lang, and Niziol. The note said that a student named Teddy was trying to sell a gun to someone identified only as Joey.

School officials said they could not act on the note because it didn't contain any last names, nor did it indicate there was a weapon on campus. When school officials challenged his account days after the shooting, Enerson said there might have been writing on the back of the note that specifically mentioned there was a gun on campus. There was nothing written on the back of the note, however.

"We think (the lawsuit) is without merit," Superintendent John Long said. "We intend to defend the principal and the staff at Ridgewood High vigorously."

Ex-husband sues woman over death of their son

The father of Mathew Rotell, a 6-year-old found dead at his Land O'Lakes home in April 1999, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the boy's jailed mother, Kristina Gaime.

Gaime, 36, is charged with murder and attempted murder and is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 20.

Authorities say she drugged Mathew and his brother, Adam, then 8, with morphine at the family's home and then loaded them into the family's minivan and directed the van's exhaust into the cabin.

Adam and Gaime survived. Gaime was later arrested.

She has pleaded innocent, and her attorneys have indicated that they may use an insanity defense, claiming in a court document that she suffered from "severe mental and emotional defects."

The suit also names Gaime's employer at the time, Hospice of Hillsborough, and says that a patient Gaime was tending to had reported that morphine was missing. The agency failed to investigate, the suit claims.

The suit also names psychologist Kathyrn Kuehnle, alleging she was treating Mathew at the time but failed to act on reports from other experts that Gaime might hurt her children.

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