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Bay area briefs

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 7, 2000

Men indicted on first-degree murder charges in shooting

Two men charged in last year's shooting death of a Treasure Island man have been indicted on first-degree murder charges.

Thomas Astringer, 54, and former police officer Eugene Joseph Kovalsky, 53, were indicted on Monday by a grand jury in Tennessee, Hawkins County Assistant District Attorney Doug Godbee said Tuesday.

Police say that Basil Stephen Dismore, 46, who lived at 119 108th Ave. in Treasure Island, went to Rogersville, Tenn., in December to try to win back his estranged wife. She was living with Kovalsky, but Dismore wanted her to come back to Florida with him, police said.

During a fight, Kovalsky shot Dismore once in the stomach and twice in the legs, according to police reports. Dismore was left in the driveway for two more hours and Kovalsky shot him twice in the head, Hawkins County officials said.

Defense attorneys say Kovalsky, a former police officer in Yonkers, N.Y., and Astringer fired shots after Dismore broke into the mobile home waving a handgun.

Astringer is a truck driver who lived in a mobile home on Kovalsky's property.

Kovalsky was free on $200,000 bail until a DUI arrest last month, Godbee said. He is being held at the Hawkins County Jail without bail. Astringer is jailed on $200,000 bail. Godbee said the two men are scheduled to go to trial Oct. 3.

The victim's wife, Teresa Carbery, 42, was not charged but was held as a material witness until posting $50,000 bail Dec. 20.

Largo man, 44, jumps to death from Skyway bridge

A 44-year-old Largo man jumped to his death off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge early Tuesday, officials said.

The body of Robert A. Byrnside was recovered from the water by the Coast Guard. At 6 a.m., a motorist reported a man sitting in a parked 1995 Ford Mustang atop the bridge. When Florida Highway Patrol troopers reached the car, it was empty.

Byrnside lived at 215 Valencia Boulevard, Apt. 208, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies said.

Suspicious fire damages house in Tampa Heights

TAMPA -- A vacant house in Tampa Heights caught fire early Tuesday, heavily damaging the two-story structure.

The house at 803 E Henderson Ave. sits in a 3-square-mile area that has undergone a spate of arsons and suspicious fires over the last year. Fire investigators said they have not determined the cause of the blaze, but it was not accidental. They called it suspicious, saying the house was unsecured because the owner had died. However, they had not officially classified it as arson Tuesday.

Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade said the fire, reported at 12:23 a.m. Tuesday, did not advance any theories about who might be setting the blazes, which number more than 30 in the past 12 months.

"Nothing jumps out at the investigators to directly link this fire with any other fire except the broad facts that the building was vacant, and it's in the same geographic area," as the other fires, Wade said.

The house was condemned, and the city had started legal proceedings to have it torn down, he said. Fire officials said they did not estimate damage because the building was worthless.

Henderson Avenue has had other recent fires. In April, firefighters noticed a small fire at the rear of a vacant home in the 600 block of E Henderson Avenue while fighting a trash fire nearby. And in January, a home being built at 712 Henderson Ave. was set on fire. Both are unsolved.

School Board votes against new high school in Lutz

TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County School Board Tuesday night unanimously shelved its 31/2-year effort to build a high school in Lutz.

The vote authorized Superintendent Earl Lennard to reallocate $33.6-million designated for a Lutz school to six other north Hillsborough construction projects. They include a new vocational high school and an elementary school in the University of South Florida area and renovations at Lutz's oldest elementary and middle schools.

In addition, Gaither High School will be enlarged for more than 300 extra students. Gaither has been on double sessions since fall 1996, when the Lutz site search began in earnest.

Lutz was targeted in 1996 because it sits squarely between two of north Hillsborough's hottest growth corridors: New Tampa on the east and the Cheval/VillaRosa area on the west. But in Lutz, school administrators encountered established neighborhoods and land that has been picked over for a century.

One Mega Money winner steps forth, other unknown

GULFPORT -- It only took only a weekend -- and a nap -- for a Tampa man to claim his Mega Money jackpot of about $91,000.

Preston Williams, 76, played on Friday, found out he won on Saturday (he double-checked the numbers in the newspaper after taking a nap) and claimed his prize Monday. The retiree said he's going to pay for home repairs and travel around the world.

But after six months, no one knows what the winner of a nearly $200,000 Mega Money jackpot will do with the cash.

Lottery officials still don't know who the winner is, even after the state used an advertising campaign to search for the player.

The winner has until midnight to claim the prize by getting the ticket validated by any Lottery retailer.

The ticket was bought at a convenience store in Gulfport on Dec. 10. The winning numbers were 9-15-18-23 and the Mega Ball 27. Bishu Biswas was working behind the counter at the Circle S store, which is at 2201 49th Street S, when a customer unknowingly hit the jackpot.

On Monday, Biswas said even he has no clue about the winner. Last week, state Lottery officials began searching for the Mega Money champ because so much time had passed. The state has spent more than $10,000 in newspaper ads to search for the winner.

They even thought about checking the store's surveillance videotape, but Lottery officials said it was not running that day.

If no one claims the prize by tonight, the $198,484.53 will be returned to the prize pool and will be used for promotions and giveaways.

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