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    By Times staff writers

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2000


    Woman charged in attack on her estranged husband

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Police say a woman repeatedly stabbed her estranged husband as he drove a pickup that she was riding in Friday morning on 49th Street N.

    When he pushed her out, she slashed herself and wrote in her own blood on a nearby wall that her husband had done it, investigators said.

    Elizabeth Fichtl, 49, of 5520 Tangerine Ave. S, Gulfport, is charged with aggravated domestic battery. She was admitted to Bayfront Medical Center on Friday for treatment of her wounds. She was being guarded and will be jailed once she leaves the hospital.

    Her husband -- Charles Fichtl Jr., 50, of 6141 42nd Ave. N -- was stabbed in the throat, twice in the chest and twice in an arm, police said.

    He drove himself to St. Petersburg General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

    Police gave the following account: Mr. Fichtl drove to his wife's home and picked her up to take her to her job at a local nursery.

    About 7:50 a.m., they were northbound on 49th Street when he said something that made her angry.

    She took a knife out of her bookbag and started stabbing him.

    He forced her out of the truck near 21st Avenue N, where she stabbed herself and used her blood to write "C. Fichtl did this" on a patio wall in the Kings Courtyard Apartments.

    Passenger tally at Pinellas airport still on descent

    Although tourism continues to rise in Pinellas County, fewer visitors are flying into St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

    For the second year in a row, the number of airline passengers there has decreased.

    Airport director David Metz attributes the decline to a reduction in scheduled commercial flights. During the past two years, American Trans Air, the airport's dominant carrier, has dropped some of its flights to Pinellas County, he said.

    "From an economic standpoint, it's critical for us to keep on top, and that means we've got to do a little bit more business development," said interim County Administrator Gay Lancaster.

    Metz said the airport needs to strengthen relationships with its existing carriers. He said it also is looking for new opportunities to expand passenger service. Plans include updating all of the airport's marketing materials and soliciting selling the facility at trade shows.

    Nature's Watch residents file lawsuits over repairs

    EAST LAKE -- Bills to repair extensive water damage in a number of luxury townhouses at Nature's Watch at Boot Ranch are starting to come due, and residents and the homeowners association have filed two lawsuits over who should pay for repairs.

    The homeowners association has estimated the damage at $2.5-million to $5-million -- or about $13,700 to $27,400 per owner -- in the 182-unit gated community, said the association's president.

    The homeowners association sued the developer and builder of Nature's Watch in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court and contends shoddy work is to blame for water and termite damage in many buildings.

    Neighbors report brawl, gunshots in park

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Neighbors reported a group of men fighting, yelling and firing gunshots Friday morning near Coquina Key. Police later found only spent bullet casings and a bit of blood on the ground.

    Witnesses saw several men brawling about 8:15 a.m. near a small park at Fourth Street S and 39th Avenue S.

    After shots were fired, the men reportedly left in a red Cadillac and a gold Lexus.

    Afterward, police checked with local hospitals, but no gunshot victims showed up in any emergency rooms, police said.

    "We don't know whether the blood came from someone being struck or someone being shot," said police spokesman Dan Bates. "We were not able to locate any victim or any suspects."

    Woman struck and killed trying to cross U.S. 301

    TAMPA -- A Tampa woman was killed late Thursday night as she tried to cross U.S. 301 just south of Gibsonton Drive.

    Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Debra E. Carr, 44, of 5012 S 66th St., was walking south on the grass shoulder of the highway. A Jeep driven by 51-year-old Michael Murphy of 11340 Poinsetta St. in Riverview was northbound.

    Witnesses told troopers that Carr stepped out into the road, apparently attempting to cross. Murphy could not stop and hit her with the front of his Jeep. Carr died at the scene. No charges will be filed against Murphy, troopers said.

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