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The week in review

By Compiled from staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 21, 2000


ONE DEAD, ONE CRITICALLY INJURED AFTER CARROLLWOOD PIZZA SHOOTINGS: Two former employees barged into a Carrollwood restaurant May 13, turned their guns on co-owner Mike Robie and shot him 10 times, investigators said.

Two men were arrested a short time later and charged in that attack and the murder hours earlier of a pizza delivery driver. Earl "E.J." Hinson III, 21, of 17705 Simms Road in Odessa; and Harold L. Wolf, 27, of 5404 Aragon Court in Carrollwood's Andover section, were arraigned Monday on charges that include first-degree murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and attempted kidnapping.

Robie, 36, remained in critical condition Friday at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The Loop Pizza Grill co-owner Tom McHale said Robie bought into the restaurant on N Dale Mabry near Fletcher Avenue in January and never worked with the two suspects. While both Hinson and Wolf worked briefly at the Loop before leaving in February 1999, McHale said, neither had been fired.

Another former employer said Wolf seemed frustrated. "He was bouncing from one pizza joint to another, always hoping one would be better than the next, but in the end, they were all the same," said Bill Henry, owner of Windy City Pizza, about a block away from the Loop.

Henry said that about 10:45 p.m. Friday, Hinson and Wolf called Windy City Pizza and placed a bogus order for delivery to what detectives later said was Hinson's childhood telephone number and address on Wolcott Drive in Carrollwood Village.

Within a half-hour, Eduardo Natal, 23, arrived. Hinson and Wolf were waiting and robbed Natal of his wallet, his car and two pizzas, said sheriff's spokesman Rod Reder. Natal's body was found the next morning in a driveway. Hinson later admitted firing one shot into Natal's head, Reder said.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, deputies said, Hinson and Wolf entered the Loop, which was not yet open, by a side door and forced a 16-year-old female employee into the cooler before demanding money from Robie. Before he could comply, records state, Wolf began shooting at Robie with .38-caliber gun. Hinson then fired one shot at Robie, officials said.

Then Wolf took Hinson's .22, pointed it at the girl and pulled the trigger, but the gun had run out of ammunition. The two men fled without any money and were later each arrested at their parents' homes after the girl identified Hinson from a sheriff's photo pack. The girl who was not hurt.

EX-WIFE CHARGED IN CARROLLWOOD MURDER: Officials say Katherine Freeman shot to death her ex-husband, successful lawyer Grover Cleveland Freeman Jr., 54, before beating and attempting to strangle his wife in the couple's two-story lakefront home in Original Carrollwood late Monday night. Katherine Freeman then drove her 1999 Cadillac to the Sunshine Skyway bridge early Tuesday morning and leaped from the center span. She survived, drifting more than 40 minutes in the main shipping channel before being plucked from the water by rescue workers. She remained hospitalized in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Friday with internal injuries and broken bones.

"We can't fathom any of this happening," said Michele Karpenko, a friend of Katherine Freeman's who answered the door Tuesday morning at Freeman's home at 2815 Linthicum Place, just blocks from her ex-husband's house at 3113 Mossvale Lane. Like many neighbors, Karpenko described her friend as a vivacious, upbeat person who doted on her 13-year-old daughter and maintained a friendly relationship with the man she divorced in 1996.

Yet for some reason, investigators said, she armed herself with a handgun and entered her ex-husband's home shortly after 11:30 p.m. Monday. She then confronted him, said sheriff's spokesman Rod Reder, shooting him 14 times. Upon hearing shots, Freeman's wife, Constance Freeman, 50, approached the pair and was attacked by Katherine Freeman, who choked her, pistol-whipped her and broke one of her fingers, Reder said. "Mrs. Freeman then ran to a friend's house, and the suspect fled," Reder said. Grover Freeman called 911 but died at the scene.

A neighbor and close friend of the couple, Laurie Winkles, said Katherine Freeman, 41, may have reacted to tensions between her daughter and Constance Freeman, who had been with the teen Monday when the girl placed a call to her mother.

Naomia Swain, a housekeeper for Grover and Connie Freeman, said Katherine Freeman appeared upset by her ex-husband's marriage. Friends said there were other sources of tension; while Katherine Freeman wanted the couple's daughter to attend a prestigious private school next year, friends say, Grover Freeman wanted her to go to a public school.

Katherine Freeman faces first-degree murder, armed burglary and aggravated battery charges.

GOOD SAMARITAN CARJACKED NEAR EXPRESSWAY: Veterinarian Callum W. Hay was on his way home from emergency surgery Wednesday when he decided to help a pair of stranded motorists. The motorists, authorities said, repaid Hay by punching him and stealing his minivan, which they wrecked less than a mile away. Hay suffered minor injuries. Two people were arrested and charged with carjacking, a first-degree felony.

It was just before 3:30 a.m. when Hay noticed a wrecked Mazda on Linebaugh Avenue near the Veterans Expressway. He pulled onto the shoulder behind the car, remained in his 1999 Dodge Caravan and called 911. The motorists, he said, asked for a ride to Town 'N Country. Hay stepped out of the van and refused their request. That's when, according to police reports, 26-year-old John A. Pizarro punched Hay in the neck. Frightened, Hay ran. "He said he was going to do me in. I ran behind the car so it obscured his view of me," Hay said. "I got about 20 feet before I looked back." By then, the van was gone.

Hillsborough deputies responded after Hay called 911 a second time, then found the van crashed into a guardrail on Wilsky Boulevard and the Veterans Expressway. Pizarro and Consuelo K. Veith, 22, were arrested. Veith, of East Tampa, was charged with carjacking and five counts of driving with an invalid license. Pizarro, of Zephyrhills, was being held on charges of carjacking, battery and leaving the scene of an accident.

SPLIT COMMISSION OKAYS KEYSTONE LAND SALE: County commissioners approved a controversial land swap Wednesday that allows a developer to buy a portion of property in northwest Hillsborough previously set aside as a buffer against sprawl in this rapidly growing area.

The debate pitted disabled children against the preservation of public land. "The county's losing 112 acres of public land that will forever be gone," said Commissioner Jan Platt. Her objections, along with those from Jim Norman and Pat Frank, failed to sway their fellow commissioners. The vote was 4-3 to approve the sale of the property.

The land swap allows developer Bill Bishop to buy 112 acres of surplus water department property for $1.42-million for a subdivision he wants to build east of Race Track Road and south of Mobley Road. Bishop also will throw in 22 acres to the south, on which he will build an equestrian center to house the county-run Bakas Center for disabled children. The center will move from its current location at Lake Park in Lutz.

The land swap component, officials say, allows the county to negotiate directly with Bishop instead of seeking bids, the normal process for selling public land.

In answer to Commissioner Platt's question about whose idea the equestrian facility was, Bishop said that Parks Director Ed Radice had encouraged him to offer the equestrian facility with an "increasing level of intensity."

Some residents oppose the deal because the property Bishop will buy is part of about 1,500 acres that two years ago commissioners declared would be set aside for public use and as a buffer against development.

ROBBERY SUSPECT KILLED IN POLICE SHOOTOUT: Sheriff's deputies were looking for Harry Green, a suspect in an armed robbery Monday at the Citrus Park Town Center, when they spotted his navy blue Cadillac on Hillsborough Avenue on Wednesday. Cornered in the Lakeside Villas apartment complex where he lived, he jumped from his car and shot sheriff's Lt. Al Luis in the face, then died in a hail of bullets, according to sheriff's spokesman Rod Reder.

Reder said Luis and Detective Craig Hinson saw Green, 43, point a gun. They yelled for him to drop it, Reder said, just as he fired at Luis from about 6 feet away. Before falling, Luis returned fire along with Hinson and retired Deputy James Stewart, a passenger in Luis' car, Reder said. Bullets rained into the Cadillac, some blowing out the back window, others hitting the windshield. Green, hit several times, fell back into the car, where he died.

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