Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on April 30, 1996 · 146
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 146

St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, April 30, 1996
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-TO CONTACT US S ABOUT NEWS: For news: (813)869-6238 (800)333-7505, ext 6238 By fax: 869-6233 By e-mail: pascosptimes.com PASCO NORTH AN EDITION OF THE Petersburg mcs TUESDAY APRIL 30, 1996 JAN GLIDEWELL OFFBEAT A bit of slime in our midst The last time I spoke to the folks at Temple Beth David in Spring Hill, I discussed an incident of religious bigotry (I don't use the word intolerance; I'll explain later) that some acquaintance of mine had suffered in Pasco County a few years earlier. What happened at the West Pasco Jewish Center this weekend, alas, only underscores my point. I tied my remarks that night to the underlying strain of hatred and bigotry that exists in virtually every community and warned (not that a synagogue audience needs any warning) that only constant vigilance and concern will keep such actions and the morons who perpetrate them properly ashamed of their stupidity. It is when that stupidity is allowed to burgeon, unchallenged, into the light of resigned acceptance that it reaches its most dangerous point. A nice, polite couple, recent transplants from my native Miami it turned out, approached me after my speech and said, "Surely that kind of bigotry doesn't exist here. There isn't that e, kind of anti-Semitism going on around here, is there?" "Yes," I had to answer sadly, "there is." I had to tell them about their Spring Hill neighbor who periodically' throws a racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi newspaper into the driveways of dozens of his neighbors; about the relative of a friend who told me quite comfortably over dinner one night that I would never get a book published because the industry is controlled by Jews. And I told them about the dozens i- of letters that columns like this one will produce from Holocaust denial cranks, racists, bigots and people who have seriously skewed views of how the Deity wants us to proceed in our dealings with our fellow human beings. One hopes that the vandalism at. the center in West Pasco over the weekend is the work of adolescents with partially formed minds and bodies and only a vague idea of what they are doing rather than adults hard bent on hatred and destruction. . It would, of course, make you wonder about the homes in which such kids are being raised, about an atmosphere that allows the horror that was Nazi Germany to be seen as anything other than what it was. Whoever it was had enough grounding in history or pseudo-history to recognize the Maltese cross and the dreaded SS insignia as the adopted symbols of the Nazi hate machine and to realize how repugnant they would be to Jews everywhere. I feel a special tie to the West Pasco Jewish Community Center because I helped, 23 years ago, with the wording of the first correspondence that went out when the center was organized and have been honored by being invited to speak there several times over the intervening years. A little semantic digression here. I don't use the word intolerance, because I find it condescending and arrogant. It is not for any of us in this free society to "tolerate" each other. My dictionary defines the word using such terms as "permit" or "bear . . . as in pain." It is not for me or anyone else to "permit" another person or group of people to be who they are or to bear their existence as some burden. It is exactly such lapses and the relaxation of such vigilance that bothers me. If I have the option of "tolerating" somebody, it implies some sort of choice. The flip side of choosing not to tolerate a person or group is what the Nazis and a lot of people in what used to be Yugoslavia were and are about. I am comforted that the surrounding community, Jews and non-Jews, immediately offered support to the congregation. Those of us who share this particular pond should be ever mindful that the occasional glob of slime that floats to its visible surface is properly identified as what it is, an aberration that will die after prolonged exposure to a light, and then sink back, into the ooze o from which it came. Young boy's brave fight with cancer finally ends By KATHERINE SNOW SMITH Time Stall Writer PORT RICHEY Doctors had told Cathy Ashcroft her 7-year-old son might have only a few days to live. Still, she was encouraged Saturday when Zachary sat up and played Nintendo for 40 minutes. "It's been a while a couple months since he'd played Nintendo like that," she said. "It really gave us something to hold on to." , But the next day, Zachary Vanwhy Ashcroft twice told his stepfather, Jerry Ash croft, that he feared something would happen. "He said, 'Daddy, I feel like I'm going to die,' " his mother said. Zachary, whose battle with cancer has been profiled in the Times, had trouble breathing Sunday night. His prophesy came true early Monday morning when he died of cardiac arrest. "He just couldn't do it anymore," Cathy Ashcroft said. "His heart just gave out." Before paramedics arrived at their Port Please see BOY Page 5 ( r 1 II In March, Zachary visited his first-grade class at Calusa Elementary School. Holding his stepfather's hand with his left hand, Zachary shook classmates' hands and was greeted by friends during an Easter party. Times tiles (1996) JOSEPH GARNETT JR. Accident injures two J- T i .rrr, fat w jtm ' k. .... L ' " " fur-- - 'r " I-'' - y . K . I fc. - v .-mim3igKX&rarzfii-....... 1 f , MWWMWm f , .mil -j? yf; i. . jf j - l 3SB in, -lJMt Times photo CHUCK WIRSHELS Emergency workers get ready to place 5-year-old through a fence and hit their riding mower. William Joel Morrow into an ambulance Monday after he Morrow, 76, and Joel were in Bayfront Medical and his grandfather were injured when a van went Center in St. Petersburg. Story, PAGE 3 TV show leads to tip, asrest of suspect Delaware police say they have a man in custody who escaped from a Pasco sheriffs van on Jan. 11, 1995. He is wanted in connection with a slaying. By JEFFREY BRAINARD Times Staff Writer I JtmHm'Z If ) iff, i - -- - Mother defends killer before jury Nathan Ramirez, convicted of the Boroski murder, sniffled during his mother's testimony. By T. CHRISTIAN MILLER Times Staff Writer NEW PORT RICHEY To save her teenage son's life, a dying woman took the stand Monday. Linda Burgess, mother of Nathan Ramirez, towed an oxygen tank as she walked past the jury that will decide today whether to recommend the death penalty for her son, convicted Friday of first-degree murder. The Colorado woman, who has terminal respiratory disease, said her son's world came crashing down in the months before he kidnapped and murdered 71 -year-old Mildred Boroski. First, he learned that her dis eases which include emphysema and bronchitis could kill her within a year. Then, he got a girl pregnant in the fall of 1994 and she decided to have an abortion over his objections. He wanted to raise the child, his mother said. "He called me crying and said, 'What do I do, Mom? I want my baby,' " said Burgess, 45. "It devastated him." Burgess, who divorced Ramirez's father when the boy was 2 years old, said the youngest of her two sons survived a series of stepfathers she described as "bad choices." One man, to whom she was married less than a month, dressed up as a drill sergeant and gave orders to Ramirez and his older brother, George, she said. Ramirez, who is Hispanic, also endured racial taunts when he was a child in Colorado, she said. "He's always been a doting son," said Burgess, who sobbed during parts of her testimony. She gave defense attorneys three pictures Ramirez had drawn her while awaiting trial: Simba from the Lion King, Batman and a goblet with a rose at its base. As she left the stand, she walked past her 18-year-old son and said, "I love you." Ramirez, who Please see RAMIREZ Page 3 The man led a quiet life in a peaceful Delaware mobile home park, living with a woman who didn't know his secret past. A neighbor began to wonder about the man after she watched a Feb. 9 episode of NBC's Unsolved Mysteries. She thought he looked a lot like Albert Leon Fletcher, who the show said was wanted in a Florida slaying. It wasn't until Monday, though, that the neighbor was sure enough to phone in an anonymous tip to the Delaware State Police. And after two detectives wrestled the man to the floor in the mobife home park office, he admitted he was the same Albert Leon Fletcher who escaped from a sheriff's van outside the Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City on Jan. 11, 1995, police said. Fletcher, now 26, was facing the death penalty in the April 1993 killing of a Lakeland man during a botched robbery. He eluded a search since then, in part with the help of family and friends who gave him money and helped him buy a car, police said. On Monday, he told Dela ware police he drifted north in early 1995, stopping in their state when he met a female friend. He moved in with her in the Holly Hill Mobile Home Park outside Smyrna, Del., population 5,000. There Fletcher lived under an alias, worked maintenance jobs and didn't cause any problems, said Detective Ronald Durham of the Delaware State Police. "He didn't want to draw attention to himself," Durham said. Mostly retirees live in the park, about 18 miles south of Dover. ' Durham said the capture went more smoothly than expected, thanks to a bit of luck. Police had a helicopter on hand and a team ready Albert Leon Fletcher was facing a murder trial after a botched robbery when he escaped. Please see MURDER Page 3 TIMES DIGEST E IA S i Mills Judge Mills to run again Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Stan Mills has announced plans to seek re-election this fall. Mills, 48, has served on the circuit bench since being appointed by the governor in 1989. Story, PAGE 3 Weather Today: Cloudy and windy with showers and thunderstorms likely: Some thunderstorms may be severe. High near 80. Chance of rain 70 percent. Tonight: Partly cloudy with showers ending. Low in the upper 50s to lower 60s. Map, SECTION B Interf aith effort cleanses desecrated Jewish center "I'm on a spiritual high," Rabbi David Levin says as hateful symbols are washed away. By JAMALTHAUI Times Staff Writer PORT RICHEY Armed with brushes, soap and a pressure sprayer, friends and strangers renewed a Jewish congregation's faith in its community Monday. About 50 people of various denominations gathered in front of the West Pasco Jewish Community Center on Scenic Road to clean up after vandals desecrated the center Friday night. Feces were left in front of the main doorway, and swastikas, Aryan symbols and white power slogans were sprayed in blue and red paint inside the doorway, on windows and on columns near the entrance. "This is unbelievable," said Adelle Spi-gelman, 67, president of the congregation. "There's just been an outpouring of love and care that has been shown to us by our neighbors, by other churches, by everybody. "I feel that what was done in hate ended up backfiring and bringing this community together." No one has been arrested, center officials said. The Pasco Sheriff's Office is investigating. Students from River Ridge Middle, Hudson Middle, Hudson High and Ridge-wood High pitched in to clean up, as did congregation members, neighbors from nearby West Port, strangers and parishioners of local churches. Pasco County Commissioner Ed Collins was there. Rocky Jordan, 64, rode his Harley Davidson all the way from Treasure Island to be there. "To have the congregations of other denominations here, to have all these students from different schools here I never expected this," said Rabbi David Levin, 52, who oversees the synagogue inside the center. "We've turned a negative into a Please see CLEANUP Page 2 I r , L Times photo JACK ROWLAND Rita Economos, top, Sean Abrams, left, Jennifer Leever, center, and Alysia Abrams scrub away graffiti on Monday.

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