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Fake bomb triggers evacuation

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2000

BRANDON -- About 40 homes were evacuated Tuesday morning after a county worker found a 2-foot-long PVC pipe with wires attached to a battery.

Nearly six hours later, a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office bomb squad concluded the pipe was not a bomb -- just something made to look like one.

Robert Helms, a 12-year employee of the county's water department, discovered the device while working in the dried-up retention pond behind the 800 block of Windsor Circle.

He called 911 at 9:44 a.m.

Homes were evacuated and nearby Limona Elementary School moved about 150 students into the media center and cafeteria as a precaution.

Limona students who normally walk or ride their bicycles had to take a bus or wait for their parents to pick them up.

Investigators don't know who built the fake bomb or why. Neither did neighbors such as 50-year-old Jean Hiller.

"All the kids in the neighborhood, we know them, we've never had a problem from them," Hiller said. "Who would think of making something like that?"

Duo loses again in regional mall bid

TAMPA -- Six years of litigation over a thwarted shopping mall in Lutz may finally be over.

A recent federal court ruling continued an unbroken string of legal defeats for ranchers Peter and Nick Geraci, who own about 500 acres at the northeast corner of N Dale Mabry Highway and Van Dyke Road.

The decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judge's dismissal of a Geraci lawsuit. It is the only suit still alive among five legal actions the Geracis took against Hillsborough County.

The news means the Geracis have little hope of planning more than 650,000 square feet of stores on their property. For more than a decade, they have lobbied for at least 1.2-million square feet, the size of a regional mall.

"It was a good win for the county," Assistant County Attorney Ray Allen told county commissioners Tuesday.

It was also quick and terse. The two-page decision was issued Friday, 10 days after a three-judge panel heard arguments in Atlanta.

USF is sex disease training center

TAMPA -- The University of South Florida has been designated as the federal government's Southeastern education center for sexually transmitted diseases, and it has received a $1.5-million grant to go with it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named USF the new Southeastern STD/HIV Prevention Training Center, replacing the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It is one of 10 regional centers in the nation.

The grant will allow USF to extend its training program for doctors, nurses, case workers and other public health officials in seven Southeastern states over the next five years.

Florida's STD Prevention Training Center was established in 1988 by USF's Division of Infectious Diseases, the Florida Department of Health and the Hillsborough County Public Health Unit.

At the time, Florida had the nation's highest rate of syphilis, which since has dropped from 64 cases per 100,000 people to two. The state now has the lowest rate in the South.

The center also has trained nearly 6,000 health practitioners across the state on how to diagnose and treat syphilis, gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease, genital herpes, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Police: Stockbroker death a suicide

PINELLAS PARK -- A man whose body was discovered in a trash bin on U.S. 19 shot himself in the head, police said Tuesday.

Kenneth B. Mooney, a 28-year-old stockbroker, was found Monday by lawn workers at Scott Buick on U.S. 19. The revolver was still in his hand, said Sgt. Sandy Forseth, Pinellas Park police spokesman.

"It's a suicide," Forseth said.

Mooney, who worked for Sterling Enterprises, had been reported missing by his sister after not showing up for work Monday, police said.

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