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Sara DiNatale, Times Staff Writer

Sara DiNatale

Sara DiNatale is a digital and breaking news reporter who keeps on the pulse of what people are buzzing about in Tampa Bay. She is from Buffalo, New York, where she graduated with a degree in English from the University at Buffalo. She has worked for the Boston Globe, the Oregonian and the Buffalo News.

Phone: (727) 893-8862

E-mail: sdinatale@tampabay.com

Twitter: @sara_dinatale

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  1. Death row exonerees, advocates meet in Tampa to discuss fight to end death penalty

    Crime

    TAMPA — He went to jail Ronnie Bridgeman, a frightened 17-year-old with no previous record and no thoughts on what it would mean to spend a lifetime in prison or to be dealt a death sentence.

    He left Kwame Kamau Ajamu, a 45-year-old man wrongly imprisoned, months from being executed.

    Ajamu, a Cleveland native, told his story Saturday before a crowd in Tampa hoping to end the death penalty....

    Kwame Kamau Ajamu, 59, spent 28 years in prison.
  2. Could diet soda and artificial sweeteners cause dementia and strokes?

    Health

    A new study has scientists wondering if artificially sweetened beverages can cause strokes and dementia.

    Research published on Thursday in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke, shows that participants who had at least one artificially sweetened drink a day were nearly three times more likely to develop a stroke or dementia than those who drank such a beverage fewer than once a week....

    A new study suggests that one or more artificially sweetened drinks a day could be associated with higher risk of stroke and dementia. (Times photo illustration)
  3. Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino has demanded the internet's attention. So how is it?

    General

    Let me take you on a mystical journey.

    It involves adversity, triumph and a swirly pink beverage that is probably the most Instagram-able drink of 2017 for around $5.

    Starbucks released its Unicorn Frappuccino on Wednesday. The coffee giant says the "magic" frap will be available in stores until April 23, or until supplies last.

    It's meant to be elusive, like the horned mystical creature that inspired the confectionery (and caffeine-free) creation. And the internet is going totally bonkers over it. By noon Wednesday, more than 10,000 photos were posted to Instagram marked "#unicornfrappuccino" and Twitter was exploding with opinions. ...

    A shot of my Unicorn Frappuccino on my car's dashboard. The drink will only be available until April 23. (SARA DiNATALE | TIMES)
  4. St. Petersburg police officers get bullet-resistant vests that are lighter and safer

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — Amy DeWitt promised her mother she'd always wear a bullet-resistant vest when she became a St. Petersburg police officer.

    So every morning, she put on the vest underneath her uniform. The gear was bulky — and hot. Between the vest, her equipment and her sidearm, DeWitt was wearing an extra 24 pounds.

    That was until Tuesday, when the department rolled out new custom-made, bullet-resistant vests. The new vests are lighter and more comfortable than the old ones, yet offer better protection....

    From left, St. Petersburg police chief Tony Holloway and Assistant Chief Mike Kovacsev talk to Sgt. Kevin Haemmelmann and Detective Lindsey Qualey on Tuesday as Haemmelmann and Qualey wear their new custom body armor at the St. Petersburg Police Department.
  5. Police investigating shooting death of 37-year-old St. Petersburg man

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — George Hall had made mistakes.

    He spent some of his 20s on the wrong side of the law, with a cocaine conviction in 2010, but he turned things around, his sister said.

    The 37-year-old worked to encourage others to do the same. He cried when his niece signed commitment papers for college.

    The streets wouldn't get her, he said. She had a chance to do better....

    George Hall, 37, was known as “Tow Man George” and promoted his business on his Facebook page.
  6. Palm Harbor man arrested on charges he choked a woman, 75, with a metal dog leash

    Crime

    PALM HARBOR — A 20-year-old man faces attempted murder charges after Pinellas deputies say he tried to choke out a 75-year-old woman with a metal dog leash.

    Prior to the altercation, the two were walking their dogs.

    The drama didn't end there. The man's brothers were arrested, too, for how the Sheriff's Office says they treated the responding deputies.

    The Sheriff's Office got a call at 3:30 p.m. Thursday of an assault occurring at 754 First Court. Deputies said they saw Emanuel Qosaj on top of the 75-year-old woman, battering and choking her....

    Emanuel Qosaj, 20, was arrested on charges he tried to kill a woman by choking her with a metal dog leash. (Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)
  7. This Florida grandpa seeing in full color for the first time will make your day (w/video)

    Human Interest

    Noah Stafford of Lakeland looks like your typical Florida grandpa, clad in a white polo and a University of Florida Gators ball cap.

    On his 66th birthday, he sat down as a group of his children and grandchildren watched him tear into a brown cardboard box.

    "Color for the color blind," he read. "Well, I am color blind."

    Soon a voice behind the camera filming explains that they're special glasses that could make Stafford see the world like the rest of his family does every day....

    Noah Stafford, 66 of Lakeland, was surprised with glasses that allow him to see in full cover for his birthday. (YouTube)
  8. Take your dog to Tampa, study advises, ranking region No. 1 in travel with pets

    Human Interest

    As if Tampa Bay's beaches weren't enough to draw in tourists, a travel website has ranked the area as the No. 1 spot to take a vacation with your pet.

    Yes, the Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater region of the Sunshine State is considered the most pet-friendly city in the country, according to RewardExpert, which helps travelers use their points and miles to plan flights.

    The group's researchers say they have the data to back up the claim: Tampa Bay has the most pet-friendly hotels per capita, as well as an above-average number of pet-friendly activities. ...

    Craig Livengood, 25, right, and Haley Belisle, 24, both of Apollo Beach, watch Donut, a Weimaraner, chase after a stick at the Davis Islands Dog Park in Tampa on Wednesday. The Tampa Bay region was named tops for people traveling with pets in a recent study. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  9. Have you seen that viral NYC cookie dough shop? We tried it and here's what we thought

    Travel

    NEW YORK

    If you grew up sneaking dollops of cookie dough off the baking sheet before your mom popped them in the oven and are wondering if a cookie dough cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village is worth an hourslong wait, it is.

    If you're wondering if it's worth a trip from Florida to New York City, I'm not going to tell you to book a plane ticket. But I'm also not going to tell you not to....

    DO has become so popular that it has instituted a new policy that limits customers to four treats.
  10. Florida gator struts through Pasco County furniture store

    Wildlife

    HOLIDAY — A Pasco County alligator had to take a detour past the recliners before making it back to his home in a lake behind a furniture store this week.

    This is Florida, after all, where sometimes it makes more sense to drag a gator on a leash through a store rather than around it.

    Pasco deputies got a call on Wednesday that an alligator was hanging out in the American Freight Furniture and Mattress parking lot, under a silver Honda....

    Pasco County deputies had to lead an alligator through a furniture store to get it back to a nearby lake. (Pasco Sheriff's Office)
  11. Pedestrian deaths climb across the country, and especially in Florida

    Accidents

    Jatha Royal Jr. was walking home after a Saturday night selling snacks along the sidewalks of Ybor City when Tampa police said a pickup truck plowed into him in February.

    The truck backed up. The driver saw Royal on the ground. Then he drove away.

    Royal, 36, died on the street in an intersection without a marked crosswalk. His family said he was just five minutes from his house.

    READ THE REPORT: Pedestrian traffic fatalities by state (2016 preliminary data)...

    Clearwater Police investigate a crash in which an unidentified adult male pedestrian was killed after being hit by a van near the intersection of Belcher Road and Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater in September 2016. Florida has the second-highest per-capita rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation, according to an analysis of preliminary state data released on March 30, 2017.
  12. Will your favorite color get the boot? Crayola retiring crayon shade Friday

    Business

    In two days one of the iconic colors in Crayola's 24-pack of crayons will be no more.

    The crayon company says it will retire one of the shades and put it into their "hall of fame" Friday, "National Crayon Day."

    Crayola is going all out on social media for the shade's send-off. There's a live countdown until it will make the announcement, which will be streamed live. (Because this is 2017, is there anything people won't watch on Facebook live?)...

    A 24-count box of Crayola crayons are shown, Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in New York. On National Crayon Day, Friday, March 31, Crayola is scheduled to announce the retirement of a color from the pack during an event in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
  13. St. Petersburg police: Man threw sucker punch after being told to stop catcalling women

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mixed martial arts fighter accused of leaving a University of South Florida student critically injured during St. Patrick's Day revelry was catcalling women right before he threw what police are calling a "sucker" punch.

    New details about the incident were revealed in the arrest report of Zachary Kenneth Allen, the 23-year-old trained fighter accused of assaulting Brian Neal, 26....

    Zachary Kenneth Allen was arrested after tips identified him as the suspect in a March 18 assault that left another man in critical condition. [Photo Courtesy of St. Petersburg Police Department]
  14. A Lakeland man decided to eat pancakes in a crosswalk, and the police were not amused

    Public Safety

    LAKELAND — Kiaron Thomas went to iHop this week and decided to enjoy his pancakes in the middle of a crosswalk at Memorial Boulevard and Brunnell Parkway.

    Police didn't seem to find the humor in the strange prank, and now the 21-year-old faces charges he placed an obstruction in the roadway and disrupted the flow of traffic....

    Kiaron Thomas, 21, faces charges of obstruction of a roadway after a prank caught on video showed him eating pancakes in a Lakeland crosswalk. (Lakeland police)
  15. National Puppy Day is a real thing, and it's meant to encourage you to rescue dogs

    Human Interest

    Today, March 23, is National Puppy Day.

    I know, I know: It seems like every other day is national something day. But the origins of puppy day actually have some merit — as well as a little bark and bite.

    There's a National Puppy Day website that explains this all in detail. In short: The day was created by a real person, not just a Twitter hashtag. ...

    A Times file photos shows three-month-old Willow, Phoenix, River and Mystic sharing a stick at a Friends of Strays sheleter event on Nov. 12, 2015. The puppies were found deserted, but then readied for adoption. (LARA CERRI | TIMES)