The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on February 12, 1997 · 69
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 69

Tampa, Florida
Issue Date:
Wednesday, February 12, 1997
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r THE TAMPA TRIBUNE Wednesday, February 12, 199? TWIT! Til m Send comments and tips through e-mail to or write co The Tampa Tribune, P.O. Box 191, Tampa, Fla. 33601 lil 111(0 Court blocks immediate oil drilling permit V mm wwjuii ! II ihii . . ,. ... i 15 Steve Otto Don't mess with Eli and friends Eli looked around, yawned, put his head down on his master's lap, and slept all the way into town thanks to you. Not that it was lonely on HARTline's Bus No. 11. There were plenty of people riding the bus into downtown Tampa from the Tampa Bay Center mall. Some were there just to ensure that Eli's ride was uneventful. Whether they will be there six months from now is another question, but let's back up for a second. Eli is a guide dog. His master is Michael Bates, who works in the snack room at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. Since November, Eli and Bates have been tormented by juveniles (referred to more anthropologically correctly in Monday's column as "scum kids"). Apparently these juveniles, who attend "alternative schools," had kicked, punched and scared the guide dog frequently. Bates complained to HARTline with little result. That was before hundreds thousands of you responded to Eli's plight and put the heat on HARTline, the police, the schools, the state attorney's office, the county and the mayor's office to do something. They did. "Well," said Bates, "there were a couple of security people from HARTline, some undercover people from the police department and some others who all were on the bus. Someone from HARTline gave me a bunch of free ride passes. I was interviewed by a number of people, but at least nobody bothered Eli." We got 'em Hillsborough County school board members and officials launched their own investigation. Three boys were interviewed. One has had his bus pass taken away permanently and the other two banned for one month. I've checked with the Tampa police and they are investigating. "Chief Bennie Holder wants this looked at thoroughly," said police spokesman Steve Cole. "We are examining a number of incidents." The school system reacted strongly. Joe Trumbach, the director of administration, went to see Bates. Here is part of a note from Gail Crosby, the principal of alternative schools, to Trumbach: "On or about November 21 ... received a call from Michael Bates regarding the behavior of students on bus No. 11 ... Mr. Bates was able to describe the primary offender's clothing and supply two students' first names ... suggested he contact HARTline ... The parents of the two students involved were also contacted. "... Until Monday, February 10 ... received no contact regarding inappropriate behavior. Upon interviewing students we became aware of some recent incidents that include negative interaction with Mr. Bates ... During further interviews on February 10 we were told that a police officer and HARTline supervisor boarded bus No. 11 approximately one week ago. ... Students were warned but no trespass warrants were issued." Taking responsibility Why nobody reacted to what is charmingly called "negative interaction" is still up in the air. School board member Candy Olson notes, "Our job is education. We have got to get parents to realize they have to help raise their own children and that we have very limited resources." She is absolutely right. And so were the hundreds who offered everything from driving Eli and Bates into town to forming vigilante teams. There are a lot of questions still unanswered, but you can see that it's going to ultimately point back to those parents who have abandoned the responsibility of their children's behavior to others. There are hundreds of children in county alternative schools. But these are not prisons, and what they do with their lives is still the responsibility of parents as well as those children. For now the only attention Eli is getting is a little new-found celebrity status. He would rather just do his job. SUMMARY: Environmentalists cheer a court ruling that Coastal Petroleum Co. cannot immediately get an offshore drilling permit to seek oil along Florida's Gulf Coast. By GADY A. EPSTEIN of The Tampa Tribune TALLAHASSEE Environmental groups have scored a victory in court against a small company trying to drill for oil less than 10 miles from Florida's beaches. , The state First District Court of Appeal has denied Coastal Petroleum Co.'s request for an immediate offshore drilling permit, instead allowing groups opposed to drilling the right to a potentially lengthy administrative hearing. The ruling, handed down unanimously by a three-judge panel Monday, is a costly setback to a company that has spent millions of dollars in legal fees in a five-year struggle to sink an offshore well less than 10 miles south of St. George Island in the Panhandle. "We're elated," said David Guest, attorney for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, which represents three environmental groups looking to prevent any drilling. "It means that Coastal is not just going to get a permit and march out there and start drilling in the Gulf of Mexico." The state banned offshore drilling in 1990, but Coastal holds 56-year-old oil and gas leases covering 880,000 acres of submerged land just seven to 10 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast, an area stretching from Apalachicola to Naples. Child smoking law sought SUMMARY: Lawmakers and Gov. Lawton Chiles say if it's illegal to sell tobacco to minors, it should be illegal for children to smoke. By GADY A. EPSTEIN of The Tampa Tribune TALLAHASSEE Underage teens smoking on the street corner won't be rebels anymore if Gov. Lawton Chiles and some lawmakers have their way. They'll be breaking the law. It's a rare area of agreement between Gov. Lawton Chiles and the tobacco industry: Children caught with cigarettes should be punished. Although it is already illegal to sell tobacco to minors, there is no law in Florida against minors smoking or possessing cigarettes. Proposals from the Chiles administration and lawmakers this session would change that, and it appears some sort of punishment for smoking teens will win broad support. "We don't have to look very far to see teenagers lighting up with their friends," Richard T. Farrell, secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said before the House Regulated Services Committee Tuesday morning. "We want to say, 'You know all the reasons not to smoke. Here's another one. It's against the law.'" The proposal from Farrell and Chiles would fine violators $25 or require 50 hours of community service or completion of a tobacco education program the same penalties as under a law passed last year against minors possessing tobacco within 1,000 feet of a school. The proposal would make it a civil offense not criminal for a minor to possess or smoke tobacco. "We're not proposing to make kids criminals," Farrell said. See SMOKE, Page 7 Martha Ann Carter, far right, and Steven Craig Moore have been charged with abusing Carter's 11 -month-old son. V ' (; : ; - r . Coastal, which is heavily backedT t Tampa-based Lykes Bros., has not drfllejfl: on the leases in 30 years and has never ' produced oil from the area. Last year, after Coastal won several le: gal rounds in state courts, the Department of Environmental Protection finally told Coastal it would grant a drilling permit, "f But Coastal appealed to the First Dis trict Court of Appeal because the agency allowed environmental groups to ask for jan See DRILL, Page 7 Scene shoe investigator KS 'IJWIHiLAJ.JMP. WJ,ii. 'J CD r t ; V 1 SCOTT ISKOWITZTnbune photo Evidence from Steven Craig Moore's home, collected by Cpl. Dennis Waters, at rear, lies on a desk at Eagle Lake Police Department Tuesday. SUMMARY: Thoughts of killer Charles Manson came to mind as an investigator entered the home of an Eagle Lake pair arrested for child abuse. By BETH FOUSHEE ' of The Tampa Tribune " I " f . . . 1 EAGLE LAKE A man living in a house with beheaded and crucified dolls and the statue of a strangled cow hanging from a ceiling is accused of abusing an 11 -month-old baby every day for weeks, police say. ,j Charles Manson came to mind, Cpl. Dennis, Waters said when he went inside the house ol Steven craig Moore, known as "Snakeman." Manson was convicted in 1971 of the bizarre murder of pregnant actress Sharon Tate. "It was just loaded with weird stuff," Waters said. "Every room." in tne same , . ; room where the baby slept was a doll tied and nailed to a cross with red paint dripping down its. face like blood from a crucifix's crown of thorns, police said. , j Police confiscated a Barbie doll strapped to a cross with a silver ball stuffed in her mouth, earrings pierced through her breasts and her hands and feet jabbed with fish hooks. . -. "It really takes you aback when you see something like this in a small town," Eagle Lake Police Chief J.R. Sullivan said Tuesday. "It's disgusting.' Moore, 41, is charged with aggravated child abuse and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana. Police say his live-in girlfriend of three weeks Martha Ann Carter, 28, the mother cf the abused baby is charged with aggravatel child abuse, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, i They remain in the Polk County Jail, each under $500,000 bail, r See ABUSE, Page 7 It really takes j you aback when you see something like this in a small town. J.R. Sullivan Eagle Lake Police Chief ; FLORfflA A m -IS hi n V Mil IV - " x 'H - TO BHUCfHOSKiNCiTfibuno photo Fat Tuesday Cindy Lou McKeever decorates her Dunedin shop Tuesday for the evening's Mardi Gras blast. This year's celebration, with a "Sweet Dreams and Fantasies" theme, included a parade, food and live music. Expulsion of boy, 5, prompts lawsuit SUMMARY: A woman contends the Pinellas County School Board discriminated against her when it expelled her 5-year-old son. By GEORGE CORYELL of The Tampa Tribune CLEARWATER Reba Alexander has to undergo kidney dialysis three times a week, so she cannot always attend meetings at her son's school, her attorney says. When she missed three PTA meetings, the Pinellas County School Board expelled her 5-year-old son from kindergarten at Pasadena Fundamental School in west St. Petersburg. Alexander wants her son readmitted, the school policy changed and monetary compensation, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court. Pinellas County's fundamental or "back to basics" schools require students to abide by strict rules of behavior and to complete mandatory homework. ' Parents must agree to volunteer at school and attend all monthly PTA meetings. Under the regulations for fundamental schools, parents cannot miss three PTA meetings. "But they have no policy to take into account parents or guardians See SUIT, Page 4 TV to explore mysterious Dunedin death SUMMARY: A Dunedin family turns to NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" to find answers to how their father died nearly 20 years ago. The shooting has been called a suicide. By WALT BELCHER ol The Tampa Tribune DUNEDIN On a Sunday morning almost 20 years ago, Robert Dirscherl was found dead in his bedroom with a gunshot wound to the chest. His shotgun lay nearby and police said it appeared to be a suicide. But Dirscherl, 54, a devout Catholic, traveling salesman and father of five, left no note. His family said he had no history of depression, serious illness or financial troubles. That morning, he had dressed for church and was preparing to give a lay sermon. The last thing he said to his wife, Jinny, who was in the kitchen, was that he wanted to put ointment on a sore foot. She heard a loud noise from the bedroom, like a door slamming. She found him dead. For 16 years, Dirscherl's widow and children were troubled by this shocking and unexplained death until a mysterious, unsigned confession arrived. The hand-printed note, postmarked from Tampa 16 years to the day of Dirscherl's death, was sent to his son Guy. i it"""- I t 3. V I " .n, i Lmm ii - h BRUCE HOSKINGTribune photo. Robert Dirscherl's sister Jane Harmon, from left, widow Jinny, daughter Kandace Whitehurst and son Guy Dirscherl seek answers. It read: "I have AIDS. I am dying. I must make' peace with the Lord. I killed your daddy. He found me in his bedroom. I had no choice. Please pray for me." See TV, Page 4 FLORIDA-

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