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Strange coincidence

April 30, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
I thought I'd share with you a strange coincidence that occurred during my family's recent Florida vacation.

When I was in middle school in Dunedin, Fla., my parents subscribed to the St. Petersburg Times. I didn't know at the time it was considered one of the best newspapers in the country and its chairman in 1975 founded the respected Poynter Institute journalism school located in town. All I know is, at that young age, I feasted on the St. Pete Times every day, cover to cover. I guess it's no surprise what field I chose as a career.

When I think back to those formative years, a particular series about a murder case in Gulfport, Fla., a St. Pete suburb, sticks in my mind. I read every word of reporter Thomas French's multi-part investigative series, called "A Cry in the Night," published in late 1986. I was 13. The series appeared on the front of the Floridian section, my favorite part of the paper — you know, the part with the comics, the horoscopes, the food and the adivice columns, sort of like the Arts & Living section in our papers.

The series was written in the style of a novel and it captivated me. I've thought about it many times over the years. The title came from the fact that victim Karen Gregory cried out when attacked in her home, and several neighbors reported later they heard her scream, but no one called the police. The series thrilled me with its in-depth biographical details, the twists and turns of Karen's life and the whodunit. I was fascinated that all this was a true story that read like the crime novels I enjoyed, and a new installment was delivered to my home every morning!

Fast forward 22 years. I'm living in my native Ohio. My mom and stepdad also moved away from Dunedin but still have a condo there. I had never been to the condo -- and actually hadn't been back to Dunedin in 10 years -- but in early April, my husband, 2-year-old daughter and I spent a week there soaking up the sun and taking in the Dunedin Highland Games.

My husband walked to the nearest box and bought the Times every day we were there. On Sunday, April 13, I sat reading a front page article by Leonora Lapeter Anton about a woman named Denise Lee's abduction and murder ("She died as deputies were left unaware"). It reminded me again of Karen's murder — only this time people did call 911 and she still ended up dead. I shook my head as I put down the front page, and opened my mouth to tell my husband of the Karen Gregory murder in the 1980s that captivated me.

At the same time, he passed me the Floridian section. And there it was! The headline read: "A cry in the night"! it was a special report , "a murder case revisited" — THE murder case that just was on the tip of my tongue. And the article was by the same reporter, Thomas French. Inside was a photo of Karen Gregory, her long straight dark hair and Mona Lisa smile. I was flabbergasted.

Turns out her neighbor and main suspect, George Lewis, had indeed been tried and convicted all those years ago but has continued to maintain his innocence. Now, DNA testing is under way that should put the case to rest once and for all. I've been checking the site to find out the results but haven't seen any yet.

If you're interested in reading the entire series, first published in the St. Pete Times in 1986, follow the link to the right. It will tell you about the series and then you can link to it from there (it lists the year as 1988 because that's when a special section containing the whole series was published.) Thomas French's April 13 update also can be found by searching the site.


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