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Man held in arson has long rap sheet

In 1989, Reed began his crime record when with manslaughter.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 2000


TAMPA -- It hasn't been an easy 10 years for Calvin Reed, the man charged Sunday with setting fire to an old Victorian house under renovation in Tampa Heights.

In 1989, when he was known as Calvin Wyatt, Reed was charged with the first-degree murder of a retired Citrus County school superintendent. Reed was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the stabbing death of Roger Weaver.

Reed got a break with an early release from prison but had two successive run-ins with the law that put him back in prison until last September. Now, he's back in jail again, unable to post the $97,000 bail set for his most recent charges.

Police said they saw Reed speeding away on a bicycle Sunday from the burning house at 312 E Seventh Ave. In his pants pocket, police reported, was a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun loaded with six rounds. The soles of his shoes matched prints found next to the fenced house that burned, according to the arrest affidavit.

Reed was charged with second degree arson, armed burglary of a structure, carrying a concealed firearm and with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Reed, who is homeless and jobless, was held Monday at the Hillsborough County Jail.

Officials said Reed is being questioned about other fires in Ybor City and neighboring Tampa Heights. But investigators have long believed that those 41 arsons and suspicious fires are the work of more than one arsonist.

Reed's former public defender, Brian Donerly, now a private practice defense attorney, questioned his client's sanity during the 1989 trial. "He was very strange," Donerly said Monday, but "Calvin doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would burn down houses just to watch them burn."

Reed was sentenced to 15 years in state prison for Weaver's brutal death, which occurred after the 71-year-old man walked into his Tampa summer house and surprised Reed, who had been living there as a squatter.

But three years later, in 1992, Reed was released.

Donerly said Reed "must have been sentenced just at the end" of a period when convicted criminals were given lots of gain time regardless of their charges.

Reed soon found himself in trouble again. In 1993, he was accused of petty theft and burglary and given probation. Within months, though, he violated the terms and was placed on house arrest for a year, records show.

In 1996, he was arrested on multiple charges of burglary. This time, prosecutors tried to charge him as a habitual violent felony offender, according to court documents, which could have led to 40 years' incarceration.

Instead, Reed pleaded to lesser charges of petit theft and was sent back to prison until Sept. 9, 1999.

- Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or wexler@sptimes.com.

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