Around the region for May 15, 2013

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10:46 p.m.


Employee at Walmart accused of stealing cash

A Walmart employee was arrested Monday on suspicion of stealing money from the cash register, according to a Gainesville Police Department arrest report.

Ashley Renee Burke, 24, of 3230 Archer Road, Apt. G234, was charged with scheming to defraud and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, the report states.

Burke worked at the Walmart Supercenter at 5700 NW 23rd St. as a cashier. The store’s loss prevention officers started an investigation because money was missing from cash registers.

The report states that surveillance video shows Burke taking money from registers on several dates in April and May. She is accused of taking a total of $1,308. Police found a small amount of marijuana in Burke’s purse when she was arrested.

Burke wrote a statement to Walmart acknowledging “dishonest cashiering,” the report states.

— Cindy Swirko


Hillsborough County deputy kills suspect reaching for gun

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County deputy fatally shot a man who authorities say tried to take another deputy’s gun.

Sheriff David Gee said deputies had been watching out for the suspect, who wasn’t immediately identified, all week when a detective tracked him to Brandon. The detective called for backup and approached the man, who at some point lunged at the detective.

Another deputy arrived as the detective and suspect were wrestling. Authorities say the suspect was grabbing the detective’s holstered gun when the second deputy shot the suspect once in the upper body.

The suspect was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he later died. No other injuries were reported.

Gee says deputies had been seeking the suspect, who had a long criminal history, on auto theft and other violent charges.

— The Associated Press

Former state lawmaker wins $50,000-a-year-for-life prize

TALLAHASSEE — Former state Rep. Frank Farkas was a loser last November, but he’s a big winner now.

Farkas may have been unsuccessful when he sought to return to the Legislature last year, but he just won a $50,000-a-year-for-life prize on a $20 Florida Lottery scratch ticket.

The St. Petersburg Republican served in the House from 1998 to 2006. He lost to Democrat Dwight Dudley on his bid to return. The Florida Lottery said the 56-year-old Farkas chose a lump sum payment of $815,515.72.

— The Associated Press

Legoland Florida expansion will open to the public on July 3

WINTER HAVEN — Legoland Florida’s newest ride and play area will open to the public on July 3.

Park officials said in a news release Tuesday that the expansion is based on the popular Legends of Chima product line.

Construction is underway on the Chima-themed area within the park — it includes an interactive water ride called The Quest for Chi, a Lego-building challenge, a 4-D movie and a meet-and-greet with costumed characters.

According to Lego’s website, the Chima storyline is about a pristine, natural paradise that has become a battle ground for eight animal tribes.

— The Associated Press

Man gets life sentence for leading others in murder

TAMPA — A Tampa Bay area man has been sentenced to life in prison for leading several others in a murder.

Kasey Lee Ackerman, 23, pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder and armed kidnapping as part of a deal with Hillsborough County prosecutors to avoid the death penalty. Five suspects in all were charged in the death of 26-year-old Robert Mason Brewer, and Ackerman was the last to be convicted and sentenced.

Ackerman was hosting a party at his Brandon apartment in May 2010 and told friends he wanted to kill Brewer, authorities said. The friends had met Brewer at the mall earlier that day. Ackerman and Brendan Terry, 23, stabbed Brewer multiple times, and Randy Allen Morris, 37, went to buy gasoline.

The three men carried Brewer to a nearby trash bin and set him on fire while he was still alive. Ackerman’s then-girlfriend, Rosanna DiMauro, 41, and her son, David Link, 21, both helped the attackers after Brewer was dead.

— The Associated Press

Former Florida RNC Hispanic outreach director now a Dem

TALLAHASSEE — A former Republican National Committee Florida Hispanic outreach director is now a Democrat.

Pablo Pantoja said on Tuesday that he switched parties because of a “culture of intolerance” among Republicans. He said his decision wasn’t directed at the RNC.

Pantoja said the tone of the debate on immigration issues, along with other instances in which Republicans have made derogatory remarks about minorities, built to the point where he felt more comfortable as a Democrat.

— The Associated Press

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