It's March 29, 1969. Evelyn Robinson is 17, and she has just won a beauty contest. She's walking to her sister's house in south St. Petersburg late at night, when a man she barely knows offers her a ride. It starts to drizzle, the man circles around, picks her up. Other men get in the car. That night changes her life.
Decades later, she is still wrestling with what took place.
12/05/17 Human Interest
In 2013, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about Terry Power, a retirement plan consultant whose runaway divorce took five years, four judges, six lawyers and more than $400,000 to resolve.
When the case was finally over, Power had declared bankruptcy, his two kids had been put through an ordeal and his ex-wife walked away with a quarter of the alimony he had offered her to settle when the divorce began....
Randy Lee Gozzard, of St. Petersburg, showed up for the opening day of deer hunting season in northeast Ohio Nov. 27 as he did just about every year of his life. At about 2 p.m., his three friends heard several shots.
"They started yelling for him, looking for him," said his step-daughter, Kristy Dubsky. "They thought he got a deer."
Instead, they found Gozzard on the ground in a small clearing....
Angelica Rosario paused outside the glass door at Subway. She smoothed her black, pin-striped pants and entered the shop, wallpapered in bright yellow. A store manager was making sandwiches and asked Angelica to give her a moment. Angelica sat down and looked around anxiously.
In the previous five months, she'd tried to find work as an administrative assistant, a receptionist, a fast-food cashier, a hostess, a telemarketer, a saleswoman. She'd applied for 74 jobs, gone on dozens of interviews. At least twice, she'd been hired and then lost it before she even started, after the background check. Where once she'd earned $50,000 a year as a loan processor, now she couldn't get a job at McDonald's....
09/13/17 Human Interest
At the Jamison building at Town Shores of Gulfport, Doug Earle rose from a 15-minute nap Tuesday and headed down to the first floor to check on an elderly neighbor. As the last board member to stay behind during Hurricane Irma, Earle felt a responsibility to take care of everyone. With no power for days and temperatures in the high 80s, he knew that some were struggling in sweltering apartments....
The boy was only two days old when his mother slipped out of the hospital. Hours later, he shuddered and convulsed, his body going into withdrawal from the opioids he had grown used to in her womb.
A couple from Georgia arrived. They had supported the baby’s biological mother financially during her pregnancy. But they didn’t know about the drugs. They watched him scream and wail for three hours. Then they left, too....
02/10/17 Human Interest
For years, Steve and Chazzy Foy avoided talk of politics. It wasn't that important to them. And they had a vague awareness that, in their 24 years together, they had grown apart politically.
Little reminders came, like the time Steve's voter registration card arrived and Chazzy realized he'd registered Republican. But he had a rule: He never discussed his vote.
They lived in harmony in their three-bedroom home off Lake Tarpon, cheering on the same sports teams, seeing their shared favorite bands play, doting on their grandkids. ...
Inside Room 420 at Florida State Hospital, two roommates clashed in the dark.
Anyone who paid attention to their recent behavior, who compared their size and age, could see they should not have been together in the same bedroom.
Ruben J. Quinones, a 60-year-old who weighed less than the average woman, had spent most of his life in a mental hospital. He was severely schizophrenic, sometimes ate from the trash and walked with a limp. Within the span of a few months, he had been the victim of two documented incidents of aggression. ...
09/01/16 Human Interest
LEALMAN — In July, the Tampa Bay Times ran a story about a woman struggling with food addiction. Cheryl Dixon, 44, shared how she sometimes ate 14 times a day and struggled to stop herself from topping 300 pounds.
The day the story was published, Cheryl read it and saw what others saw. She felt sick.
"The article gave me a mirror to look at, where I saw how bad I got," Cheryl says. "I was in complete disgust, and it made me want to change my life."...
She's not at the Olympics — yet — but this 6-year-old swimmer is learning what excellence takes (w/video)08/17/16 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — She's sitting on the pool deck, chin between her knees, gazing at her feet. She peeks at the swim heats written on her arm in black Sharpie. Time for her favorite, the butterfly.
Her father is volunteer head timer. He tries to stand there nonchalantly amid the throng of onlookers, but he is tense. Forty years ago, this was him. Now it's her.
Brinkleigh Bo Hansen, 6, dives into the North Shore Pool just as the whistle goes off, but she hits the water belly first, and there goes her momentum....
07/24/16 Human Interest
LEALMAN — From a faded green recliner in her tiny mobile home, Cheryl Dixon punched a number into her phone. Behind her, kitchen cabinets burst with Hamburger Helper and ramen noodles, bags of doughnuts and Cocoa Diamonds cereal.
"I'm Cheryl from St. Pete," she said. "Can I share?"
In the past year, for the first time in her life, she had reached almost 300 pounds. She was 44 and already diagnosed with diabetes. Her doctor warned that if she didn't change her eating habits, she would likely die....
Florida will hire a top-level administrator to find ways to curb violence and improve medical care at state mental hospitals.
The new position will oversee Florida's three remaining state-run mental facilities, including the flagship Florida State Hospital with nearly 1,000 patients.
Department of Children and Families officials on Tuesday said the change will put one person in charge of monitoring and improving patient care, and will allow DCF to standardize policies at the hospitals it oversees....
ON THE CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER — The rains poured down in late January. Twelve inches in all, 11 inches more than normal.
Clewiston and Belle Glade flooded, as did thousands of acres of sugarcane and vegetable fields. Lake Okeechobee reached 15 feet, then 16, threatening to break free of an aging dike.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates lake levels, knew it had to do something drastic to protect Clewiston and other small towns to the south....
Robert Valdez is 71 years old and mentally ill. He's never had much trouble with the law — until he set a neighbor's shed on fire in 2014. Something was going on inside his head.
It had been years since he had seen a psychiatrist for his condition. Were his medications still working?
No one seemed to know, and Florida's criminal justice system was not set up to figure out what was wrong. It was designed to get him to court, mete out his punishment, to bring his case to a close. If that meant prison, so be it....
Several mental health advocacy organizations have begun a campaign to pressure state lawmakers to restore cuts to Florida's mental health programs, including the $100 million from hospitals that was the focus of an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune.