The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 47 - August 13, 2008


Shooter convicted on all counts
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Sue Normand identifies the defendant, Mark Koenigs,
in court last week as the man who shot her on Dec. 5 as she worked
in her packing and shipping store in Holmes Beach.

Mark Koenigs was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer with a firearm and one count of aggravated battery with a weapon last Friday. He could get life in prison.

Koenigs, 55, who owned a condo unit in south Bradenton Beach, was accused of walking into Island Mail and More the morning of Dec. 5 and shooting store owner Susan Normand. She still uses a cane to walk.

Normand testified that she knew Koenigs as a customer and when he came in that morning, she put a box on her counter. She took it and moved and felt something inside move. She told him that it needed more packing and he took the box and said he only wanted stamps. When she turned to the count, she saw a flash of light and felt pain.

A customer, Bruce Henke, heard the shot and heard Normand say she had been shot. He stepped over her as she had gone down to the floor behind her counter and call 911. He then helped apply pressure on her wound to stop the bleeding using paper towels.

Meanwhile, Koenigs ran from the store right after the shooting carrying the gun and walked south on the beach to just past Bridge Street before a Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy and a Holmes Beach Police officer confronted him. They fired on him and he was hit three times after he refused to put down the weapon he was holding, the small handgun that was used in Norman’s shooting. Koenigs did not testify in his defense and the jury took about three and a half hours to deliberate before returning the verdict late in the afternoon.

"I am obviously pleased and relieved that that man will be going to jail for a long time," Normand said the day after the verdict was returned. "I feel he would be a danger if he was out of jail."

After the verdict, Normand hugged assistant state attorney Lauren Berns, who prosecuted the case with assistant state attorney Jamie Rosenberg.

"I think he did a great job," Normand said of Berns.

Koenigs, who sat in a wheelchair during the trial, expressed no emotion for most of the trial. He sat staring ahead or down at the desk most of the time. The only time he spoke was when Manatee County Circuit Judge Diane Moreland asked him if he was waiving his right to testify in his defense willingly.

Koenigs will be sentenced in six weeks. He could get life in prison because his conviction of three criminal acts using firearms qualifies him for such a sentence.

The jury asked to hear the testimony from the two law enforcement officers who brought Koenigs down on the beach before rendering its decision. The court reconvened and the transcript of the testimonies from Deputy Angel Buxeda and officer Mike Pilato was replayed.

Buxeda said he fired four shots at Koenigs when the suspect refused to put down his handgun. He said it looked like Koenigs was going to put it down when he dropped his shoulder, but he immediately went the other way and started to point it at the deputy.

Pilato said he was about to fire at Koenigs, but aborted fire when he heard shots from Buxeda’s pistol.

Bradenton Beach Police Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz was also on the scene. He testified that as he watched Koenigs, he thought to himself, "My God, why aren’t they shooting him?"

He said just after that thought, Buxeda opened fire.

There was some doubt about whether the jury would convict Koenigs on the charge of aggravated battery against Normand because Koenig’s defense lawyer, assistant public defender Peter Belmont, argued that the shooting was an accident. One of the keys to the prosecution’s case was the fact that the pistol Koenigs used contained a clip with four rounds in it. In addition, a fanny pack he was wearing contained another clip that fit into the gun, indicating he may not have wanted to mail that gun in the first place.

Teitelbaum adds Seaside Inn to portfolio
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The Seaside Inn was purchased recently by David Teitelbaum.

BRADENTON BEACH – This resort city has been good to David Teitelbaum and he has returned the favor in the form of adding to Bradenton Beach’s inventory of rooms for rent.

His latest venture involves purchasing Seaside Inn and Resort at 2200 Gulf Drive, located on the beach just north of the S curve.

Teitelbaum said he would give the rooms makeovers including changes in floorplans for some of the units, new windows and doors, tile flooring, an upgraded roof, a hot tub for the top unit and local wi-fi. There will also be a new name – Seaside Inn Beach Resort.

A landmark fixture on the beach, the Seaside Inn and Resort offers six studio units and an extra room on the ground floor. The second floor features a one-bedroom unit that can be expanded to include to extra rooms to sleep more people.

Teitelbaum said he and his partners purchased this unit in a time when real estate sales are depressed because of the income it generates.

"I think this resort is unique," he said. "It has the ability to pay its way as a resort."

Teitelbaum, who replaced a ramshackle collection of wood fishing cabins with mixture of modern residences and commercial units called Old Bridge Village near Bridge Street, also bought the Tortuga Inn and Trade Winds, all in Bradenton Beach. He refurbished Trade Winds, a collection of stand-alone units with their own parking spaces, and added a considerable number of rooms to Tortuga Inn. He then sold the units in both resorts to investors while keeping them as tourist lodgings. He said he does not have plans to convert Seaside Inn and Resort into condo ownership because of the income it generates.

"Eighty percent of the customers here are returns or referrals," he said. "There is a loyal base of customers here."

Teitelbaum, who sits on Manatee County Tourist Development Council, said this beachfront property has a future because Anna Maria Island continues to grow as a nationally-known tourist destination.

"People are coming from within the state because of the price of gas," he said. "They would rather visit a nice area with great beaches close to home."

He points out the fact that Anna Maria Island has great restaurants, beautiful beaches and the free trolleys that allow people to come here, park their cars and enjoy a vacation without having to fill a gas tank.

As for the Seaside Inn and Resort, soon to be the Seaside Beach Resort, he feels people will continue to enjoy it.

"It ain’t broke and I think it has been well managed in the past," he said. "It’s on the beach and people love it."

Sign up for O’Connor Bowling Challenge

The 18th annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge, sponsored by The Sun, is set for Saturday, Aug. 23, at AMF Bowling Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton.

Pre-registration is highly recommended for this sell-out event. Bowlers must sign up by noon Thursday, Aug. 21, to be guaranteed a lane. Registration is at Duffy’s Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

The donation is $25 per person, which includes shoes and three games. If there are any lanes left, bowlers can sign up at the bowling alley at 5:30 p.m. Bowling starts promptly at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m.

All proceeds from the event are donated to the Island Community Center to purchase sports equipment. In the past 17 years, more than $210,000 has been donated.

This year’s after party will be held at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, 6696 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. Oyster bar owner John Horne has promised beer and margarita stations, a full bar and bowlers’ specials.

Raffle tickets for a big screen television donated by The Sun and hundreds of outstanding prizes from local merchants and restaurants will be available at the bowling alley. Tickets are six for $5. O’Connor has also promised a few surprises along with the prizes.

In addition to the raffle, trophies will be awarded at the after party. Trophies include high and low game male and female, high series male and female and the Chuck Stearns Memorial High Game Trophy, The trophy is in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles "Chuck" Stearns, who passed away in 2005.

For information, call Billy O’Connor at 650-5488.

Suicide shocks beachgoers

BRADENTON BEACH – A 79-year-old man killed himself while sitting on a bench at the trolley turnaround in Coquina Beach on Tuesday, July 29, shocking trolley riders, beach visitors and workers at the concession stand.

Bradenton Beach Police Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz said the man, whose name is being whithheld by The Sun as a matter of policy, apparently shot himself in the stomach. Diaz said he left one note for police and another for his family. He said the victim was depressed and had some health issues, but he did not release the contents of the notes.

The man had been sitting on the trolley stop bench for some time, according to trolley driver Kim Tuttle. He told Diaz that the man got on Tuttle’s trolley around 8:30 a.m. Before Tuttle left the turnaround, the man got off the trolley and sat on the bench. When Tuttle returned to the turnaround at 9:25 a.m., the man was still sitting on the bench. Tuttle said he drove past the man to let riders off at the next bench and that was when he heard a shot fired.

"Then I ran over to the man," he told Diaz. "He was still moving so I moved his gun from his side and called dispatch."

Gerald Kubeck of Ellenton, a cook at the concession stand, said a customer came into the kitchen and said he thought a man had been shot in the parking lot. He and café manager Larry Wedrow went to investigate and they found the man lying on the ground moaning.

"I told Larry Wedrow to call 911 and then I discovered a note on the bench next to where the man on the ground was laying," he told Diaz. "I picked up the envelope with my left hand and saw it was addressed to the police officer in charge so I set it back on the bench."

Diaz said they found the victim’s vehicle in the parking lot with a second note inside along with medication in the front seat and other personal items.

Bridging calendar due soon

Bridging the Gap is coming together and organizers hope to have a calendar of events soon.

Bridging the Gap organizers, including Ginny and Jane E’s owner Ginny Dutton and Anna Maria Island Sun Sales Manager Chantelle Lewin met with event organizers Monday to check on their progress.

“We need to get dates for each event,” said Lewin. “The Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been great about getting the word but they need to know when everything will occur and the publisher of the Suncoast Travel Host Magazine wants to run a calendar, but his deadline is next week.”

The draft calendar shows the karaoke contest starting at the Elks Club in Bradenton on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 4, there will be a Bridge Street Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., a miniature golf tournament at the Fish Hole on Bridge St. starting at 10 a.m. and a concert in the park that evening.

On Sunday, there will be a skimboard tournament and a sandcastle contest.

The group meets again at 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 18, at Ginny’s. All event chairs need to attend. Call Chantelle at 778-3986 for information.

Bridging the Gap events

• Bayfest and Music Festivals, Cindy Thompson, 761-4766
• Tennis tournament, Kip Lalosh, 778-5446
• Realtor progressive open house, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Dog costume contest, The Sun newspaper, 778-3986
• Sand castle tournament, Pam Fortenberry, 778-0436
• Skim Board Bash, Ronee Brady, 778-1001
• ArtsHOP Weekend, twalk, Joyce Karp, 778-2099
• Fishing tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Mini-golf tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Progressive raffle, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Trolley scavenger hunt, Linda Haack, 779-2545, ext. 1130, and Caryn Hodge, 778-8705
• Key Royale Golf Tournament, Tom Tollette, 779-1888
• Bicycle tour, Lauren Sato, 352-514-6545
• Motorcycle run, Laura McAdams, 792-6366
• Bridging the Gap Flea Market, Ginny Dutton, 778-7370
• Concert in the Park, Mark Kimball, 518-6329 and Steve Bark, 720-3200
• Holly Trolly, Sabine Musil, 778-5405
• Pickleball, Robert Taylor, 778-6465
• Wing eating contest and karaoke contest, Tom Siwa, 419-341-1035.
• Softball tournament, Jeff Levine, 744-6883.

Lost ring returned thanks to Sun classified
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Rita and Steve Garry at
their home in New Jersey with the wedding
ring he lost in April at Coquina Beach.

BRADENTON BEACH – A classified ad in The Anna Maria Island Sun was all it took to get a New Jersey man’s lost ring back to him.

The free lost and found ad read, "Lost man’s gold wedding ring at Coquina Beach #6 on 4/11. Inside ring is 11/11/50. Call collect."

The ring belongs to Steve Garry, of South Hampton, N.J., and his wife, Rita, said he was sick when he lost it.

"He was in the water about waste deep when it got caught on one of those floating noodles," Rita said. "We looked, but couldn’t find it."

Rita said she told her husband she was going to put the ad into The Sun, and he said not to bother.

"I put the ad in anyway," she said. "The man at The Sun (Bob Alexander) was so nice."

The Garrys own a winter home in Bradenton and went back to New Jersey.

"I called The Sun again and asked to change the telephone number in the ad to our number in New Jersey," she said. "I got the same man and he was nice to me again."

Rita said that they got a call from John Pontier, of Anna Maria, in the middle of June wanting us to describe the ring.

"We were married on Nov. 11, 1950, and that was the date inscribed in the ring," she said. "He mailed it to us after confirming it was ours."

Pontier, a photographer, said he has a waterproof metal detector and he reads the want ads to see what’s missing. He said he enjoys finding what people lose and returning it.

"A lot of rings get found, but not returned," he said. "The two things that helped get this ring back to its owner is they put an ad in the paper and the ring has an inscription, which they put in the ad."

Pontier said he found the ring still in the water off Coquina Beach.

"What I thought was unusual was that nobody else found it," he said. "There are a lot of people who go out there with metal detectors."

Pontier, who has been hunting for objects seriously for 15 years, said there are a lot of Good Samaritans out there who try to return jewelry and other objects to their owners.

"I have a friend who has returned 77 items over the years," he said.

If you lose something while at the beach, it might be a good idea to put an ad in The Sun classifieds. You never know who might find it.

Feeding brown pelicans now illegal
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Pelicans frequent docks, where they
often get free fish scraps that get stuck in their throats.
Feeding brown pelicans is now illegal.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and brown pelicans that are fed by people are paying with their lives, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has passed a rule against feeding the birds.

The rule prohibits the intentional feeding or placement of food that attracts pelicans and changes their natural behavior to their detriment, including dumping large amounts of fish scraps or by-catch.

Violation of the rule is a second-degree misdemeanor with fines up to $500 and jail sentences up to 60 days.

"We’re looking at fish processing houses, fishing boats dumping by-catch and places that sell food for tourists to feed pelicans," commission spokeswoman Karen Parker said, citing several reasons for the rule.

Pelicans that are hand fed by fishermen often become bold enough to steal fish off lines and get snagged by fish hooks, which can cause infection and death, she said.

Another problem plagues north Florida pelicans, some of which are so accustomed to free food that they don’t migrate south during the winter, and suffer frostbite or die from exposure.

But the most common problem is that pelicans are literally biting off more than they can chew when people feed them fish scraps larger than the fish they would hunt on their own. Hundreds of pelicans have been found dead from starvation, strangulation or puncture wounds because they have swallowed fish bones too big for their throats, she said.

"Like all of us, we’re going to go after a free meal," Parker said.

"It’s very much a problem," said Beth Weir, who has patrolled for injured pelicans with Bradenton Beach-based Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation for five years.

"When they’re fishing, they’ll go after an appropriate size fish," she said. "But a pelican doesn’t understand about the size of fish scraps thrown to it. A pelican tries to expel the bones, fins and head, and it tears their pouch and blocks their throat. It’s a slow death."

About a third of the 150 pelicans rescued in the past few months came from a boat ramp where people throw out fish carcasses, she said.

"The bones tear out their throat," she said. "It takes the vet six to eight hours to do repairs."

While the new law is aimed primarily at commercial fishermen, "Anyone who feeds pelicans encourages them to be around people and opens them up to more hook and line disasters," Weir said.

Commercial fish house A.P. Bell in Cortez works with Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation and the Wildlife Rescue Service, Karen Bell said.

Earlier this month, a dockside memorial service was held there for Wildlife Rescue Service co-founder Ellie Smith, recognizing her lifetime of work with wild animals, particularly pelicans.

"She would say she ‘removed jewelry’ from pelicans," Bell said, referring to fish hooks snagged in pelicans’ pouches.

A stainless steel cover keeps pelicans and other birds from nabbing fish from the conveyer belt that moves fish from boats to the fish house, Bell said. The cover also keeps pelicans from getting their beaks stuck in the conveyer, she added.

"We don’t try to feed them purposely," she said. "They do that without us feeding them. We don’t want them eating our fish."

The prohibition against feeding brown pelicans went into effect in July, but officers will take six months or so to educate people before beginning to issue citations, Parker said.

"One tourist feeding one fish to one pelican for a photo opportunity may not harm that bird," she said. "But there may be 50 other people feeding that same pelican."

Pelican facts

• Adult brown pelicans have 6- to 7-foot wingspans.

• The average adult pelican weighs 8 pounds.

• The oldest pelican on record lived 43 years.

• Pelicans lay two to three eggs that take about a month to hatch. A young pelican requires about 50 pounds of food and about 75 days to reach its fledging, or first flight.

• The brown pelican nearly disappeared from North America between the 1950s and the early 1970s because of pesticide-laden runoff, which contaminated fish. The ingested pesticides killed many birds and caused thin-shelled eggs that could not withstand the weight of incubating birds.

• The brown pelican was placed on the endangered species list in 1970. After the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, reproduction rates improved and pelicans were taken off the endangered species list in the Southeast U.S. in 1985.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Notes from the courtroom
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Mark Koenigs listens to testimony during his trial
last week. Koenigs displayed very little emotion throughout the proceedings.

The Mark Koenigs trial is over and he was convicted last week of shooting Island Mail and More owner Sue Normand as she stood behind her counter that chilly Dec. 5 morning. He was also convicted of aggravated assault on two law enforcement officers who were trying to apprehend him on the beach.

Here are some observations after sitting in the courtroom for most of the trial.

Defendant Mark Koenigs sported a beard at the trial. He was in a wheelchair all the time, but stood up when the court bailiff called "All rise" as judge Diane Moreland entered or left the courtroom.

Four men and four women sat in the jury box. Only six of them were jurists and two were alternates.

In addition to the gun, Mark Koenigs had a Columbia fishing hat and some seashells in the box, according to testimony. When he brought it in to Normand, he did not have a mailing or return address on the box.

Sue Normand testified the first day of the trial (Wednesday) and she described how Koenigs put the box on her counter and she took it, realize something was loose inside and said he would need to put packing in it. He took it back and said he only needed stamps. She took it to process it and he took it back. At that point, he removed the tape (one piece of duct tape) from the top of the box. Prosecutor Lauren Berns later showed how Keonigs might have made a "tent" with the top flaps, slipped his hand into the box and brought the gun out. Public defender Peter Belmont said that Koenigs fumbled with the gun and it went off.

Normand broke into tears as she described the shooting. She described the look on Koenigs’ face as almost childlike. She said after she saw the light flash and felt the pain, she tried to reach for her phone to call police, but felt herself slipping. That’s when she asked customer Bruce Henke to use the phone.

During cross examination, Normand said that Koenigs had been a customer for about six months. She said he never conversed with her, but sometimes he would mumble about having to send certified mail.

When Holmes Beach Police officer Mike Pilato was asked about approaching Koenigs on the beach with his pistol drawn.

"It is regular procedure on someone who has already used deadly force," he said. "I figured he was trying to shoot us all."

Pilato said he was at the "ready" position as Koenigs spun the pistol around his finger like in an old-time western. He said he was about to fire when he heard another officer’s shots and saw Keonigs go down.

"I took my finger off the trigger and approached him as he went down," Pilato said.

When asked about adrenaline during the shooting, Pilato said there was none on his part. Just another day at the office.

On Thursday, Maureen Kirker testified what she saw as a customer in the store that morning. She and her husband, Gerald Kirby, arrived a half-hour before the shop opened and went to Walgreen’s to kill some time. They returned and sat at a table in front of the shop and watched as Koenigs walked toward the business. He tried the door, found it was locked and waited outside also. When Normand arrived, she commented that of all the days to be later than usual, she had a lot of customers waiting. She opened the door, went inside and started the process of opening. She had seen the couple waiting and went to her door and invited them in to wait. Koenigs did not come in at that time. Later, he approached the door and Normand saw him. She unlocked the door, but he had turned away by then. Later, he came in "cradling" his package and approached the counter, hitting Kirker with his elbow.

Former Holmes Beach Police Det. Sgt. Teri Davis also testified. She left the police department to take a job outside law enforcement.

Deputy Angel Buxeda, who confronted Koenigs on the beach and ordered him repeatedly to put down the gun, was asked if he knew how many officers were there with him. He answered he did not because his full attention was on the man in front of him holding the gun. When he described how Koenigs spun the gun around his finger, he said the gun finally stopped in the firing position.

"I had fear at that point that violence was eminent," he said. "I fired four times."

He said the first round that hit Koenigs spun him off balance and when he regained his balance, he pointed the gun at the deputy again. Buxeda said that’s when he fired three more rounds.

The prosecution called Kara Tallman, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms specialist, to testify about the condition of the gun. She said it took 8 1/2 pounds of pressure on the trigger to get the gun to fire. She said that was right in the middle of too sensitive and too hard to fire, which the prosecution said ruled out the possibility that it fired accidentally inside Normand’s shop.

When Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Mallardi testified about confronting Koenigs on the beach, he said he fired when he felt the suspect was about to shoot.

"I wasn’t about to let one of my deputies get shot," he said.

Bradenton Beach Det. Sgt. Lenard Diaz said at one time, Koenigs looked at the gun and then at the officers.

"That made me more scared," he said.

Holmes Beach Lt. Dale Stephenson was the last to testify. He was asked if he remember whether Bruce Henke had said that Koenigs walked or ran out of the business after the shooting. Stephenson said that according to his report, Henke said that Koenigs walked out.

It was an interesting experience that an Island reporter doesn’t have very often. The wheels of justice worked last week, and Sue Normand is relieved that Koenigs won’t be out on the street for a long time.

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