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Law & Order: Wallenda to walk wire today in Sarasota

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:02 AM
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Community news

Wallenda to walk wire today in Sarasota

Aerialist Nik Wallenda's plan to walk a wire across U.S. 41 in downtown Sarasota today is sure to attract crowds and will close the road for about an hour.

At 11 a.m., Wallenda plans to walk along a wire 180 to 200 feet above the road, from a crane platform near the "Unconditional Surrender" statue of a sailor kissing a woman to the roof of the Marina Tower condo.

Wallenda, who walked above Niagara Falls last year, is a six-time Guinness world record holder for aerial feats.

U.S. 41 is expected to be closed from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. between Ringling Boulevard and the John Ringling Causeway.

Traffic will remain open to and from St. Armands Circle and the barrier islands.

Public parking in the area will be limited, and spectators are being encouraged to walk to the event or park in the Palm Avenue Garage.  From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a free shuttle will haul people to and from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall parking lot, at 777 N. Tamiami Trail.

Hillsborough, Pinellas' Swiftmud seats at risk

A bill filed by two Sarasota legislators would reduce the power of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties on the governing board of the area's main water control agency, the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The legislation, by state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and state Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, would reduce the board from 13 to nine members from the district's 16 counties. It would cut the Hillsborough and Pinellas representatives from five to two and the Polk representatives from two to one.

Todd Pressman, of Pinellas County, a board member and former chairman, said the legislation is part of an ongoing attempt by the smaller counties to wrest power from the two big, urbanized counties, a move he said has had some success. The second Polk representative was added a few years ago.

Law and Order

USF police investigate man's report of rape

University of South Florida police are investigating a sexual assault that occurred in a public restroom at the Marshall Student Center.

A man filed a report Friday saying he was raped by a man on Jan. 18 in a unisex restroom on the second floor of the building, USF police Lt. Charlotte Domingo said.

Both the victim and his alleged attacker are affiliated with the university. Domingo declined to say what the affiliation is, saying police don't "want to risk identifying the victim in any way."

"They're not students," Domingo said. "They do know each other."

No arrests have been made.

This is the first sexual assault reported on campus this year, coming four months after two were reported at residence halls.

In October, officers were called to the university's Epsilon Residence Hall after a woman there reported she was raped by someone she knew. On Sept. 19, police investigated a case in which a female resident of the Kappa Hall dormitory was sexually battered. A man attacked her in the vending area of Room 124A on the first floor, police said.

Four sexual assaults or sexual batteries were reported to university police in 2012. One was reported in 2011 and nine in 2010.

Missing man's boat found near Egmont

A boat belonging to a Bradenton man was found Monday at the mouth of Tampa Bay a day after he was reported missing by his wife, officials said.

Patrick Mullins, the media specialist at Palmetto High School, was reported missing Sunday evening along with his 16-foot boat, deputies said.

Mullins' unoccupied boat was found Monday morning near Egmont Key, deputies said.

The search for Mullins was still under way.

Anyone with information should call deputies at (941) 747-3011, ext. 2260 or 2274.

Inmate charged with killing Tampa woman

Hillsborough County detectives say DNA evidence led them to a 34-year-old state inmate who now faces a murder charge in the death of a Tampa woman.

Otano Anton Leggett, 34, will be escorted to Hillsborough County from the medium-security Liberty Correctional Institution outside Tallahassee to face a charge of first-degree murder.

Nancy Grooms, 52, was found dead in her bedroom at 920 122nd Ave. on Feb. 12, the sheriff's office said. The medical examiner's office determined she died from multiple stab wounds.

Video surveillance from two convenience stores showed Grooms accompanied by a black man later indentified as Leggett, and she was wearing the same clothing in the videos and on the day she was found dead, the sheriff's office said.

Detectives learned from witnesses that Leggett was seen leaving Grooms' residence, but she had not been seen or heard from until her body was found. DNA evidence linked Leggett to Grooms before her death, the sheriff's office said.

Homicide detectives got an arrest warrant Friday charging Leggett with first-degree murder. He is serving two years on drug charges.

Fire destroys vacant mobile home in Mango

Firefighters extinguished a blaze at an unoccupied double-wide mobile home Monday in Mango.

The owner of the trailer at 210 Cherry Lane told officials there was no electricity. She also said she checks on the vacant trailer regularly and found no evidence of anyone occupying it, officials said.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue was at the scene about 7 a.m. Firefighters say the unit was engulfed by flames when they arrived.

Plant City Web sting yields 14 arrests

Fourteen men ranging in age from 18 to 56 were arrested during the weekend after going to Plant City to have sex with youngsters, or so they thought, they had met online, police said.

The men went to a house from Friday through Sunday to meet 14- and 15-year-old boys and girls for sex after online encounters but instead were met by detectives, Plant City police said.

This was the second operation of its kind in recent years, and more will be conducted from time to time, Sgt. Trey Towles said.

Operation Last Minute included detectives and agents from the Plant City Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Polk County Sheriff's Office working with prosecutors from the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

Undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various websites, posing as children or parents of children, police said.

Numerous men responded and proceeded to chat online, email, text and talk on the phone with detectives posing as children, police said. The men solicited sex acts, sent pornographic pictures of themselves and asked for nude photos of the children, police said.

None of the people arrested has a criminal history of this type of crime, police said.

They are Shannon Paul Beasley, 35, Valrico; David B. Bigelow, 43, Massachusetts; Peter Joseph Ciaverelli, 30, Tampa; Brian Daniel Dahlberg, 26, Tampa; Toby Paul Hebert, 41, Holiday; Spyros Kouvaras, 18, Spring Hill; Donald Joseph Langford, 56, Alturas; Pedro Manuel Leon, 18, Plant City; David James Letchworth, 22, Tampa; Vincent Lamar Lewis Jr., 19, Wesley Chapel; Chuck Elof Lindeen, 53, St. Petersburg; James Douglas McGinnis, 46, Dover; Nathan Donald Warren, 23, New Port Richey; and Joseph Frank Malventano, 23, Odessa. He was also charged with 14 counts of transmitting harmful materials to a minor, use of computer services or devices to solicit, and use of a child in a sexual performance, jail records show.

Woman charged with DUI-manslaughter

A Clearwater woman faces a driving under the influence manslaughter charge in an October crash that killed her passenger, troopers said Monday.

About 3:15 a.m. Oct. 27, Veronica Herrera, 32, was driving a 2006 Nissan Altima south at the south end of the Bayside Bridge, which connects Clearwater and St. Petersburg. After leaving the bridge, just north of State Road 686, Herrera failed to navigate a curve and her Altima left the road, striking landscaping in the median, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The car rotated and passenger Noi Pinheiro, 45, of Bartow, was partially ejected, troopers said. She died Oct. 30 at Bayfront Medical Center.

Court burglar likely was Gasparilla reveler

A shirtless man, apparently intoxicated and wearing Gasparilla beads, broke into and damaged the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex Saturday night, officials said.

The man was caught by security guards but broke free as he was being led away for medical attention, officials said.

Just after 7:30 p.m., the man smashed a glass door at the annex, 801 E. Twiggs St., and was found by guards a short time later, investigators said.

He escaped while being led from the building to get him medical attention, officials said.

Video footage showed the man acted alone. Authorities say he did about $500 damage.

The man is in his 20s, about 190 pounds, fair complexion, large build and short brown hair.

The burglary occurred shortly after Tampa's annual Gasparilla parade and during a street festival on Ashley Drive, several blocks away.

Anyone with information should call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200.

Florida news

Democratic Party vote closer than thought

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant's margin of victory in her bid to lead the party got closer after a ballot was found and tallied.

The party announced Saturday that Tant beat Alan Clendenin, of Tampa, 587 to 448. But a ballot from Miami-Dade County was stuck to another ballot.

The final result, once it was counted, was 587 to 507. The ballots are weighted based on the size of the county the voter represents.

From staff and wire reports

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