Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

Issued by the Media Relations Office,
Public Information Officer Deputy Becky Herrin

Click here to read press releases on other Sheriff's Office events and occurrences

March 31, 2013

California man stabs three family members

Plantation Key – A California man is in jail, charged with stabbing three family members with a knife.

When Deputy Joshua Brady arrived at the house on Galleon Road at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, he found three injured people, two women – the suspect’s mother and aunt -  with wounds on their arms and one man – the suspect’s uncle -  stabbed in the abdomen. He found blood all over the floor of the living room.

The uncle was yelling “he’s in there”, pointing to another room. The suspect’s mother refused to comply with the deputy’s orders to get behind him for safety. She was hysterical, yelling at the deputy to leave “him” alone and not to hurt him, meaning the suspect, 20 year old Jacob Knapper of Agoura Hills, California.

Suddenly, Knapper ran out of the other room, straight at Deputy Brady, yelling for the deputy to shoot him. The deputy could see Knapper had no weapons in his hands, so he grabbed him, holding him securely until backup officers arrived. Knapper was then handcuffed and taken into custody.

It is still unclear exactly what happened to precipitate Knapper’s attack on his family. His aunt says he called a friend of hers a nasty name in front of the friend’s children. A confrontation ensued with the uncle telling Knapper not to talk like that in front of children. Knapper reportedly told him he could talk any way he wanted, then grabbed a knife and stabbed the uncle and aunt.

The mother tells a different story. She says the uncle yelled at his daughter and Knapper told him not to. She says the uncle told Knapper to get out of the house and, while she and Knapper were packing to leave, the uncle and aunt came into the room. She said Knapper felt threatened and grabbed the knife to protect her. She said she saw her son swing the knife multiple times, injuring all three of them.

There were three children on the scene at the time of the stabbing. They were not injured. The uncle was transported to Mariner’s Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Knapper was booked into jail for three counts aggravated battery and resisting arrest.

Homestead man charged with DUI, reckless driving

A Homestead man was arrested on multiple traffic related charges Saturday night on Stock Island.

Deputy   Edgar Pineiro was at the 7 mile marker of the highway at 11 p.m. when the maroon Mitsubishi sped by him at 87 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. The deputy then used his rear radar to continue monitoring the car’s speed as he called for deputies south of him to watch for it. He saw the car’s speed increase, eventually reaching 127 miles per hour.

Sgt. Geni Hernandez stopped the vehicle at the 5.5 mile marker on Stock Island. She asked the driver, 46 year old Robert Rioseco, to step out. She also noticed there were three small children in the car.

The officers noticed signs that Rioseco was impaired. He smelled of alcohol, and his behavior was extremely erratic. He was sometimes calm, and other times agitated at one point acting as if he were going to attack and strike Sgt. Hernandez.

Rioseco was arrested and taken to jail. Once at the jail, he appeared to have trouble walking. He loudly refused to participate in sobriety exercises, swearing at Deputy Piniero and corrections officers.

Rioseco was charged with reckless driving, three counts of driving under the influence with someone under the age of 18 in the car, refusing to submit to a DUI test and three counts cruelty toward a child.

The children were turned over to their mother.

Traffic heavy, exacerbated by accidents and road work

Traffic was extremely heavy in the Upper Keys Saturday with road deputies reporting large back-ups caused by the road work on Duck Key and heavy holiday traffic causing back-ups between the 99 – 102 mile markers most of the day.

Twenty three reported accidents – mostly minor with no injuries – took place between Friday and Sunday morning, including:

An accident at the 101.4 mile marker at 5:28 p.m. involving three vehicles. Three people were transported to Mariner’s Hospital. Traffic was diverted around the accident scene, but still caused obstruction until the roadway opened at 6:20 p.m.

A single vehicle motorcycle accident killed the motorcycle’s driver early this morning on Summerland Key. A driver came across a man’s body at the corner of 4th Street and East Shore Drive just before 2 a.m. and called the Sheriff’s Office. Responding Deputy Spencer Curry found his motorcycle nearby. Florida Highway patrol is investigating the circumstances.

A man ran his car off the highway at the Shark Key boat ramp at 8:20 p.m. Friday, ending up stuck on the seawall. 56 year old Leon Mense of Sugarloaf Key refused treatment for minor injuries. He was charged with DUI and was booked into jail.

March 28, 2013

Fort Myers man charged with sexually assaulting young girl

A Fort Myers man is in jail on a $1.2 million bond, charged with sexually assaulting a young girl numerous times.

69 year old Alfonso Garcia-Rodriguez allegedly fondled and sexually assaulted her over a period of two years, between 2003 and 2005 when she was 6 – 8 years old. The incidents took place in Marathon.

Garcia-Rodriguez was arrested in Lee County on March 25th on a Monroe County warrant, then returned to Monroe County yesterday to face charges of two counts sexual battery on a victim under 12, three counts lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 12, three counts lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 12, and one count lewd and lascivious exhibition in the presence of a child.

March 27, 2013

Body found offshore of Key Largo is that of missing boater

A body found by the U.S. Coast Guard offshore of Key Largo Monday afternoon is that of missing boater Mark Polaschek. His identity was confirmed this morning by the medical examiner’s office, using dental records.

The 49 year old Davenport, Iowa man went missing on March 22nd after going out on a solo boat trip on his sailboat. He, his wife and his child were in the Keys on vacation, staying in Key Largo. His boat was found on March 23rd offshore of the 113 mile marker of the highway, on the gulf side.

It is unclear what happened to Polaschek, however detectives say they found no obvious signs of foul play on board the vessel.

Detectives and the medical examiner continue to investigate in an attempt to determine the cause of his death. The Sheriff’s Office is working on the case cooperatively with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

March 25, 2013

Iowa man missing after boat trip

Key Largo – A 49 year old Iowa man, in the Keys with his wife and six year old son for a vacation, has disappeared after leaving on a solo boat trip. His sailboat was recovered off the gulf side of Key Largo, near the Everglades.

His wife said 49 year old Mark Polaschek was not an experienced boater, but insisted he was going out on their sailboat on March 22nd. She said she did not like to go with him on the water because she was afraid of his lack of boating skills.

He reportedly left for the boat trip at 2 p.m. March 22nd and did not return. His wife reported him missing the same evening to the Coast Guard and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Those agencies searched for him. His sailboat was found the following morning, but he was not on board.

There was no evidence on the boat to indicate what might have happened to him. The investigation into his whereabouts continues. Sheriff's detectives and FWC investigators are working together on the case.

March 24, 2013

Woman charged with cruetly to child, drug possession

A Key Largo woman was arrested Saturday night, charged with cruelty to a child and possessing multiple illegal substances.

When Deputy Timothy Hunsberger arrived at the Circle K store at the 106 mile marker at 10 p.m., the clerk told him 45 year old Michelle Burdick was in the parking lot, in a vehicle. He said a patron of the store was trying to keep her from leaving because she was too impaired to drive.

The clerk said she’d been in the store with a young girl. He said Burdick had been acting erratically, throwing things around.

When Deputy Hunsberger confronted Burdick, asking what she was doing, she said she was taking the child to Key Largo park to ride bikes. The child – an eight year old girl - was sitting in the passenger seat of the car. Burdick was noticeably impaired, rambling in her speech and did not make sense when she tried to explain herself.

She was found to be in possession of cocaine – both powdered and crack – Xanax, Oxycodone, numerous items of drug paraphernalia. All the drugs were within easy reach of the child as she sat in the car.  More cocaine was found hidden on her body when she was brought into the detention center for booking.

Burdick was charged with two counts possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, two counts possession of cocaine, five counts possession of drug paraphernalia, tampering with evidence and smuggling contraband into a jail facility. She was booked into jail.

The child was turned over to child protective services.

March 20, 2013

Search warrant served on Stock Island

Stock Island - Sheriff's Special Investigations detectives, assisted by the Special Weapons and Tactics team, executed a search warrant this morning at a Stock Island residence.

The warrant was served at 35-A 8th  Avenue on Stock Island. Inside, detectives located 21 yea rold Lindsay Ray Yocham, 22 year old Alvere Parker and 33 year old Yoany Machado in the trailer. Other family friends were also present.

The search turned up 23 crack cocaine rocks and 4 grams of marijuana. A total of $1,275 in suspected drug proceeds were seized.

Yocham was charged with  possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Parker was charged with  possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Machado was charged with  possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

All three were booked into the Monroe County jail.

March 19, 2013

Search warrant on Stock Island

Stock Island - Sheriff's Special Investigations detectives, assisted by the Special Weapons and Tactics team, executed a search warrant this morning at a Stock Island residence.

The warrant was served at 5700 Laurel Avenue lot 62 on Stock Island. Inside, detectives located 27 year old Marvin Brent Wilcox in a rear apartment and a 17 year old male in the front apartment. Other family members were also present.

The search turned up 32 grams of marijuana, 18 methamphetamine pills, 90 suspected MDMA pills that will be sent to the lab for identification. A total of $3,530 in suspected drug proceeds were seized.

The 17 year old was charged with  possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of methamphetamine. Wilcox was charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Both were booked into jail.

March 18, 2013

Crime Stoppers tip nets arrest

Stock Island - A Crime Stoppers tip about someone wanted on an outstanding warrant turned into a drug arrest Sunday evening.

A Crime Stoppers tipster called the hot line number with the location of 26 year old Robert Anglin, who was wanted on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation. Sheriff’s dispatchers passed the information along to Deputy Chris Fraser and Sgt. Evan Calhoun, who went to Wilson Apartments on 3rd Avenue, Stock Island at 10 p.m. to check the information.

They found Anglin at the apartment listed in the Crime Stoppers tip. He was sitting on a couch inside. He was detained on the warrant. On the couch, next to where he was sitting was a “blunt” or Marijuana cigar. Behind where he was sitting, Deputy Fraser found a pill bottle. Inside were ten rocks of crack cocaine. In Anglin’s pocket, the deputy found $3,136.00 in small bills, which was seized as the possible proceeds of drug sales. A backpack Anglin said was his contained a digital scale.

Anglin was arrested. He was charged with possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken to jail. The tipster will receive a cash reward for the information.

Anyone with information which might lead to a felony arrest should contact Crime Stoppers. If the information does lead to an arrest, the tipster is eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 depending on the circumstances of the crime. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at www.tipsubmit.com.

Summerland man arrested for two burglaries

Summerland Key – A Summerland Key man was arrested Sunday after he admitted to committing two burglaries because he has a substance abuse problem.

Deputy Richard Wang responded Saturday to reports someone had burglarized a home on Ocean Drive and taken power tools from a storage area downstairs. The homeowner reported that 28 year old Steven Wenzel may be a suspect. He said a week before, Wenzel had entered his property and had tried to sell him some other power tools. He said he’d been suspicious of where the tools came from and did not buy them.

On Sunday, Deputy Wang responded to a home on West Indies Drive, Ramrod Key. Wenzel’s grandmother reported a 15,000 watt generator missing from her house overnight. She said she suspected Wenzel of stealing it because he was having substance abuse problems and “was getting worse.”

Deputy Want relocated to Wenzel’s house  on 7th Street, Summerland Key. He and Deputy Scott Ward questioned Wenzel about the burglaries. He admitted to committing them, and said he’d sold the generator to someone for $100, and the tools to someone else for a few hundred dollars.

He gave the deputies the names of those he sold the property to. They will be attempting to recover the property from those people so the property can be returned to the owners.

Wenzel was arrested. He was charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of grand theft. He was booked into jail.

Teens charged with car burglary

Islamorada - Two teens were arrested Sunday, charged with entering a car in the parking lot of a church and taking a cell phone from inside.

The victim called the Sheriff’s Office after he left San Pedro Catholic Church Sunday morning. He said he’d left his car unlocked and his Iphone 4 in the center console. When he returned to the car, he found the phone gone. The phone was in a camouflage and orange Otter box case and was valued at over $400.00.

While Deputy Luis Gomez was taking the report, a call was dispatched over the radio. Two teens had been caught inside a tool shed at a nearby house by the homeowner. They were reportedly fleeing toward U.S. One on Caloosa Street.

Deputy Gomez and Deputy Caridad Bellon caught the two teens, aged 15 and 16. Both boys were reported missing from the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter on Plantation Key.

One teen had the stolen phone case in his waistband. When the deputies found it, the other boy said “that is for my phone.” They found the stolen phone in his pocket. He was unable to give deputies the passcode to unlock the phone.

The victim of the vehicle burglary responded to the scene and was able to unlock the phone.

Both teens were arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft. 

March 16, 2013

Three men arrested for stealing bales of cardboard

Monroe County – Sheriff’s deputies and detectives arrested three men, charging them with stealing numerous bales of cardboard from the Publix and K-Mart stores in Marathon.

The stores have reported the thefts several times over the past few months. Deputies in Marathon have stepped up their patrols of the areas behind the stores, where the bales are usually placed for pickup.  On March 13th, Sgt. Mark Maison and Deputy Jean Gonzalez checked the area at 9:20 p.m. and saw several bales present. At 3:30 a.m. on March 14th  they checked again and the bales were gone.

Over the course of the investigation, detectives had received information indicating the suspects were driving a white Ford F250 truck. The truck they believed the suspects were using had been seen parked at the 102.9 mile marker of the highway. Sgt. Maison put out a notice to be on the lookout for the truck on the highway. He also asked Deputy Vaughn O’Keefe, who works in that area, to check the 102.9 mile marker for the truck and the cardboard bales.

Deputy O’Keefe found the truck with a trailer attached. In the trailer were bales of cardboard from Publix. Under a tarp behind the trailer were more bales, clearly marked as belonging to K-Mart.

Surveillance of the area was conducted to catch the suspects responsible for the truck and the cardboard thefts. At 9:15 p.m., three men were seen loading more cardboard bales into the trailer. Detective Nicholas Whiteman responded to the Roth Building to question the men. They all said they thought the bales had been placed behind the stores as garbage and thought it was all right for them to pick them up. They also admitted to never asking permission from the store managers to take the bales. Numerous receipts from recycling centers where they sold the cardboard were found in the truck.

23 year old Hector Olivia Jimenez, 20 year old Lazaro Casanas Fernandez and 27 year old Lidiert Casanas Fernandez were all charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

March 14, 2013

Stock Island man charged with burglary

Stock Island – A Stock Island was arrested for burglary today after his fingerprints were identified at the crime scene.

The burglary took place in July of 2012 at a home on 10th Avenue, Stock Island. The victim told Detective Dave Chavka the suspect, 20 year old Daniel Salangin, had been staying at his house for two days and had left his clothing inside. The victim said he left for work in the morning, locking the doors and leaving the house empty.

When he returned home for lunch, he found someone had broken a back window. Two of his television sets were missing, as were Salangin’s clothes.

Crime Scene Investigator John Underwood lifted fingerprints from a propane tank the suspect had to move out of the way to access the window he broke to get inside.

In February, Detective Chavka received a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement identifying the fingerprints as belonging to Salangin. A warrant was issued for his arrest and today he was picked up and charged with burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief.

Detective asks for information

Key West - Sheriff’s detective Dave Chavka is asking for the public’s help with information about a boat trailer stolen and then later recovered.

The trailer – a 37 foot triple axle - was stolen from Cardinal Lane on Big Coppitt Key. The theft occurred sometime between February 17th and March 3rd, when the reporting person noticed I t was missing and called the Sheriff’s Office. A notice to be on the lookout for it was issued.

On March 4th, a Key West Police Officer found the trailer parked at the City Marina on Palm Avenue. There was no tag on the trailer, but there was a parking ticket attached to it that listed a tag number on it. The ticket was written on February 26th.  The tag number, 795PGI, returned to a John Liddy, who lives on Thompson Street in Key West. Sometime between the 26th and the 4th, it appears someone removed the tag from the trailer.

Detective Chavka is looking for anyone who may have information about this trailer theft, or who may have seen the trailer being parked or the tag being removed to call him at 305-292-7060. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys at 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may be submitted on line at www.tipsubmit.com.

Snorkeling death, Key Largo

Key Largo – A Michigan man died while on a snorkeling trip offshore of Key Largo Tuesday.

65 year old Gregory Hancock of Davison, Michigan was on board the Snorkel Express charter boat out of Pennekamp State Park when the incident took place. According to witnesses, he had been snorkeling for about a half an hour when he climbed up the ladder of the boat and sat down. The boat’s mate asked him how he was and he collapsed on the deck.

On board the boat was a firefighter, paramedic and a nurse who took charge of performing CPR as the boat headed back to the dock. They were met by an ambulance, but the victim was pronounced dead.

An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.

Second man arrested for fleeing from officer

Key Largo - A second person involved in a high speed motorcycle chase with deputies in January was arrested Tuesday.

The chase took place January 21st. Deputy Anthony O’Dea was on patrol at the 71 mile marker at 7 p.m. when he saw two motorcycles speeding northbound. He turned on his lights and siren to stop them, but instead they sped up. While the deputy followed, he saw them pass numerous cars in no passing zones, traveling in excess of 75 miles an hour in heavy traffic.

At the 74 mile marker, one of the motorcycles turned off the highway and eventually stopped on Iroquois Drive. At that point, 18 year old Jose Bolivar of Islamorada was placed under arrest. He was charged with fleeing and eluding police, reckless driving and received numerous traffic citations. A notice to be on the lookout for the other motorcycle was issued, but it was not located that night. Bolivar told the deputy the other driver was 20 year old Anthony Hoover of Key Largo.

Bolivar had a video recorder mounted to his helmet which was running at the time of the chase on the highway. The video was collected as evidence and helped to confirm Hoover’s identity, as well as confirming the traffic violations committed by the two men as they sped away from Deputy O’Dea.

A warrant was issued for Hoover’s arrest. He was booked into jail on Tuesday, charged with fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer and reckless driving.

Man charged with entering airport bar after hours

Key West - A Key West man was arrested Tuesday, charged with entering a bar at the Key West Airport in the early morning hours and trying to take beer from inside.

Airport Security Technician Sonja Fleita was making her rounds at 5:40 a.m. on March 8th when she saw someone inside the First Call Beach Bar in the Arrivals Lounge at the airport. The bar is closed at that time. As she watched, 57 year old Thomas Knight took a six pack of beer from one of the refrigerators inside the bar.

When she confronted him, he said he was just looking for someone so he could buy a beer. At that point, he left the bar and was trespass warned from the airport.

The incident was captured on surveillance video. On the video, Knight is seen helping himself to a soda, then later taking the beer from the fridge after which AST Fleita interrupts what he is doing.

A warrant was obtained for his arrest. On Tuesday, he was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked into jail.

March 12, 2013

Toddler, missing from his home, hit by car and killed

Key Largo – A two year old boy who somehow got out of his Key Largo home in the middle of the night was hit and killed by a vehicle at the 99 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

The parents of Austen Mark Alward called the Sheriff’s Office just after midnight to report they had been searching for their son and could not find him. They told responding deputies they had been looking for him for about 30 minutes after realizing he was missing from their home. The family lives on Sunset Boulevard in Key Largo.

All available deputies from the Sheriff’s Office responded, along with officers from Florida Highway Patrol and Customs and Border Protection who were in the area and heard the call. Officers and family members searched the home and surrounding area for about 20 minutes before the child was found. He had been hit by a car on the southbound side of the highway and was in the median.

Key Largo Fire Rescue units had also been notified the child was missing and were on their way to help search when he was found. They arrived quickly and the child was transported to Mariner’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A notice to be on the lookout was issued for any vehicle headed southbound with front end damage. Just before 1 a.m., Deputy John Gabay stopped a car at the 23 mile marker of the highway whose driver said he thought he may have hit something at the 99 mile marker of the highway. The Florida Highway Patrol is conducting the accident investigation.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit responded to  Sunset Boulevard in Key Largo and will be reviewing the circumstances of the case.

March 11, 2013

Man charged with sexual battery

Big Pine Key – A 62 year old Big Pine Key man was arrested Friday, charged with sexual battery on a 23 year old woman.

The victim told Major Crimes Detective Deb Ryan the suspect, Lazaro Tapia, is a family friend. She said he gave her a ride the night of March 2nd to find a friend of hers she was going to hang out with.

When they couldn’t find the victim’s friend, Tapia asked her to come see his new apartment. Once there, he offered her a beer, then a second beer. She said she suddenly began to feel very tired. Tapia offered to let her sleep in his bed while he slept in a chair.

The victim said she awoke to find him lying on top of her. Her pants had been pulled down and her underwear had been moved and he was attempting to rape her. She screamed and shove him away. She put on her clothing and ran outside, yelling for help. She ran to a nearby house, telling the occupant she’d been raped.

After further investigation, Detective Ryan obtained a warrant for Tapia’s arrest. On Friday, he was charged with sexual battery and he was booked into jail.

March 8, 2013

Man arrested for knife threats

Islamorada – An Islamorada man is under arrest, charged with threatening several people – including a deputy – with a knife.

Deputy Gregg Johnson responded to Ponce DeLeon Boulevard at 4:45 p.m. after dispatchers received reports a man was disrupting traffic, hitting cars and threatening passersby.

When he arrived, he saw two occupied vehicles stopped on the corner of Ponce De Leon and West Plaza Del Sol. He also saw 29 year old Stuart Ross Paterson with a large knife in his hand, walking toward the two vehicles. He was aggressively swinging the knife from side to side.

Deputy Johnson pulled up near the two other cars, exited his  vehicle, drew his gun and identified himself, telling him to drop the knife. Instead, Patterson walked toward the deputy with the knife. The deputy knew Patterson from previous contacts and knew his nickname was “Rossee”. He yelled at him again to drop the knife, this time using the nickname. At this point, Patterson put the knife – an 11 inch long fixed blade weapon - on the ground and complied with orders to lay down so the deputy could safely taken him into custody.

In his pockets Johnson found a plastic bag of cocaine. Both vehicle drivers on scene said Patterson threatened them with the knife and they were in fear he would hurt them.

Patterson was charged with two counts aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The cocaine will be sent to Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis after which he may face further charges.

March 6, 2013

Woman arrested for stealing truck

Key Largo – A woman who has had her license revoked for previous DUI convictions stole a truck Tuesday night and, while intoxicated, fled in it at high rates of speed as the truck’s owner pursued her. Deputies caught her and took her to jail.

The owner of the truck told Deputy Vaughn O’Keefe he was helping a friend move at 10:20 p.m. in Key Largo RV Park. His Ford F150 was parked nearby, unlocked with the keys inside. He said 32 year old Christina Bohnstedt approached him and asked for his name. After they spoke, he went back to moving. When he turned around, he saw her driving away in his truck.

The victim used his friend’s truck and attempted to follow Bohnstedt, calling the Sheriff’s Office at the same time. He said he had trouble keeping up with her, at one point reaching 80 miles an hour as she still pulled away from him. At the 98 mile marker he lost sight of her and stopped.

Deputy Patricia Garcia spotted the truck and saw it turn onto village Street. Deputy O’Keefe was also in the area. The two deputies, along with Deputy Nestor Argote stopped her.

Bohnstedt was noticeably intoxicated and was not able to complete field sobriety exercises properly. She refused to take a breathalyzer test and refused to sign her citations.

A check on her  name revealed her license had been revoked for two prior arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2006 she was classified as a habitual traffic offender and has 13 license suspensions for failing to pay citations.

She was charged with DUI, grand theft auto, resisting arrest, driving with her license suspended and refusing to submit to a DUI test after a license suspension. She was booked into jail.

Three girls charged with fake ID

Marathon – Three 19 year old girls were arrested Tuesday, charged with possessing fake driver’s licenses.

Deputy Bradford Colen was on patrol at 1:30 p.m. near 29th Street in Marathon when he saw a white Landrover pass him, northbound, traveling 60 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. He got behind the vehicle and pulled it over in a parking lot south of 45th Street.

There were  nine girls in the vehicle. The driver, 19 year old Elizabeth Finstrom of Fort Myers, Florida, smelled of alcohol and was upset, telling the deputy she would be kicked out of college.

Deputy Chuck Kellenberger and Detective Nicholis Whiteman arrived to assist. As the driver got out of the car, they saw multiple open containers of alcohol both in the car, and falling out of the car as the door opened.

The driver was able to successfully complete field sobriety exercises and was judged not be be impaired.  Further investigation, however, revealed she was in possession of a fake driver’s license. It had her name and picture on it, but gave her age as 21. Two others in the car – 18 year old Krista Ritterhoff of Katorah, New York and 19 year old Laurel Johnson of LaJolla, California – also had similar fake driver’s licenses. The girls said they paid $100 for the fake licenses just prior to traveling to the Keys. Possession of a fake license in the state of Florida is a felony offense.

All three girls were arrested and booked into jail.

March 5, 2013

Sheriff’s deputy faces federal indictment

Miami – Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Strong was taken into federal custody today at his Miami home. He has been indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government.

Strong was a “Deputy In Country Manager” in Baghdad with defense contractor Security Operations Consulting from January of 2005 to April of 2008 and is reportedly accused of conspiring to steal and sell government property.

“We are assisting federal investigators on this case,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We will be conducting our own investigation into the circumstances. In the mean time, we were present when he was arrested and we have recovered all Sheriff’s Office property assigned to him. We are still waiting for details and as we gather those details we will determine the future actions we may take in this case.”

“We hate the fact that one of our officers is involved in this case. Although this happened well before he worked for us, it still reflects badly on our agency and on law enforcement as a whole,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “We take great pride in our integrity, honesty and our reputation as a professional law enforcement agency. All the good people working for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office do not deserve to have their reputations tarnished by a few people who have done bad things.”

Captain Don Hiller, Commander of the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division was in Miami today standing by to assist as federal authorities arrested Strong and served a search warrant at his home. A large amount of property was seized from the home as the federal investigation continues.

Strong first came to the Sheriff’s Office in October of 2010 as an auxiliary deputy. He was hired as a deputy sheriff in April of 2011, assigned to the city of Marathon. He is currently assigned as a deputy in District Seven in the Upper Keys.

March 1, 2013

Body found in wooded area

Detectives are investigating the circumstances behind the discovery of a body in a wooded area off Sombrero Beach road Thursday.

The badly decomposed body of a man was discovered at about 2:15 p.m. by a passerby who noticed a lot of bird activity in the area. He reported his discovery to Sgt. Glenn Test, who is the School Resource Officer at Marathon High School.

Detectives say they have a tentative identification from paperwork found near the body, but won’t know for sure who he is until further investigation is completed. Further investigation is also necessary – including a detailed autopsy – to determine the cause of the man’s death.