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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2001
Tormented teen stars in video lesson
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Steven Moschella hasn't been allowed in a Pasco County school since he accidentally shot his best friend in the Ridgewood High parking lot nearly two years ago. Now officials are bringing Moschella back as part of the curriculum.
In February, Moschella and district officials made a videotape they hope will give students a dose of reality, showing them the consequences of what happens when you mix adolescence and guns. In this case, one teen, Teddy Niziol, is dead and another, Moschella, has to carry around a felony record and the burden of having killed his best friend.
"It's just a nightmare," Moschella, now 18, says on the tape. "I'm still in shock. I still can't believe this happened. It changed my life."
The shooting occurred Jan. 19, 2000, as Niziol, 16, was driving Moschella and three other teens. Niziol had a .22-caliber pistol that had been stolen during a string of burglaries in St. Pete Beach. He handed the gun to Moschella, who was sitting in the back seat, and the weapon fired.
The counseling and medication Moschella once depended on to deal with the aftershock of killing Niziol are no more. As a result, the depression and post traumatic stress syndrome he suffers from have taken over.
But despite his personal problems, Moschella says he hopes his videotape will have an impact.
"I hope it puts it through their heads that guns are dangerous," he said.
LAND O'LAKES -- Trips to the garden remind Ernest Mitchell of childhood and pulling weeds on his aunt and uncle's 160-acre spread near Gainesville.
"The only reason the fun's out of it now is because I'm in jail," said 23-year-old Mitchell, who is serving time for battery.
Clad in black and white stripes with a 4-gallon pesticide spray pack strapped to his back, Mitchell took to the Pasco sheriff's new garden Thursday afternoon. Inmates planted the vegetable garden in mid September, and they have yet to reap its first harvest.
Sheriff's officials expect the nearly 2-acre plot could supply up to a fourth of the jail's produce needs for 850 inmates.
"It's obvious," Sheriff Bob White said. "We've got plenty of land, plenty of dirt and plenty of people to work."
NEW PORT RICHEY -- For the moment at least, Pasco County has no effective ordinances on the books regulating where an adult business can set up shop or what can go on inside after a federal ruling temporarily shot down two county laws.
Visiting federal Judge Charles C. Lovell from Montana on Monday issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of two new ordinances, one that sought to move adult businesses to industrial zones and another that tried to prohibit contact between employees and customers.
After the approval in March of the ordinance that outlawed employee-customer contact and ordered the coverage of certain body parts, Lollipops exotic dance club asked its performers to replace their revealing nipple tape with bikini tops.
"Now they are free to go back to doing what they were before, or maybe more," Kilgore said. "The main thing is that they can stay where they are."
The county attorney's office is studying the ruling to decide what step to take next or what to suggest to the County Commission.
PALM HABOR -- An art thief hit booth 40 at the Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce fine arts, crafts and music festival last weekend and made off with a 30-pound, 5- by 7-foot, Old World-style acrylic painting by Ann Feldshue. She values the work and its gilded frame at $1,900.
Although the thief did not have to outsmart any high-tech laser beams, he did have to avoid detection by a private security guard to pull off the first heist in the show's 27-year history.
CHASSAHOWITZKA -- Those famous whooping cranes that trailed an ultralight plane from Wisconsin have finally arrived for winter.
The cranes, which landed in Citrus County on Monday, made a 5-mile trip to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday.
Researchers, seeking to establish a second migratory flock in North America, hope the seven cranes spend the winter and then return north on their own in the spring.
On a brilliant blue morning that seemed to herald the occasion, six whooping cranes flew into Citrus County on Monday, ending a 48-day journey described as the "wildlife equivalent of putting a man on the moon."
With about 400 whooping cranes left in North America, the birds are part of an ambitious experiment to save their species.
Whooping cranes learn how to migrate from other whooping cranes. Because no migratory whooping cranes exist in the East, this group lacks the instinct to migrate south, so a plane was used as a surrogate teacher.
CLEARWATER -- The artist known as Sunset Sam, a dolphin who became an ambassador for Clearwater and its aquarium with his colorful paintings, died Tuesday. His age was put at 21. Sam was one of the first dolphins to survive being washed up on a beach. He lived 17 years in captivity, where he was taught to paint in broad colorful strokes with a brush clenched in his jaws.
TARPON SPRINGS -- With the United States on high alert for further terrorist attacks, a dance group from Greece that was expected to entertain audiences during the week of the city's annual Epiphany celebration has canceled its plans out of fears about traveling to the United States.
SPRING HILL -- A Hernando County doctor who allegedly said America got what it deserved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been reinstated at Oak Hill Hospital. Petitions and bomb threats followed the decision. The physician, Dr. Durgarao Parimi, said in October his remarks were "misstated" and that he was referring to a breakdown in national security. He condemned the "barbaric" acts of terrorism on Sept. 11 and said his comments were made without malice.
On Tuesday, the Pinellas School Board is slated to vote on a new contract for superintendent Howard Hinesley that would run through December 2004. The most controversial section of the contract calls for the School Board to buy Hinesley a $690,000 permanent life insurance policy. The payments would be stretched out for four years, with each year costing an estimated $54,000 for the premiums and taxes.
Hillsborough School Board members will hold a workshop on Friday regarding the investigation of the district's grounds department and allegations that a whistle-blower alerted higher-ups years ago.
In an unusual lobbying technique, Hover-USA plans to give St. Pete Beach city commissioners a ride on their Hovercraft Tuesday, minutes before commissioners vote on whether to allow the vehicle to use the beach for loading and unloading passengers.