St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Around the state

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001


Prosecutors to add charges in killings at mental hospital

Prosecutors to add charges in killings at mental hospital

PORT ST. LUCIE -- A psychiatric patient will face more murder charges in a killing rampage at a mental hospital that left a nurse and three patients dead, authorities said Tuesday.

Prosecutors said they would file first-degree murder charges against Alberto Serrano, 33, for the deaths of 74-year-old Jack Dexter and 87-year-old Truman Davidson, patients at Savannas Hospital where the attacks occurred early April 10.

Autopsies performed Monday found that Dexter and Davidson died from broken necks and spines, said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.

Prosecutors had earlier said they would charge Serrano in the death of 87-year-old Everett Stoneking, who died Friday from a broken neck.

Savannas, meanwhile, will hire outside doctors to examine every patient in its 70-bed facility for injuries, said sheriff's spokesman Mark Weinberg.

Serrano is being held without bail in the medical unit of the county jail in the death of nurse Alda Ellington, 47, and for assaulting Olive Simpson, 75, and Elizabeth Scott, 64.

The unprovoked attacks occurred after Serrano was admitted to Savannas under the Baker Act, a state law allowing involuntary admission of patients to a psychiatric facility for three days if they are a threat to themselves or others.

According to the sheriff's arrest report, an orderly left the 6-foot-2 Serrano alone with Ellington. He allegedly beat Ellington with his hands, leaving her lying in a pool of blood, then went to several patients' rooms and attacked them.

Boys boating in canal find suitcase with body inside

MIAMI -- A group of boys rowing a boat in a canal found a suitcase stuffed with a body -- the fourth corpse found inside luggage since June, police said.

The boys called authorities Monday night after seeing the suitcase partly under water and smelling a strong odor, Miami-Dade police spokesman Juan Del Castillo said. "We can tell there is a body inside, but there's no way to determine the sex or age of the victim," Del Castillo said.

Miramar police were concerned that the body might be that of Rebeca Pena. Pena, 26, vanished Thursday after performing as an extra for the movie Ali, a film about boxing great Muhammad Ali. A co-worker last saw her driving north on Interstate 95 near an interchange in north Miami-Dade. The suitcase was found in that area.

Monday's discovery is similar to three cases in Broward County in which women were found stuffed in luggage after they were murdered. One of those cases has been solved by the arrest of the victim's ex-husband on a murder charge.

Court rejects appeal of FAMU bomber Lombardi

TALLAHASSEE -- A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected the appeal of Lawrence Lombardi, convicted in racist bombings at Florida A&M University.

Lombardi was sentenced in September to life in prison for setting off pipe bombs twice in the fall of 1999 at the historically black university in Tallahassee. While no one was injured, the blasts were accompanied by racist telephone calls and the campus was gripped by fear until his arrest.

In an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Lombardi's attorney, Gary Printy, argued that Lombardi was intimidated into cooperating by an all-night search and questioning session at his house, during which Lombardi didn't have a lawyer present.

The appeals court rejected the argument. "He voluntarily submitted to the interview because he wanted to find out what the agents knew so he could mislead them," a three-judge panel of the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Lombardi is in a federal prison in Pennsylvania.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.