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Suspect pleads no contest in homeless man's slaying

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2000

LARGO -- One of two men accused of beating to death a homeless man last year because he may have complained about their loud stereo pleaded no contest on Friday to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Under a plea agreement, William E. Marr, 20, of St. Petersburg will be sentenced to 15 years for participating in the August 1999 beating death of 51-year-old Don Regnier at a St. Petersburg bus stop.

Marr, who had been charged with second-degree murder and faced life in prison, has agreed to testify against co-defendant Tony Rosa, 20, also of St. Petersburg. Rosa is scheduled to go to trial May 30 on a second-degree murder charge.

Early on a weekday morning in August 1999, the two men punched and kicked Regnier to death after he or someone with him complained about their loud car stereo as they cruised by, police said.

Man in insurance scam pays up, avoids prison

LARGO -- Kevin J. Smith came to court Friday expecting he would be led away in shackles to spend the next 15 months in prison.

Instead, he headed home.

After managing to raise $25,000 in restitution for the victims of an insurance scam he participated in, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Lauren Laughlin sentenced him to two years of house arrest to be followed by 13 years' probation.

When he pleaded no contest to racketeering and grand theft charges March 13, Smith did so with the understanding his sentence would be about 15 months, said his attorneys, Frank and Joe McDermott.

But Laughlin was swayed by the restitution Smith borrowed from friends and family.

Female impersonator says he's sorry for dress theft

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Gene Roy Newell says he is sorry he swiped a wedding dress and a navy blue evening gown from two New Port Richey stores, and he vows never to do it again.

On Friday, one day after his arrest on theft charges, Newell told the Times that he took the dresses so he would have new clothes to wear onstage as a female impersonator in various Tampa Bay clubs.

"You have to keep up," he said. "It's very hard."

Newell, 21, told deputies Thursday that he took the blue dress valued at $180 from Bridal Creations on May 29, then took the wedding gown from the Cluttered Closet consignment store on April 18. The gown was worth $400, said store owner Traci Laduke. At one point, Newell considered wearing the wedding gown and singing Chapel of Love during one of his shows.

"Spring is here, honey," he said.

He gave the two dresses back to sheriff's Detective Leonard Longo, who returned them to the store owners Friday. Newell was charged with grand theft, a felony, and retail theft, a misdemeanor. Longo recommended that Newell be released on his own recognizance because he does not have a criminal record.

Longo said another person helped Newell steal one of the dresses, and charges are pending against that person.

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