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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913

Email: kvarn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @kathrynvarn

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  1. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cellphone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cellphone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned from the agency at the end of February after investigators found the photos, which include images comparing black people to animals, derogatory memes about the Women's March on Washington and photos he took of his genitals while working on duty at the agency shooting range. ...

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Four questions with Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith before he helps lead the St. Pete Pride parade

    Human Interest

    A decade ago, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay.

    On Saturday, he'll be leading the St. Pete Pride parade as one of four grand marshals, front and center of the largest Pride celebration in the state.

    ST. PETE PRIDE: Everything you need to know to party at St. Pete Pride this weekend...

    Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith will serve as a grand marshal at the St. Pete Pride parade on Saturday. [City of Largo]
  3. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has released a fact-finding report that largely mirrors an earlier investigation that ruled the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza last month was a "justifiable homicide."

    The FDLE findings were similar to those made in a Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office report earlier this month. The State Attorney's report concluded that Tarpon Springs police Officer Scott MacIsaac was justified in using deadly force in that May 6 incident at a charity car show. FDLE does not act on its findings, but will send its report to prosecutors to review....

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.
  4. Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District chief resigns

    Blog

    Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Chief Salvatore D'Angelo announced Tuesday night he was leaving the department for a new job.

    D'Angelo said after a district commission meeting he accepted a position as the executive director of the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District. Aug. 4 is his last day at Pinellas Suncoast, which provides fire and emergency medical services for Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores and the unincorporated Oakhurst area....

    Salvatore D'Angelo, Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District chief, announced his resignation Tuesday night. D'Angelo said he accepted a position as the executive director of the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District.
  5. Votes on Penny for Pinellas, homestead exemption loom over Largo's budget process

    Local Government

    LARGO — In the midst of crafting next year's budget and updating the long-term financial forecast, city officials are facing several variables that could impact projects and services.

    A contribution increase to the police and fire pension fund adds constraints to the budget for next year and beyond, while the financial plan is muddled by two major local government revenue sources left to the will of voters: a one-cent sales tax known as Penny for Pinellas that is up for renewal this year and a property tax break in the form of a homestead exemption increase that, if approved when it goes before voters next year, would cut at least $650,000 from the city coffers in the first year....

    Largo City Hall.
  6. Police: Children's ministry director at Anona United Methodist Church in Largo inappropriately touched 14-year-old girl

    Crime

    LARGO — The director of children's ministry at Anona United Methodist Church and a prominent member of the local theater and dance community has been arrested after police said he inappropriately touched a 14-year-old girl.

    Domenic Victor Bisesti, 31, faces a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation after the girl told police he touched her buttocks several times and tried to kiss her at the church at 13233 Indian Rocks Road, according to Largo police. Investigators and church officials don't know of any other victims....

    Domenic Bisesti, 31, faces a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation involving a girl at a church where he was a director of children’s ministry.
  7. State attorney decides against charges in suicide of 10-year-old Clearwater boy

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has decided not to charge the parents of a 10-year-old boy who fatally shot himself in January.

    The revolver Ian Sevostjanov used to shoot himself in the chest was kept unsecured in a desk drawer, according to the Clearwater police investigation. But Fred Schaub, felony division director for the State Attorney's Office, said the child's parents taught their children gun safety, and it appeared, based on cellphone records, that the child was intent on ending his life....

    Clearwater police detectives were at the scene of a 10-year-old boy’s suicide the morning of Jan. 5. Ian Sevostjanov had fatally shot himself after having an argument with his mother.
  8. Pinellas sheriff's K9 unit welcomes first female deputy in 35 years, second in agency history(w/video)

    Public Safety

    Kayla Juliet didn't know much about the tryout, but she did know about the infamous 80-pound bag.

    The duffle, stuffed with two bags of dog food taped together, was supposed to symbolize an injured dog to help prepare the K9 deputy hopefuls for a worst-case scenario. So Juliet added a bag of concrete of the same weight to her workouts in the month leading up to the tryout.

    It was grueling — "it's hard to imagine something that rough," she said. But she made it through, graduating alongside her partner, Jace, on May 30. She's only the second female K9 deputy in Pinellas County Sheriff's Office history, and the first in more than 30 years. It's a milestone for an industry with a low percentage of women and an agency that Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said has struggled to attract female deputies to specialized units....

    Paige Byers, 14, of Dunedin, left, meets Deputy Kayla Juliet and her K9, Jace, at the graduation ceremony. Juliet is the second woman to graduate from the program in Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office history.
  9. One driver accused of seven hit-and-run crashes across Tampa Bay area

    Crime

    A 43-year-old man went on a reckless driving rampage Saturday night from St. Petersburg to just south of the Hillsborough-Pasco line that the Florida Highway Patrol said caused seven hit-and-run crashes, including one in which he beat a driver and stole her car.

    Lon Alan Brown of New Port Richey faces charges of carjacking with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, driving under the influence and refusal to submit to testing, according to Hillsborough County Jail records....

    Florida Highway Patrol troopers responded to seven hit-and-run crashes Saturday night that investigators said were caused by Lon Alan Brown, 43. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  10. Overnight crashes reinforce danger for bicyclists on Pinellas roads

    Public Safety

    It was time for a break, so Joseph Samson hopped on his bike and pedaled into the night.

    He left the Clearwater convenience store he worked at Tuesday night, his mother said, and was heading south across Cleveland Street. It was about 9:45 p.m., near the intersection of Fredrica Avenue, when a pickup truck driving east hit him, then left him behind.

    Not even eight hours later, Robert Allen Shepherd, 62, was wearing a reflective vest as he rode his bike, adorned with lights, westbound in the bike lane of Ulmerton Road when he was struck east of 58th Street N by an unknown driver who fled the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said....

    Robert Allen Shepherd, 62, died after he was struck on Ulmerton Road by a hit-and-run driver Wednesday morning. He was riding in the bike lane and wearing a reflective vest, said the FHP.
  11. Process at a standstill for proposed Largo apartment complex

    Growth

    LARGO — The land sits at the intersection of Clearwater-Largo and Rosery roads mostly empty, save for about a dozen mobile homes and even more concrete slabs of foundations past.

    After years of hearing rumors of a sale, residents said they received notices to move out by Oct. 31 to make way for a land use change. And in April, a developer submitted plans to build a 208-unit apartment complex to be named Rosery Court on the two parcels bordered by the Pinellas Trail to the west, Rosery Road to the north, Clearwater-Largo Road N to the east and the Belleair Village Motel to the south....

  12. Out on the water with family, Clearwater man dies after plunging into shallow water

    Public Safety

    Michael Steller went out with his family on their boat Sunday to celebrate Memorial Day weekend like any Floridian: water, sun and a cookout with family.

    About 4:30 p.m., he attempted to do a flip off the boat into the Gulf of Mexico while the 23-foot pontoon was anchored on the north end of Three Rooker Island off the coast of Tarpon Springs, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office....

  13. Clearwater firefighters rescue girl trapped between pipes

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Firefighters rescued a 14-year-old girl who whose leg was trapped between two pipes on Franklin Street on Thursday afternoon, Clearwater fire rescue said.

    The call came in at 4:25 p.m. and crews arrived four minutes later to the stack of pipes in the 1300 block of Franklin Street. It took firefighters seven minutes to free her from the pipes. She was flown via helicopter to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg with a leg injury....

    Paramedics load a 14-year-old girl onto a helicopter after she injured her leg when she was trapped between a few pipes in Clearwater.
  14. Clearwater officer fired after investigation reveals use of unnecessary force on 13-year-old (w/video)

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — When Michael Leonardo and two backup officers arrived at the youth shelter on the morning of April 2, the 13-year-old boy was still simmering from a fight.

    He'd calmed down in the time it took the Clearwater police officers to respond to reports that he was kicking walls and screaming in the shelter after a dispute with a roommate. They arrested him on a battery charge and led him outside with his hands cuffed behind his back....

    Surveillance video shows the events that led to Clearwater police Officer Michael Leonardo being fired for using excessive force while detaining a 13-year-old boy accused of battery.
  15. Investigations into botched Largo Fire Rescue training exercise leads to three suspensions

    Fire

    LARGO — Three investigations into a fire department training exercise gone wrong determined that human error caused a firefighter's injury, resulting in suspensions for three employees.

    Investigations found that a string of training deficiencies and miscommunications contributed to an accident in which firefighter Nick Pluscht, 30, fell 14 feet to the ground while performing a window bailout exercise, fracturing his spine....

     Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis.