Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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


Click on the highlighted headlines to hear an audio recording of the story

September 30, 2004

Burglary, arson in Key Largo

Key Largo - Deputies responding to reports of a possible burglary at a Key Largo apartment found a small fire which had been set in the middle of the apartment's living room.

It appears that whoever set the fire also took a 27 inch flat screen television valued at $650.00. Deputy Greg LaRochelle, who was the first deputy on the scene at 9:30 p.m., met with the neighbor who reported a possible break in. The neighbor said he saw a suspicious person leaving the vicinity of the apartment. When he showed Deputy LaRochelle the apartment's front door, the deputy smelled smoke coming from inside. He pushed open the door, which was unlocked. Inside, he found a small fire burning in the living room, and the apartment full of smoke.

Key Largo firefighters and an investigator from the fire marshall's office responded. The fire was extinguished and the fire marshall will be investigating it's origins. Detectives will be investigating the burglary.

Detectives looking for help locating guns

Marathon - Sheriff's detectives would like anyone who knows about three guns missing from a Marathon residence to come forward and assist with their recovery.

Detective Lionel Vargas, who is assigned to investigate the theft of the guns, says he knows someone out there has information about the guns. "We want to recover them and return them to their owner so they don't end up in the wrong hands," he said.

The three handguns were taken sometime between September 21st and the 24th from their hiding place in a residence located at 138 Calle Ensueno in Marathon. They are described as Smith and Wesson 9 mm with a laser sight, a black in color Ruger .22 caliber pistol and a Browning .32 caliber semi-automatic.

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys or call the Sheriff's Office directly. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and would be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

September 28, 2004

Key West man dies while diving

Key West - A Key West man died while diving in waters off of the lower Keys Monday.

51 year old Brad Gafton was on a dive trip on board the commercial dive boat Aqua Venture at 3:30 p.m. when he died. He was reportedly diving in approximately 90 feet of water on a wreck called the Caymon Salvor approximately 5 miles south of Key West. The United States Coast Guard responded to assist with the incident. The Sheriff's Office was notified later that afternoon and detectives have been assigned to investigate the case. An autopsy is being done today to attempt to determine the cause of Gafton's death.

September 21, 2004

Stabbing arrest

A stabbing victim, clutching his bleeding wound, flagged down a Sheriff’s Deputy on the Overseas Highway near Little Torch key Monday night. The victim, 46-year old Gary Etheridge, said he was stabbed by 50-year old Randolph Hodgkins aboard a boat anchored just offshore. Hodgkins was with Etheridge when Deputy Reggie Williams stopped to investigate. Both Etheridge and Hodgkins gave differing versions of what happened. Etheridge said that Hodgkins stabbed him during an argument over food. Etheridge said he when objected to Hodgkins eating his food, Hodgkins grabbed a filet knife and stabbed him in the neck. Hodgkins agreed that they were arguing over food and that he pulled out a knife. However, he said that Etheridge fell on the knife when a wave caused the boat to rock. Hodgkins said he assisted Etheridge to a dingy and rowed him to shore where they flagged down a deputy. Etheridge insisted that the attack was unprovoked and that he wanted to press charges against Hodgkins, whom he said was a “friend.”
Deputy Williams arrested Hodgkins on charges of aggravated battery. Rescue Personnel transported Etheridge to Fisherman’s hospital. He was subsequently airlifted by Trauma Star helicopter to Miami for treatment of the neck wound.

Expired registration leads to drug arrest

After issuing a citation for an expired registration, Deputy Evan Calhoun noticed a wooden cigar box on top of suitcases in the back of the car. Deputy Calhoun asked the driver of the white Cadillac he had stopped on N. Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West if he could look inside that box. The driver, 35-year old Christopher Burgeson, of Little Torch Key, granted permission. The box contained eight small bundles of cash. Deputy Calhoun noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from the back seat area. Again, Deputy Calhoun asked permission to search the area and advised Burgeson of his constitutional right to refuse.Burgeson again consented to a more thorough search. The search, with an assist from a city police officer’s canine who alerted on the back seat area, resulted in the discovery of several bags of marijuana with a street value of over one-thousand dollars. Burgeson was placed under arrest on charges of felony possession of marijuana. His car and the seven hundred dollars cash found in the vehicle were seized for possible forfeiture.

September 17, 2004

Burglary and assualt arrest

A Key Largo man, who was stabbed by a neighbor when he broke into his house, was arrested Wednesday after returning from the hospital. 37-year old Maurice Rheppard is charged with burglary with assault upon the occupant. The incident occurred on September 10. A witness told deputies that Rheppard came into the neighbor’s Key Largo house on Hood Avenue without knocking. Rheppard reportedly starting arguing with his neighbor and then punched 49-year old Jack Harrington several times. Harrington told investigators that he was in fear and acting in self-defense, pulled out a pocketknife and stabbed Rheppard in the right side of his lower chest. Rheppard fled the scene. A witness inside the house during the altercation backed up Harrington’s version of the story. When deputies arrived in response to the stabbing call, Rheppard was back at his house. He was clutching his side and using a towel to put pressure on the bleeding wound. Deputies called an ambulance. Rheppard was subsequently transported by Trauma Star helicopter to a hospital in Miami for treatment because local hospitals were closed due to the evacuation for Hurricane Ivan. While Rheppard recovered from his wounds, investigation of the incident led detectives to seek a warrant for Rheppard’s arrest. The warrant was served when Rheppard returned home from the hospital Wednesday. Rheppard was booked at the Plantation Key jail. Bond is set at fifty thousand dollars.

September 15, 2004

Teen arrested for armed robberies and business burglaries in Upper Keys

Acting on tip given to a road patrol officer, Sheriff’s detectives have arrested 19-year old Annier Lorenzo in connection with two armed robberies and four business burglaries in the Upper Keys during the past three weeks. Lorenzo, who has been living with family members in Key Largo for the past three weeks, told investigators that he committed the six felony crimes and he provided detailed statements about the crime spree. The tipster who led investigators to Lorenzo stated that although unemployed, he suddenly had a lot of extra cash. Detectives found Lorenzo at his family’s Key Largo residence in Tradewinds Hammocks apartments. Lorenzo agreed to go to the Sheriff’s substation for questioning. During the questioning, he admitted to the following crimes:
· Armed robbery on September 5 of the Tom Thumb convenience store at mile marker 97 Key Largo. Cash taken from register.
· Armed robbery on September 6 of the Tom Thumb convenience store at mile marker 102. Cash taken from register.
· Burglary of the Riki Tiki Tatu at mile marker 97 on August 29. Cash drawer taken.
· Burglary of Mr. C’s Gourmet Ice Cream at mile marker 98 on August 31. Cash and CD player taken.
· Burglary of Papa John’s Pizza at mile marker 98 on September 3. Nothing of value reported stolen.
· Burglary at the Pink Juntique at mile marker 98 on September 7. Cash and jewelry stolen.

Detectives say that the one of the convenience store clerks positively identified Lorenzo as the armed robber. Detectives booked Lorenzo at the Plantation Key jail on two counts of armed robbery and four counts of burglary. Detectives say that Lorenzo claimed he pitched the robbery weapon into the water off Key Largo. Sheriff’s divers will search that area in an effort to find the handgun. Lorenzo also told detectives that he spent the stolen cash and discarded the stolen jewelry in a dumpster because the jewelry was of the costume variety.

Reckless driver report leads to drug arrest

Sheriff’s deputies received a report of a reckless driver in the Ninth Street area of Stock Island Monday afternoon. Residents reported that a young male driving a gray Nissan, with damage to its right side, was swerving from side of the road to the other. Deputies located a vehicle matching the description at Bernstein Park on Stock Island. Deputies observed the driver park the vehicle very awkwardly and then get out and start walking into the park. The driver, identified as 19-year old Ricardo R. Manso, of Stock Island, told deputies that his driver’s license was in the glove box of his car. When Manso opened the glove box, deputies observed a clear plastic bag containing what appeared to be a large amount of marijuana. Deputies took Manso into custody. A search of his vehicle turned up a metal pipe containing what appeared to be marijuana residue. An electronic scale containing a small amount of the green leafy substance was found in the trunk and confiscated. The residue and leafy substance tested positive for marijuana. Deputies booked Manso into the county jail on charges of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Deputy Terminated

Sheriff’s Deputy James Freed was terminated last Friday by Sheriff Richard Roth following the completion of an internal affairs investigation into a reckless driving incident last May. Freed was observed driving his marked patrol car in a reckless manner by speeding and refusing to stop for a Deputy Sergeant was following him in a marked patrol car with emergency lights and siren activated. Following the incident, Freed was assigned to administrative duties. Freed recently entered a plea of guilty to the reckless driving offense. The Sheriff’s internal affairs investigation concluded that Freed violated Sheriff’s Office policy by committing an unlawful conduct offense of fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer. Sheriff Roth agreed with the finding and fired Freed, who has requested a final hearing before the Sheriff’s Disciplinary Review Board. Members of the Board have been selected. The board’s decision is non-binding and should be completed within 30 days.

 

Business burglaries

Sheriff’s detectives are seeking help in their investigation of a series of business burglaries in the Keys. The burglaries were reported between August 30 and September 7. Five businesses were burglarized in the Upper Keys. Burglars also struck a business in Marathon and another at Big Pine Key.

The burglaries occurred at the following locations:

Anyone with information should call the Sheriff’s Office. Crime Stoppers will pay up to a one thousand dollar reward for information leading to arrests in any of these cases. Callers may remain anonymous. The Crime Stoppers hotline is 1-800-346-TIPS (8477).

 

Stock Island burglary arrest

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a burglary in progress call this morning on Stock Island. Witnesses reported seeing a man trying to break into a shed located at the back of a restaurant on U.S. One. The witnesses stated that the suspect was using a metal bar in an attempt to break off the lock on the shed.

Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Walker responded to the area shortly before four a.m. Deputy Walker spotted a suspect near the shed. The suspect, identified as 38-year old Michael D. Butler, of Stock Island, was handcuffed and taken into custody. The witnesses positively identified Butler as the burglary suspect. Deputies found a pry bar near the shed. Deputies arrested Butler on charges of burglary and possession of a burglary tool and booked him into the county detention center.

Traffic Targets

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Enforcement Unit reviews accident statistics and targets those areas that show a substantially high rate of traffic crashes. We actively solicit your complaints, input, and ideas on problem areas that present a safety threat to motorists, cyclists or pedestrians. Your concerns are very important to us and will be investigated.

The following are Selective Traffic Enforcement Targeted areas scheduled for intense enforcement. Keep in mind that Traffic Enforcement Deputies will be in these areas using Laser, Radar and Video Cameras at least once for a substantial period of time and will be showing Zero Tolerance to violators.

“Violation of the Month is: For the month of August, and for the foreseeable future, the Monroe County Traffic Unit will be making an extra effort to enforce violations committed by commercial trucks on US1. This is in response to recent serious crashes caused by commercial trucks violating Florida law while traveling in Monroe County.

TARGETS FOR THE PERIOD OF SEPT 16 to Sept 29

LOCATION PROBLEM  

LOWER KEYS

 

US1 3 MM to 47 MM Commercial truck violations

SR4A, Little Torch Key Speeding

US1 34 MM to US1 47 MM Improper passing & speeding

MIDDLE KEYS  

Marathon, 47MM-73MM Commercial truck violations

Aviation Blvd., Marathon Speed

Grassy Key Speeding & improper passing 

UPPER KEYS

US1 73MM to 112mm Commercial truck violations

US1 at Sunshine, Plantation Key Red light violations

Burton Dr., Key Largo Speeding

***Be advised that School Zone Fines are DOUBLED***

Please contact Sergeant Glenn Test, Supervisor of the Traffic Enforcement Unit at 289-2410 if you have any traffic concerns or wish to report any areas that require additional Traffic Enforcement attention. If you have a traffic concern in the City of Key West please contact Sgt. Scott Smith at the Key West Police Department at

809-1000. Remember, speed kills! Slow down and drive safely, don’t you become a highway statistic

 


Date: September 7, 2004

Two Upper Keys convenience stores robbed at gunpoint

Monroe County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating armed robberies at two upper Keys convenience stores during the Labor Day weekend. The first occurred at the Tom Thumb Store at mile marker 97. A female clerk told detectives that a Hispanic male, brandishing a black handgun, walked in shortly after two a.m. Sunday and ordered her to open the safe. The clerk said that the robber became enraged when told that she did not have the combination to open the safe. The clerk stated that the robber grabbed the register, smashed it on the floor and took the cash. She said the robber fled on foot. The clerk was not injured. Sheriff’s deputies set up a perimeter and searched the area, but found no trace of the suspect.
Less than 24 hours later, an armed robber struck at the Tom Thumb store located at mile marker 102. The clerk on duty told detectives that a Hispanic male walked in around 12:30 a.m. Monday and demanded cash. She said the suspect was waving a silver handgun and was wearing dark shorts and pants. She added that he also used a white tee shirt to partially cover his face. After the clerk handed him cash from the register, the robber fled on foot. Deputies were on the scene within minutes of the clerk reporting the robbery, but were not able to locate the suspect.
Sheriff’s detectives say that the two robberies may have been committed by the same suspect. Detectives are reviewing video tapes from the two stores. If anyone has information, call detectives at 853-3211. Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward of $500 for information leading to an arrest. Callers may remain anonymous. The Crime Stoppers hotline is 1-800-346-8477 (TIPS).

Attempted robbery

A Marathon woman reported that she was a victim of an attempted robbery early Saturday morning. The 42-year old woman told Sheriff’s deputies that she was getting out of her car at her residence on 92nd Street when a man confronted her. The victim stated that the suspect tried to grab her purse, but she fought back. The woman said the suspect struck her several times on the head, but was unable to get her purse. After a short struggle, the victim said the suspect fled on foot. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene and a search of the area failed to turn up any sign of the suspect. The victim could not give deputies a detailed description of the suspect. Medical personnel treated the victim at the scene. Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the case. Anyone with information can call detectives at 289-2430 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-TIPS.

Battery arrest

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Miami man for battering the manager of a motel in Marathon early Sunday morning. Deputies received an alert for a suspect who had punched and shoved the manager of the Sea Cove Motel. A suspect matching the description was located on Key Colony Beach. The manager, who positively identified 22-year old Tony White, told deputies that White assaulted him after he asked him to leave the motel due to complaints from other guests. The manager said White punched him several times in the head and then shoved him into a bathroom. The manager suffered cuts and bruises. He was treated at the scene by medics who advised him to go to the hospital for stitches. White is now in the county jail, charged with felony battery.

Road Rage

A Stock Island man is under arrest following a road rage incident Friday evening. Sheriff’s deputies started their investigation of the incident after observing two vehicles in succession rapidly running a stop sign on Stock Island shortly after 5:30 p.m. Deputies were able to stop the drivers of both vehicles and began to unravel a tale of escalating road rage from both drivers. One of the drivers, 25-year old Jose Rodriguez, told deputies that the driver of the other vehicle, 34-year old Orby Morell, of Cudjoe Key, smashed his side view mirror after the two engaged in a confrontation at an intersection on Stock Island. Rodriquez said that Morell drove besides his car and used his fist to smash the mirror. Rodriquez told deputies he proceeded to chase Morell through the streets of Stock Island, finally confronting him at another intersection. Morell then told Deputies that Rodriquez got of his vehicle and threw a hammer at his car, shattering the windshield. The two men stated they began chasing each other again. At that point, Deputies stopped them after they ran the stop sign. After interviewing both men and witnesses who observed the hammer throwing incident, Deputies arrested Rodriquez on charges of throwing a weapon at an occupied vehicle. Both men were given traffic citations for running the stop sign.

Safe Zone

Sheriff’s deputies responded to nine disturbance calls at the Safe Zone homeless shelter on Stock Island this past weekend. Deputies issued trespass warnings to seven men who were caught consuming alcoholic beverages in the Safe Zone. Alcoholic beverages and drugs are prohibited there. Deputies also arrested another homeless man who had previously been warned about trespassing at the Safe Zone after he was caught with alcoholic beverages. Deputies also took another man into custody under the Marchman act because he was so intoxicated that he was a danger to himself or others.

Cuban refugees

Sheriff’s deputies responded to call about Cuban refugees coming ashore near Card Sound Road in the upper Keys early Saturday. Deputies located 32 refugees, including one infant. The refugees, all reported in good health, were turned over to the Border Patrol for processing.

Burglary arrests

Three juveniles were arrested by Sheriff’s Deputies Saturday night in Marathon in connection with the burglary of a vehicle at a shopping center parking lot. The victim called the Sheriff’s Office after returning to the car and finding that two compact disc cases had been taken from the center console. The cases contained over forty CD’s. While deputies were taking the victim’s statement, a man approached them and stated that he had seen several juveniles near the victim’s car. The witness provided detailed descriptions. Deputies searched the area and located three juveniles matching the descriptions. During questioning about the burglary, the juveniles admitted to taking part in the incident. Charged with felony burglary offenses are 13-year old Kenneth White, 16-year old Tamara Williams and 12-year old Keith White. All three are from Marathon. They were booked at the county jail and turned over juvenile authorities. Two other juveniles are being sought in connection with the burglary.