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Film of family in mourning is stolen from car


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000

TAMPA -- The Baker family takes pictures of everything.

So even in the most tragic of circumstances, the death of her favorite nephew, Vivian Baker Mattis was chosen by the family to document the event.

Mattis figures she filled eight to 10 rolls of film capturing the final images of nephew Erron Matthews and his friend Vince Sposaro, who died in a car wreck last week, and the families and friends gathered to honor the young men.

The film, Mattis said, is priceless.

But now, the memories are missing.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigators said somebody broke into the trunk of Mattis' rented Lincoln on Friday morning, stealing a bag that held her new camera and the undeveloped film rolls.

Mattis made a tear-filled plea Friday evening for the return of her film.

"They can keep my camera with blessings and compliments, as long as they get the film back to me," she said. "I'm not interested in the culprit; I want the film."

The rented Lincoln was burglarized at 2225 E 131st Ave. in Tampa, in front of Mattis' daughter's apartment.

Matthews, 21, and Sposaro, 19, died after a car driven by Sposaro smashed into a pillar of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway on July 21. The victims, who both lived in Valrico, were heading south on U.S. 301.

Sposaro died instantly, Matthews later that day.

Mattis hopped a flight from New Jersey hours after hearing the news and arrived in Tampa in time to photograph a roadside memorial service organized by friends of the young men.

A family member in Leesburg also died Friday, giving the large family another reason to unite. That provided a chance for Mattis, one of 13 children, to capture something of a family reunion.

"This family is so large, it takes an awful lot for us to get in the same spot," she said.

The Sheriff's Office, hoping to reunite the film with Mattis, is asking anyone with information to call 247-8200.

- Joe Humphrey can be reached at (813) 226-3403 or

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