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Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website

Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006.

In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.


Twitter: @Gangrey

  1. Aramis Ayala: the Florida state attorney who refuses to pursue the death penalty

    Public Safety

    ORLANDO — When Aramis Ayala began campaigning for state attorney in this Central Florida district last year, so few people knew her that she handed out cards informing voters how to pronounce her name.

    While she'd worked for eight years as a public defender and nearly two years in the Orlando state attorney's office, she was a political novice seeking public office for the first time. She worried about name recognition in a race against her boss, who had swept into office in 2012 thanks in part to his high-profile role in the infamous Casey Anthony trial. The Michigan native didn't even live in Orange or Osceola counties; she promised to move into the district....

    Incumbent Jeff Ashton was defeated by Ayala in the primary.
  2. National Hurricane Center rolls out new look for 'cone of uncertainty'


    As storm forecasters have grown more certain over the years about the potential path a hurricane will take, the popular "cone of uncertainty" used in models has grown smaller. But widespread misunderstanding of the cone has prompted forecasters to try to improve the tool.

    This year the National Hurricane Center will use a modified tool with an even sleeker tracking cone and an advancement they hope will help people not directly in a storm's path better understand the potential danger they face....

    George Thornton inspects damage to the Mantanzas Innlet Restaurant  in St. Augustine, after last year's Hurricane Matthew raked Florida's east coast. The National Hurricane Center has announced some new products for the 2017 hurricane season.  DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  3. What kind of person leaves a child in a hot car to die?


    Last year, it happened in Fresno, Calif., to a grandmother so distraught she could not tell responding police officers a single thing, couldn't form words. It also happened in Salisbury, N.C., to a mother who left her daughter in a black Chevrolet outside a medical center, where she worked. It happened again near Dallas, Texas, to 2-year-old Boi Lei Sang, whose parents were at bible study at Rehoboth Praise Assembly when they noticed on a hot day that only four of their five children were inside the church....

    A display in memory of two-year-old Jacob Manchego hangs outside BFF Kidz day care center Wednesday afternoon. Manchego died Tuesday after his half-sister went to work at the day care center and left him in her car for more than five hours. [Anastasia Dawson]
  4. Review: Mullen's 'Darktown' a compelling history-based crime novel


    Thomas Mullen's latest novel, Darktown, was snatched up by Jamie Foxx's production company to be made into a television series before it even hit shelves last fall. Just a few pages in and one can see why.

    The captivating murder mystery and police procedural is precisely right for this time, when it would do good for many Americans to learn something about the complexity of race relations and policing in the post-World War II South. This suspenseful novel penetrates that historical void in American policing that's easily forgotten but was the foundation for what has come to be known as modern community policing....

    Darktown is inspired by the real-life story of the first black police officers hired, due to political pressure, by the Atlanta Police Department.
  5. Epilogue: Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 'the funniest guy in the room', died while on a run

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — When young Jamie Gaar began courting the woman who would become his wife, he tried to impress her by making oatmeal pancakes for her birthday.

    "They were awful," she said recently.

    He tried again, but made brownies this time.

    "I don't know how you mess up brownies," she said. "But he did."

    Alas, as the lovestruck are inclined to do, he kept trying. He devoured cooking videos on YouTube. He consumed columns from Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times. He asked chefs he bumped into why certain spices work well together on the palate while others clash....

    Jamie Hawkins-Gaar, 32, died earlier this month while running.
  6. Closing of Ringling Bros. circus brings back 146 years of memories

    Human Interest


    You've heard, of course. The curtain has come down on The Greatest Show on Earth. Barring unexpected salvation, Sunday's Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show will be the last here. In May, after 146 years, it all comes to a stop.

    The news has given way to nostalgia.

    "I was 6 months old my first time," said Richard Knight Sr., 35, sitting outside Amalie Arena earlier this week, waiting on the show. "I've seen the pictures, me smiling. Dad was rarely around. My mom always told me, 'You were happiest at the circus.' "...

    Clowns perform at the Ringling Bros And Barnum & Bailey Circus at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The circus has announced it will be shutting down in 2017 after more than a hundred years in operation.
  7. Seminole Heights hipsters wake up to a sign of the times … and they revolt

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The prankster went to work under the cover of darkness, sometime after last call. When the sun came up one recent Saturday morning and the tattooed denizens of Old Seminole Heights began to trickle into the Independent Bar and Cafe, they noticed the sign on the opposite side of Florida Avenue, planted near the edge of a recently cleared construction site.

    "COMING SOON!" it taunted. "WORLD OF BEER."...

    Neighbors on Facebook reacted to this World of Beer sign, posted on Florida Avenue earlier this month, across the street from the Independent Bar and Cafe.
  8. Ruskin man who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn is free from prison

    Human Interest

    RUSKIN — Doug Hughes, the former mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest government corruption, returned home on Wednesday, his 62nd birthday, after serving three months of a four-month prison sentence at Federal Detention Center Miami....

  9. Boys' remains from troubled Dozier school to be buried in Tallahassee, memorial to be erected on school grounds

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA — The bones came up from the red earth of Jackson County, from a forgotten corner of the campus of Florida's oldest reform school. Putting them back into the ground, deciding how and where the remains of boys who died in state custody should spend eternity, proved hard.

    After a tense, emotional, five-hour meeting of a task force charged with making that decision, the nine-member board voted to recommend that the legislature rebury the boys somewhere in Tallahassee and erect some sort of monument at the reform school, acknowledging the school's history....

    The exterior of the White House, a small building on the campus of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys where dozens of men have alleged they were beaten by members of the schools staff. [Times (2014)]
  10. Review: 'One in a Billion' a gripping true story of scientists' race to save a little boy


    Imagine you have a 4-year-old boy with bright blue eyes and a high-pitched voice, a boy who won't remove his Batman mask and loves Bagel Bites so much he cuddles with a bag of them at night. Now imagine that the boy has an illness that has stymied his growth and causes him scream-session pain, an illness that creates fistulas, or tiny holes, in his intestine, causing stool to drain into his abdomen and leak out unnatural holes in the surface of his skin....

    One in a Billion: The Story of Nic Volker and the Dawn of Genomic Medicine is a gripping and true story of humanity, science and the fight for survival.
  11. Deputy improperly fired concussion round at Army veteran in Pasco County Jail (w/video)

    Public Safety

    On the evening of Aug. 5, an Army veteran with a history of mental illness was in the throes of an episode inside his solitary cell in the J wing of the Pasco County jail. Matthew Trevino, 29 at the time, had stripped off his clothes and was combative and mouthing off to a handful of detention deputies trying to conduct a routine search for contraband in his cell.

    A video of the incident, filmed by a detention deputy at the jail, showed Pasco County sheriff's deputies trying to get Trevino to "cuff up" — to extend his hands through the food slot in the metal door so they could handcuff him and execute the search. Trevino instead grabbed his genitals and mumbled incoherently through a small window in the locked door....

    A video screen grab shows a detention officer shooting at inmate Matthew Trevino through a jail cell food slot last August.
  12. Gyrocopter pilot reports to Miami prison to do time for protest in Washington (w/video)

    Human Interest

    TAMPA – He'll miss Father's Day and the Fourth of July. He'll miss those once-in-a-while mornings when his wife brings him Folgers in bed. He'll miss his daughter, and the newspaper, and 120 days of freedom.

    For his brash act of telling the United States government that it has been corrupted by the influence of big money in elections, albeit by landing his gyrocopter on the green grass in front of the U.S. Capitol building, Doug Hughes turned himself in Tuesday to the Federal Detention Center in Miami, where he'll serve four months of hard time....

    Doug Hughes hugs his daughter, Kathy, 12, as he says goodbye to her and his wife, Alena, before reporting to prison in Miami.
  13. Before Orlando massacre, killer Omar Mateen visited parents one last time

    Public Safety

    PORT ST. LUCIE — Hours before Omar Mateen attacked an Orlando nightclub on Sunday, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, he did something not out of the ordinary for him:

    He stopped by his parents' house to visit with his father.

    In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Seddique Mateen, 59, said nothing about his son seemed amiss during that Saturday visit.

    "It was just a normal day of life for him," the father said Monday. "I didn't notice anything. Not a single thing wrong."...

    Seddique Mir Mateen, the father of Omar Mateen, who massacred 50 people and wounded 53 more at a gay nightclub in Orlando, speaks to reporters Monday in front of his home in Port St. Lucie. [New York Times]
  14. Omar Mateen: Angry, pious 'lost soul' driven to kill


    FORT PIERCE — Inside the humble little mosque where Omar Mateen regularly came to pray, a handful of worshipers gathered Sunday evening and struggled, along with the rest of the world, to understand what had driven him to kill.

    On Friday, Mateen had faced east with the other regulars at the Islamic Center and bowed to a God who prizes justice and peace above all else, said Imam Shafeeq Rahman, who leads prayers at the center....

    Omar Mateen, 29, the gunman at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, was described as antisocial and withdrawn.
  15. Former mailman Doug Hughes gets 4 months in prison for gyrocopter protest at U.S. Capitol (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — For 13 years, Doug Hughes delivered the mail for the United States Postal Service without issue. Now he's being sent to live in a prison cell for trying to deliver the most important message of his life.

    The former mailman from Ruskin, who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last year to protest how political campaigns are financed, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 120 days in prison. Hughes also received one year of probation, and he can't enter the Capitol building or the White House without special permission from the court....

    Doug Hughes of Ruskin arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Washington, on Thursday. Hughes flew a gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington to protest the need for campaign finance reform. [Cliff Owen | Associated Press]