Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bradenton deputy chief walking into sunset

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

Bradenton police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Lewis
at the luncheon on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Bradenton police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Lewis about his 27-year career at the department.

His retirement was coming up and he hoped to exit without much fuss from his colleagues.

“I would just like to say my goodbyes and take one good look around and just walk off into the sunset,” Lewis told me during the interview.

On Tuesday, the department held a small luncheon for the veteran police officer at the Kingdom of Life Church in Bradenton. 

Among those attending were Bradenton's police chief Michael Radzilowski and mayor Wayne Poston.

Lewis will walk into the sunset Saturday, March 31, his last day at the department.

Read more here:

Statement by missing Bradenton woman's family

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

After the DNA from a severed leg that washed ashore in St. Petersburg matched that of Kelly Moriarty, a missing Bradenton woman, her family released a statement to the media.

Moriarty's disappearance is a case that crosses several counties and includes another missing woman, her girlfriend, Plant City resident Doris Carter.

Authorities are now focusing on the "missing pieces of this puzzle," as Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Det. Larry McKinnon described the case Wednesday. The pieces include: authorities haven’t found a crime scene, the location of the rest of Moriarty’s remains is unknown, and Carter is still missing.

I'm now trying to find out as much as I can about the two women. If you are friends with either Moriarty or Carter, please give me a call, 941-745-7041, or email me at

Here's the full statement released by the Moriarty family:

Moriarty Statement

Friday, March 16, 2012

Facts about Florida prisons

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

While working on my story about Bradenton Bridge inmate Dianna Love, I conducted some research to learn more about Florida prisons.

I only used one statistic in my story, fearing I'd bog it down with numbers. But in case you're interested, here are some other stats that didn't make it into the story:
  • Eighty-eight percent of inmates will one day be released.
  • About 12,000 inmates will return to prison in three years.
  • About 66 percent of Florida inmates need substance abuse treatment.
  • Between 2007 and 2008, 82 percent of inmates were released without receiving any substance abuse treatment. 
  • Between 2007 and 2008, about 1,800 inmates received their GEDs.
For the full "Recidivism Reduction Strategic Plan" report, click here. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blaine Ross re-trial scheduled for May

By Laura C. Morel
Crime & Immigration Reporter

Mark your calendars: Blaine Ross's murder re-trial is coming up May 14, according to the Manatee Clerk of Courts website.

Ross, 29, is accused of beating his parents to death with a baseball bat in January 2004. In 2007, he was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery and was sentenced to death.

He was the first person in nearly 20 years sentenced to death in Manatee County.

But the Florida Supreme Court later ordered that Ross have a new trial after "justices ruled that Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective William Waldron violated Ross’ Miranda rights by taking him through several hours of grueling questioning without reading him his rights first. Miranda outlines a person’s right to remain silent and to obtain an attorney," a 2010 Bradenton Herald article reads.

Read more here:

Three dissenting judges pointed out that Ross signed a waiver of his rights just before confessing to the slayings, the article said.

Here's Ross's 2004 arrest report (to view in full screen, click on the toolbar's first button):

Blaine Ross PCA

Read more here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Troopers watching out for impaired drivers on St. Patrick's Day

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

Drunk drivers shouldn't bet on their luck this St. Patrick's Day.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers will be vigilant during the week leading up to the Irish holiday from March 10 to March 17, a media release said.

"We have a zero tolerance for impaired driving. Having a designated driver and planning ahead will make your trip safer," said FHP director Col. David Brierton in the release.

There were 18,000 alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2010, where more than 12,000 people were injured and nearly 800 were killed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New trial dates for Taylor, Jenkins trials

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

New dates have been set for two high-profile trials coming up at the Manatee County Judicial Center this year.

The trial for Robert Taylor, a retired Manatee County Sheriff's Office corrections deputy accused of killing his wife in September 2008, was rescheduled for April 30.

Taylor, 56, was arrested and booked into the Sarasota County jail early last year. He is charged with second-degree murder. If convicted, he faces life in prison, according to Manatee court records.

The trial for Jared Jenkins, 24, accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting several girls, was rescheduled for April 9.

He is charged with three counts of kidnapping, two counts of attempted sexual battery and one count of sexual battery, according to Manatee court records. If convicted on the kidnapping charges, Jenkins could face life in prison.

For live tweets from the courthouse during these and other trials, follow me on Twitter @lauracmorel.