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Model in murder plot up for parole

By SUE CARLTON & AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


Betty Lou Haber was sentenced to prison more than two decades ago, back when newspapers wrote in detail about what she wore to court as if she were attending a Gasparilla ball rather than facing a murder charge.

Next Wednesday, Mrs. Haber comes up for parole after serving the 25-year minimum mandatory sentence in the 1975 murder of her husband, prominent Tampa businessman Albert Haber. Investigators said the former fashion model plotted with her son and another man to have her husband killed for the insurance money.

At her hearing in Tallahassee next week, expect a full-court press from prosecutors and the victim's family, who are hoping to keep her in prison. Even Jack Rudy, Hillsborough's temporary state attorney until Mark Ober replaces him in January, is expected to attend.

NOT JUST ANOTHER SET OF STRIPES: It seems folks at the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office assumed that Rocky Rodriguez, fresh from being appointed a major, would want to have his own door.

After all, the other majors at the Falkenberg complex all have their own doors, just in case super-secret visitors want to bend their ears about sensitive matters other deputies don't need to know about.

But after the concrete was poured last week for the step outside the soon-to-be major's office, he put an end to the whole door idea faster than you can say fashion faux pas.

"It would have taken away from my walls," Rodriguez explained.

See, in addition to being a charitable guru who raises money for the Make A Wish foundation and the Leukemia Society, not to mention his boss when necessary, it appears he has talents in the taste department. He eschewed replacing the glass wall in his office with a door.

"It wouldn't have looked right," Rodriguez said. "And I'm real neat about this stuff. . . . I'm pretty cosmetic."

HERE WE GO AGAIN: When it came down to it, Rick Morera turned down the job as flak for the Tampa Police Department because he listened to his heart.

Literally.

Morera, who nabbed the post over 144 other applicants, was taking his physical for the job last week when the nurse pointed out his blood pressure was high. And his heart was beating in an irregular rhythm.

The devoted dad and grandparent, who just welcomed grandbaby number three Tuesday, said his telltale ticker was the decisive factor in assessing his doubts about the demands of the job.

"That sent me over the edge," acknowledged Morera, 51, who had heart surgery about 18 months ago.

Comparing his current, relatively tame job as spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the unpredictable life of answering to Tampa police crime scenes at all hours, Morera said he realized that "I've got it pretty damn good here."

"Here, I know I'm capable of doing this until age 65. . . . There, I'm not so sure."

That leaves Tampa police Chief Bennie Holder with the task of finding someone else. Holder, who shuddered at the thought of beginning the process anew, said he would take another look at the candidates.

They include interim spokesman Joe Durkin, former St. Petersburg Times reporter Susan Clary and Tampa Tribune editor J.D. Callaway. Stay tuned.

- Sue Carlton can be reached at 226-3346 or carlton@sptimes. Amy Herdy can be reached at 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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