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His friends say the only thing Joshua Carmona loved more than baseball was his mother.
She would take him on road trips to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and buy tickets months out for New York Yankees games at Tropicana Field. She would cheer from the bleachers at his West Tampa Little League games, and whenever he talked of going pro some day, it was always as a way to take care of her. But baseball also brought his mother together with the man she would marry, Stephen D’Angelo. Trips to Tropicana came to include the daughter the couple have together, now 3, and Carmona eventually stopped tagging along. By the time he enrolled at Jefferson High School, he had given up on trying out for the team.
On Monday, Tahirih Lua D’Angelo’s 39th birthday, Carmona picked up a baseball bat his stepfather had given him and struck his mother as she stood in the kitchen of their Riverview townhome, relatives and sheriff’s investigators said. He beat her repeatedly then stabbed her neck with a butcher knife. She was found in a bathroom, nearly decapitated, her body wrapped in a comforter. Horrified, friends and family are left probing through memories that might somehow explain how a bright loner once teased in school for being a momma’s boy could so violently attack the woman who gave him life.
They point to the changes in his family, the pressures of college’s first year, the counseling sessions for depression. His drug use came to the surface in November, when Pennsylvania State Police found him with marijuana, contemplating suicide in a stolen car. The rarity of children killing a parent it accounts for about 2 percent of U.S. homicides helps explain why it’s such a shocking crime. But few other explanations are clear in Tara D’Angelo’s death, except perhaps this: She inspired a deep passion in her son, so much so that he once brought a high school auditorium to tears reading an essay on how much he loved her.
“He was always with his mom, talking about how he loved her and he didn’t want to let her down,” said his high school friend Miguel Guzman. “He loved his mom to death. He really did.”
Raised by a single mother of three, Tara D’Angelo developed a love for sports at an early age. She was full of energy, outgoing and “soft-hearted,” said her best friend Renee Davis. She had held a job ever since Davis met her at Hillsborough High School. If she happened to have a night off, it was spent singing karaoke, tailgating with friends or hanging out at casinos. When D’Angelo was 20, she became pregnant with Joshua. She had only known his father briefly and when he learned of the pregnancy, he left, Davis said.
When her son was about 4, D’Angelo left him with her mother and moved away. Details about why are few. Relatives say she worked odd jobs in Arizona, Wyoming and Oregon, staying in contact with her son and making trips home for holidays. In April 2009, she moved back to Tampa and five months later, she met Stephen D’Angelo. Joshua could have lived with his mother the day she came back, but he chose to remain with his grandmother until she died when he was 11. His mother would take Joshua on trips and work extra hours to pay for the toys and video games she knew he wanted, but the once happy child became more and more withdrawn.
“If she knew he wanted something she would get it for him,” Davis said. “That’s why I don’t understand why he would do this. She worked so hard to buy him stuff because she wasn’t there for him when he was growing up. But it wasn’t enough.”
Miguel Guzman befriended Joshua Carmona in a freshman math class at Jefferson High School after making a joke about his Yankees baseball cap. Carmona was quiet and nerdy and Guzman, by his own account, was a popular troublemaker. Guzman was drawn to his new friend’s kindness and depth. Carmona would help him with his homework and Guzman would stick up for Carmona when bullies picked on him in the hallways. He would walk Carmona to classes, like “a human cage.”
When kids laughed and called him a mama’s boy, he got so mad he turned “red as the sun,” Guzman said. Carmona had a temper, and it showed when Guzman told him he was leaving school sophomore year to get a GED. Relatives saw his temper, too, and worried because he rarely engaged them in conversation, said his uncle Luis Carmona. Most of his days were spent inside his bedroom.
“There was nothing keeping him there if he disliked the people he was with,” Luis Carmona said. “He was smart, he was educated, he had every opportunity, and every resource available to him to leave was there.”
Guzman, 20, lost contact with Joshua Carmona until he saw him last summer working at a juice kiosk in the Westfield Brandon mall. Carmona talked about how excited he was to be going to Fordham University in Manhattan.
Most of Carmona’s friends from high school got to know him junior year. That’s when he started smoking marijuana and became more outgoing, said one friend, Yahel Hernandez, 19. Hernandez was popular, a member of many school clubs and had a big group of friends. After he befriended Carmona, Hernandez said, the once shy honors student began attending games and homecoming dances. He became president of the National Math Honors Society and spoke out on politics. Senior year, Hernandez persuaded Carmona to join him in the “Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson” pageant. Hernandez took the title, but Carmona was thrilled to be chosen second runner up. For the talent portion, Carmona read about his mother a moving speech that brought the auditorium to tears, Hernandez said.
Things took a turn for the worse, though. His first kiss was from Sabrina Feliciano, class valedictorian, after he asked her if she would be his date for the senior prom. But even teachers soon learned the story behind why she showed up to the dance alone. Her date passed out in a hotel room while “pre-gaming” with friends, and didn’t make it to the dance until well after it was over. Carmona always made her laugh, Feliciano said, but she distanced herself from him because of his partying. Still, she said, “The guy who did this to his mom was not the Joshua I know.”
Carmona maintained his grades, earning a perfect score on his AP Psychology exam. He graduated 11th in his class last May, completing the Criminal Justice magnet program and earning a certification to be a security guard. He doted on his little sister and is only seen smiling in family photos with her.
But shortly after graduation, Tara D’Angelo kicked her son out of the house where he lived with her, Stephen D’Angelo, the couple’s daughter and an aunt for smoking marijuana. Stephen D’Angelo is a customer service representative for a utility company and his wife, who works at a Walmart, was pursuing an associate’s degree. Carmona spent about a month couch surfing before he left for college in a rental car. He saw his mother briefly before he left, said her father-in-law Bob D’Angelo. Carmona left Fordham midway through the first semester and his friends assumed it was because of financial struggles or grades. He never told them he had been arrested for stealing a woman’s car after driving to Pennsylvania to attempt suicide.
Four months later, Carmona, 18, is in jail on a charge of first degree murder, awaiting a bail hearing Monday. His public defender declined to comment for this story. Carmona was arrested after being pulled over by a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy Monday night. Investigators said he had intended to kill his stepfather, too, but his plan fell through. The family has told his step-sister that her mother won’t be coming home. Talking to her about her brother will be a harder conversation. They’ve set up a gofundme.com page to help pay costs they’re incurring from the slaying.
“I don’t think I can call him my friend knowing what he’s done, but for a while he was my best friend,” Hernandez said. “When I think back on all of those interactions I still feel the same and those memories I’ll never forget.”
Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.
- ^ BACKSTORY: Son, 18, accused of killing his mother on her birthday (www.tampabay.com)
DAVENPORT Delores A. Weiskopf, 77, of Davenport, passed away Thursday, March 23, 2017, at Good Samaritan Society, Davenport. Funeral services will be at noon Monday, March 27, at Runge Mortuary. Visitation will be two hours prior to the service. Burial will be in Pine Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Good Samaritan Society, Davenport. Online tributes and condolences may be expressed at rungemortuary.com.
Delores was born Jan. 27, 1940, in Davenport, the daughter of Albert and Dorothy (Boltz) Weiskopf. After high school, she moved to Louisiana and worked as a security guard for Shell Oil. In 1995, she moved back to the Quad-Cities and recently retired from the I-80 Truck Stop in Walcott.
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In her spare time, she really enjoyed spending time at the casinos with friends and family. Those left to honor her memory include her brother, Wayne Weiskopf; sisters, Karol (Elmer) Mangels, and Marlene (Edward) Allers; three nieces, five nephews and her precious cat, Mittens. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her brother, Daniel.
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Sault Ste. Marie Spring has officially arrived in Michigan, at least on the calendar. To the U.S. Coast Guard, it s still winter and Operation Taconite is underway.
Its mission is to break up the ice fields of the upper Great Lakes, where the duty of opening shipping lanes for vessels falls to the Coast Guard and its only heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Mackinaw.
This year has not been as challenging as the past couple of years; there is less ice, said Commander Vasilios Tasikas of the USCGC Mackinaw. Whitefish Bay has the most ice, and we will escort the first vessels through this weekend. In an average year, the Coast Guard breaks ice for 120 days, helping half a billion dollars in commodities maneuver through the Great Lakes.
It s very gratifying to do what we do, Tasikas said. But concerns over keeping the state s commodities moving following recent harsh winters have renewed interest in having a second heavy icebreaker join forces with the Mackinaw to clear the frigid waterways.
Two years ago, then President Barack Obama signed into law the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015, appropriating $17.5 billion for Coast Guard activities. It provides funds for the design and construction of an icebreaker that is capable of buoy tending and to enhance icebreaking on the Great Lakes. But funding for it is on hold as the new Trump administration pours over financial appropriations for all facets of government. U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, a member of the Commerce Committee s Subcommittee of Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, is pushing, along with U.S. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, for another heavy icebreaker.
It is essential that Congress provides the men and women of the Coast Guard with the resources they need to keep open shipping lanes in the Great Lakes, wrote Peters and Stabenow in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard.
Mathew Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, spoke to the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in 2016, stating it would take years to build a new polar icebreaker but less time to complete a new Great Lakes icebreaker. It took 28 months to complete the construction of the Mackinaw in 2005 in Marinette, Wisconsin. The U.S. Coast Guard operates nine icebreaking-capable cutters on the Great Lakes, including heavy icebreaker USCGC Mackinaw. A home port for a new heavy icebreaker could be a financial boon to the city that is selected. Mackinaw City, Charlevoix and several other ports have expressed interest in becoming that port.
Cheboygan County District One commissioner Chris Brown of Cheboygan, where the Mackinaw is stationed, said the icebreaker would have at least a $7 million to $9 million impact on the chosen community
The ship has the potential of up to 40 families living wherever the new vessel is stationed, Brown said.
Low risk of slowdowns
Whitefish Bay, which is on the eastern end of the southern shore of Lake Superior, has eight inches of ice with some windrows up to 28 inches this season. According to Scott Sutherland, meteorologist for the Weather Network, there is near-record low ice cover on the Great Lakes this season, which is partly caused by the warmest water temperatures in 16 years. Ice coverage has averaged around 12 percent of the Great Lakes, with the North Channel on Lake Huron, Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior and Green Bay on Lake Michigan all holding the most ice.
The conditions are a dramatic change from only a few years ago. The heavy ice of the winters of 2013-15 was legendary, with freighters stuck for days in Lake Superior and Lake Huron, waiting for escort through the ice. The heavy ice winter of 2013-14, when losses were estimated at nearly 7 million tons, caused two steel mills and coal power plants to reduce production at an estimated loss of nearly 4,000 jobs and $700 million in revenue. The winter of 2014-15 saw the Great Lakes almost entirely covered in thick ice, causing shipping losses of 3.2 million tons, according to the offices of Peters and Stabenow, costing $355 million in lost revenue and nearly 2,000 jobs.
But the shipping season this year should not have any slowdowns. Five Coast Guard vessels the Biscayne Bay, Katmai Bay, Morro Bay, Mobile Bay and the 240-foot USCGC Mackinaw were preparing the St. Mary s River and the Soo Locks this past week by cutting lanes through the ice fields for the shipping season, which officially began at midnight Friday. The Mackinaw was the first vessel through the Poe Lock on March 15. The heavy cutter freed the ice-bound lock and traveled north toward Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior, opening a channel. Cold nights will refreeze the passage, which will be kept open by the ship as needed.
The locks close in early January each year for winter maintenance and open for the shipping season in late March as steel factories along the shores of the lower lakes need fresh supplies of ore for production. Coal-fired electric facilities also need to replenish their supplies of coal.
Ore, coal, fuel and grain will be some of the cargo being carried to distant ports, said Lt. j.g. Chantal Early of the USCG Mackinaw.
Inside the Mackinaw
The history of using heavy icebreakers on the Great Lakes dates back to an acquisition program in 1936. The mission continues today, with the addition of tending buoys for safe navigation, search-and-rescue operations and law enforcement. The original Mackinaw, commissioned in 1944, was 290 feet in length with a beam of more than 74 feet. It was built during WWII to keep shipping lanes on the Great Lakes open so iron ore and copper from the Upper Peninsula could be delivered to the steel mills along the lower Great Lakes, providing raw material to produce tanks, airplanes, jeeps and other critical machinery to the war effort. Replacing the aging icebreaker after its 62 years of service was another Mackinaw in 2006. Displacing 3,500 tons, the icebreaker has worked the Great Lakes for 10 seasons.
I was pleased they kept the Mackinaw name on this new ship, Tasikas said. The legacy continues.
Carrying a crew of nine officers, five chief petty officers and 41 crew, the ship is the only one in the Coast Guard fleet with Azipods, a brand of electric thrusters in two pods with 10-foot propellers that can be turned 360 degrees, allowing them to direct their thrust in any direction. The pods remove the need for a rudder and the traditional wheel in the pilot house. Two control paddles can operate independently by the pilot. The ship has four stations with similar controls, allowing the pilot to maneuver the vessel from several locations onboard, giving maximum visual control.
The ship can spin on a dime, Tasikas said. We can be very creative in how we maneuver the ship. Coupled with a 550 horsepower bow thruster, the ship is exceptionally maneuverable. Maximum speed is 15 knots, and the ship can break through 32 inches of fresh water ice and up to 10 feet of refrozen brash ice or ridge ice.
Tasikas said he has enjoyed his three years on the Great Lakes. He heads to the classrooms at the Marine Corps War College in Virginia this summer.
I feel very fortunate to be part of this Great Lakes crew, he said. It s been a real joy.
John L. Russell is a photojournalist and writer from Traverse City.
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