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Tampa Bay briefs

By Times staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


City to build Phillies plush stadium

CLEARWATER -- To keep the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training operations here for at least 20 more years, the City Commission on Tuesday agreed to build a plush new baseball stadium and shoulder more of the team's costs.

The City Commission voted unanimously to sign a "use agreement" with the team that commits the Phillies to remain here until at least 2023. Where exactly the new stadium will be built is still unclear.

The Phillies lease Jack Russell Stadium near downtown Clearwater from the city, but their lease for that facility expires in 2004.

Killer sentenced to life in prison

TAMPA -- Michael Fuqua was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison, capping perhaps the debate over what really happened in a videotaped fight in Ybor City.

A jury had convicted Fuqua, 24, on Election Day of second-degree murder, after seeing the videotape and hearing conflicting testimony that Fuqua stabbed 22-year-old Jeremiah "Jeff" Kleiss during the fight.

Before Tuesday's sentencing, Fuqua's attorneys mounted an elaborate effort to convince Circuit Judge Robert Simms that the tape, shot by a New York college student, didn't show Fuqua stabbing Kleiss, an airman based in Charleston, S.C.

Shortly after the killing in March, portions of the tape were broadcast on local television, showing Fuqua and a friend running away, as Kleiss reacted to his stab wound. Callers quickly identified Fuqua.

In his final arguments to jurors, prosecutor Jim Shoemaker had played an enlargement of a segment of the tape. It showed Kleiss and Fuqua facing off. Then Fuqua appeared to reach into his pocket, make a knife-opening motion with his hands, then dart past Kleiss. No knife or contact could be seen, but Kleiss promptly began looking at his bleeding left side.

Pursuit of courthouse leaks falters

TAMPA -- The likely suspects sat before Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer:

Sheriff Cal Henderson, Hillsborough Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez, Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, and others were assembled at a hearing convened after a secret grand jury report about Hillsborough's courthouse leaked to the press.

Many in the audience had come to see what Schaeffer, who promised to investigate any leaks, would do. In the end, there was no drama. "I am annoyed to no end," Schaeffer said, but she did little to root out the anonymous source who had told the Tampa Tribune what was in the secret report.

Rescuers leap into pond to save accident victim

BRANDON -- A Riverview woman owes her life to a pair of bystanders who braved the waters of a murky pond on one of the coldest days of the year to rescue her after a car crash, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said Tuesday.

Enio Laws, 74, was southbound on St. Cloud Avenue in her 1995 Toyota Tercel about 1:30 p.m. when she ran a stop sign at Lumsden Road, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Rod Reder. As the Tercel zipped through the intersection, it hit a 1996 Saturn driven by 23-year-old Deborah Strickland of Brandon.

The impact sent Laws' Tercel careening through the intersection and into a pond. The car was quickly submerged in the dark water.

Two motorists who witnessed the crash acted immediately, Reder said. Debbie Shorter, 30, of Sudlersville, Md., and Charles Trigo, an off-duty Tampa police officer, got out of their cars and jumped into the pond. Shorter and Trigo, a 16-year Police Department veteran, pulled Laws out of the sunken car.

Laws was treated for minor injuries at Brandon Regional Hospital and released. Reder said the deputies who investigated the accident said Laws would have probably drowned if not for Shorter and Trigo.

Illinois candidate tops list for new Largo police chief

LARGO -- The city's search for a new police chief has shifted to Lester Aradi, deputy police chief of Buffalo Grove, Ill., after the top candidate for the job withdrew his name from consideration for the position.

Onetime leading contender Greg Morrison, police chief of Vail, Colo., called City Manager Steven Stanton on Monday to say he was no longer interested in being Largo's police chief.

Stanton, who visited Vail late last week with others from the police department, said he wasn't sure if Morrison was the right person for the job and expressed his concerns to Morrison before leaving Vail on Saturday.

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