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
January 31, 2006
Tavernier man caught burglarizing van
Tavernier - A Tavernier man who said he was taking electrical parts he needed for his house was arrested for burglarizing a van belonging to an electrical contractor.
A witness to the van burglary called the Sheriff's Office at 9:30 p.m. Monday. He told dispatchers he'd seen a man enter a white van parked in the area of Garden Street. When Deputies Jeffrey Parker and Edward Askins arrived, they began approaching the van. They saw a man inside as he ducked behind a seat. They ordered him out of the van and he initially refused to comply. Finally, they were able to reach in an open door and pull the man out.
28 year old William Garcia told the deputies he was taking some electrical parts he needed for his house. His backpack was found in the van. Inside were three switch boxes and a dryer cord. The owner of the van arrived at the scene. His property was returned to him. Garcia was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked into jail.
January 27, 2006
January 26, 2006
Key Largo man arrested for being disorderly, threatening deputies
Key Largo - A Key Largo man was arrested outside a Key Largo bar for drinking, and yelling obscenities in the parking lot. During the arrest he threatened and fought with deputies.
According to witnesses, 26 year old Jason Jones was calling people in Coconut's bar names and grabbing them. He then left the bar, carrying an alcoholic beverage outside. A sheriff's detective, working an off duty detail in the bar's parking lot detained Jones and called for a back up officer to assist with his arrest.
When Deputy Edward Askins arrived, he took Jones into custody. While he was handcuffing the suspect, Jones began to struggle, kicking him in the knee. He also made a number of threatening comments, saying when he got out of jail he would find Deputy Askins kill him and hurt his family. Jones was charged with disorderly conduct, battery and assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and for violating the county's open container ordinance.
On the way to jail, Jones continued to be violent, banging his head against the plexiglas cage separating the back and front patrol car seats. Deputy Askins called ahead to the Detention Center so extra Corrections Officers would be on hand to assist with removing Jones from the car. Jones was booked into the Detention Center without further incident.
CrimeStoppers tips lead to two warrant arrests
Monroe County - Calls to Florida Keys CrimeStoppers led to the arrest of two men wanted on outstanding warrants recently.
Based on tip information, 24 year old Jason Stephenson was located in Monroe, Michigan and was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violating a domestic violence injunction. The warrant was issued in August of 2003. Stephenson was returned to Monroe County January 21st to face the charges.
35 year old Jonathan Klopp was picked up January 21st at his Key Largo home on an outstanding warrant from Pinellas County for violation of probation. A CrimeStoppers tipster called to report his location.
Both CrimeStoppers tipsters are eligible for a cash reward. Anyone with information about a felony case, or about the location of someone wanted on a felony warrant can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers may remain anonymous and if the information leads to an arrest, the tipster would be eligible for a reward. The CrimeStoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.
January 25, 2006
Stock Island man charged with drugs
Stock Island - Responding to citizen complaints of possible drug activity, the Sheriff's Office arrested a Stock Island man Tuesday night for possessing large amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
A detective with the Special Operations division, working together with Deputy David Lariz responded to the vicinity of Sea Lobster on 5th Avenue, Stock Island at 11 p.m. As they sat outside, they saw a number of people coming and going, only staying for a short while.
Further investigation led them to 50 year old Manuel Rubio, who has a boat docked there. They asked Rubio for permission to search his boat and he agreed. On the boat, the search revealed 32 grams of crack cocaine kept in various areas of the boat, along with 46 grams of marijuana. They also found 46 Clonazepan pills in an unmarked pill bottle.
Rubio admitted the drugs were his and he was arrested. He was charged with trafficking in cocaine, possession of a felony amount of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
Homeless man stabbed in fight
Stock Island - A Homeless man was stabbed by another man Monday night. He told deputies they were fighting over a beer.
When Deputy Henry Amole arrived at the Tom Thumb Store on Maloney Avenue shortly after 9 p.m., he found large pools of blood in front of the store. He then saw the victim walking toward him across the parking lot. The man was covered in blood and told the deputy he'd just been stabbed. The deputy asked the victim where he'd been stabbed and the victim said he didn't know and told the deputy to leave him alone until he finished eating his food. The deputy called for rescue units to respond and then asked the victim if he knew who had stabbed him. The victim again told the deputy to leave him alone until he was done eating.
Finally, the victim agreed to speak with Deputy Amole and told him someone named "Roger" had stabbed him. He said they fought about a beer he'd stolen from the suspect. He could not say what the suspect was wearing or where he went after the fight. The victim was transported to Lower Keys Hospital for treatment. Detectives will be investigating.
Fourth suspect charged in October robbery
Key Largo - A fourth suspect has been arrested in connection with a robbery at a Key Largo gas station in October.
The incident took place October 9th at 4:30 a.m. at the Shell gas station in Key Largo. The victim was attacked and robbed in the parking lot after he stopped at the gas station for something to drink and a newspaper. The suspects fled after the attack and deputies stopped them a short distance away, arresting three suspects found in the vehicle. Investigations revealed a fourth suspect who fled from the vehicle prior to the stop by deputies.
19 year old Timothy Cooper of Key Largo was arrested Tuesday on an outstanding warrant for robbery. He is accused of taking part in the attack and robbery on October 9th. Other suspects arrested for the crime include 19-year old Eric A. Vigil, 21-year old Andrew T. Atwill and 19-year old Kenneth L. Crawford, all of Key Largo. At the time of the initial incident, a search of the suspect’s vehicle turned up a Taser stun gun in a holster, a hand rolled cigar that tested positive for marijuana, handcuffs and a Florida private investigator's badge.
Note: While Eric Vigil was originally arrested in connection with this case, according to paperwork provided by a member of Vigil's family, the State Attorney's Office has dropped the charges against him in this case.
January 20, 2006
Key Largo man charged with fondling young girl
Key Largo - Sheriff's detectives arrested a Key Largo man Thursday on charges he fondled a young girl.
According to the initial report, taken by Deputy Greg LaRochelle, 44 year old Julio Martinez allegedly fondled the young girl and made her fondle him as well in June of 2003. Martinez reportedly became acquainted with the victim's family at St. Justin's Church where he was one of the church's youth group leaders. According to the report, he was at the girl's house visiting at the time the incident occurred. The girl told her mother several weeks later, and the mother contacted the Sheriff's Office to report it.
The case was assigned to the Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit and Detective Terry Smith was initially assigned to investigate, and then Detective Natalie Mashburn took over the investigation. After extensive interviews with the victim and with witnesses who said she told them about Martinez fondling her, a warrant was obtained for Martinez. On Thursday he was arrested on that warrant and charged with committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 12. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
22 year old charged with sexual battery on young girl
Big Pine Key - A 22 year old man already in jail on other charges was charged Thursday with sexual battery on a young girl.
23 year old Angel Cancio was arrested by the Hillsbourough County Sheriff's Office in December on warrants from Monroe County for violation of probation and failure to appear in court. He was brought back to Monroe County on December 19th and was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
The victim, who was 14 years old when the incident took place, told friends that Cancio had forced her to have sex with him. The friends reported what happened to School Resource Deputy Tom Peteck, Jr. He initiated the investigation, which was assigned to Detective Janine Gedmin, a detective with the Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit. After interviewing the victim extensively Detective Gedmin sent a number of items to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's lab for examination. The results of that examination returned in December of 2005. A short time later, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Cancio.
After his return to Monroe County on the other warrants, Detective Manny Cuervo went to the Detention Center where he served Cancio with the warrant for sexual battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16. Bond on the warrant is $75,000.
Detectives clear four burglaries with one arrest
Stock Island - Sheriff's detectives arrested a Key West man, charging him with four burglaries which have taken place since December 27th.
The suspect first came to the attention of the Sheriff's Office after a burglary at a home on 3rd Avenue on January 10th. The victim said she woke up and a man was inside her trailer. She recognized him as someone she knew only as "Mario", a street name for 53 year old Mark Stein of Key West. The case was assigned to Detective Henry Hamilton who obtained a warrant for Stein's arrest later that day but he could not be immediately located.
On January 14th, Detective Donald Catala responded to the Key West Police Department where detectives at that agency had Stein in custody. He is reportedly a suspect in a number of Key West burglaries they are investigating. He admitted to Detective Catala that he'd committed three other burglaries on Stock Island. One took place at a home on 6th Avenue on December 27th where Stein stole several items of jewelry. Another burglary, this time to a vessel, was reported on December 31st. Stein allegedly took fishing gear, tools and cash from the boat, along with other items. The third burglary was reported on December 31st. He burglarized a home on 4th Avenue, taking a cable box, a cellular telephone, half of a chicken and a soda.
Warrants were obtained for Stein and he was charged with the four burglaries. He is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center. His total bond is currently $75,000.00.
January 18, 2005 - Second edition
Detectives say five motel burglaries may be connected
Monroe County - Sheriff's detectives say a series of motel burglaries over the past ten days may be connected.
On January 9th, the Sheriff's Office received calls from the Islamorada Motel and the Sunset Cove Resort Motel in Key Largo reporting break-ins; on January 15th, Kelly's on the Bay in Key Largo was broken into; on January 17th, La Jolla Resort in Islamorada and Coconut Cove Resort and Marina on Windley Key reported they were burglarized.
In at least three of the five burglaries, employees recall seeing two suspicious men who appear to have been casing the motels prior to the burglaries. One man, described as taller than six feet and slim with spiked blond hair and an accent described as "European or possibly British" did most of the talking while the other man, described as shorter with dark hair, looked around. Both men appear to be white males between 25 - 35 years old.
In all five burglaries, only cash and a few miscellaneous items such as jewelry and food were the only things taken.
Anyone with information about these cases should contact the Sheriff's Office immediately. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.
Homestead woman arrested for attempted poisoning
Ocean Reef - A Homestead woman is in jail, accused of attempting to poison a co-worker with Visine.
Detective Jason Madnick says 24 year old Morning Star Vaber put Visine in the 73 year old victim's tea on December 8th. The incident took place at a real estate office at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. Another person who works in the office reportedly saw her do it and poured the tea out before the victim could drink it. The witness told Detective Madnick Vaber said she was tired of the victim "sticking her nose into her business" and that she wanted to make the victim "sick and die in diarrhea". The following day the witness told the victim what happened. The victim reported it to the owner of the business who confronted Vaber about it and fired her a few days later, telling her to stay off of Ocean Reef property. The owner told Detective Madnick he confronted her with her actions, and she admitted to him that she'd put Visine in the victim's tea.
At the time the incident occurred, the victim and witness did not report it immediately. The victim said she saw Vaber on Ocean Reef property on December 22nd, though, and became concerned. She said she is afraid that Vaber will try to harm her again, so she decided to call the Sheriff's Office to report it at that time. Deputy Keith Nyman initially responded to take the report.
Detective Madnick was assigned to investigate the case. He called the Poison Control hot line to ask what ingesting Visine would do to a person. The Poison Control Hot line operator said symptoms of ingesting Visine can include: cardiac problems, a decreased level of consciousness, low blood pressure and severe diarrhea.
This morning (Wednesday, January 18th) Vaber was arrested on an outstanding warrant for attempting to poison the victim. She was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
January 18, 2005
Key West men charged with cocaine possession
Rockland Key - A deputy checking on a suspicious truck parked after hours at a Rockland Key business caught two men with a large amount of powdered cocaine.
Deputy Evan Calhoun stopped to check on the truck, which was parked with it's headlights on in the lot of Alex's Auto Parts just after 11 p.m. He found two vehicles - a truck and an sport utility vehicle - and four men, one in the SUV and three standing around near the vehicles. As he approached, two of the men began moving around, even though he ordered them to approach so he could see them.
Despite the deputy's orders, 37 year old Juan Sanchez and 29 year old Noel Valle continued to move around the bed of the pickup truck, closing boxes in the back of the truck. Finally, Sanchez handed something to Valle and came out from behind the truck to comply with Deputy Calhoun's orders. Valle placed the item in the truck, then also complied with orders to come out in front of the vehicle. Sanchez originally gave his name as Juan Perez and told the deputy he had no identification with him. A search of both men turned up a wallet in Valle's pocket with identification inside which matched Perez and identified him correctly as Juan Sanchez.
Deputy Brian Luth arrived as back up. Deputy Calhoun went to the truck to look for the item the two men exchanged. He found two black Hide-A-Key containers. Inside the containers was a total of 26 grams of powdered cocaine.
Sanchez and Valle were arrested. Both men were charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Sanchez was further charged with falsely identifying himslef to a law enforcement officer and with an outstanding warrant for violation of probation.
January 17, 2006
Big Pine man charged with making threats with a "gun"
Marathon - A Big Pine Key man was arrested after he pulled out what appeared to be a handgun and pointed it at another man during an apparent episode of Road Rage.
The "gun" used by 26 year old Andrew McClain to threaten the other driver turned out to be a cigarette lighter. The victim and his passengers say they thought it was a real gun and they were afraid they would be killed during the confrontation. It all started Friday just after 7 p.m. The victim's say their truck was cut off in traffic by McClain, who was driving a white Mazda 626 northbound just leaving the Marathon area. McClain allegedly made an obscene gesture and, about a mile down the road, pulled to the side of the road with the victim pulling over behind him. A confrontation on the side of the road led to McClain pulling out the fake handgun. During the confrontation, the suspect also used racial slurs and threatened to kill the victim by shooting him. The victim then jumped back in his car and both vehicles continued northbound.
Sheriff's deputies were notified of the incident and Deputy Shelly Seago parked her patrol car at the north end of the Long Key Bridge. When she saw the Mazda pass her, she pulled it over. Sgt. Sue Morgan arrived to back her up. The fake handgun was found in the car, which was driven by McClain. He was identified by the victim as the man who threatened him.
McClain was charged with four counts of aggravated assault. The crime charged carries enhanced penalties under Florida's Hate Crime law due to the racial slurs used. He was also charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon because a check on his name revealed a past felony arrest record. The check also revealed outstanding warrants for violation of probation.
He was taken to the Monroe County jail for processing. Once there, Detention deputies searched him and found marijuana hidden in his underwear. He was further charged with possession of marijuana and smuggling contraband into a Detention facility.
Two charged with cocaine possession
Key Largo - A sergeant on routine patrol spotted a truck parked in the middle of the road early Saturday. He wound up arrested two people inside for possession of both powdered and crack cocaine.
Sgt. David Carey saw the truck parked in the middle of Calusa Street in Key Largo at 2 a.m. He stopped to check on it and discovered upon questioning the driver that the truck was not registered. Prior to towing it, an inventory search was done on the truck's contents. He found a bag in the middle of the front seat, between the driver and the passenger. Inside the bag he found both crack cocaine and powdered cocaine. The illegal substances were packaged inpidually as if for sale. More cocaine was found in the driver's purse.
22 year old Michelle Mufich and 36 year old Kenneth Crawford were both arrested.They were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell it. A total of 10.5 grams of powdered cocaine and 10.5 grams of crack cocaine were seized, as was the 2000 Dodge pickup truck.
Narcotics Investigators arrest several people on warrants
Last week, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Special Investigations pision, assisted by road patrol deputies, served a number of arrest warrants for narcotics violations.
36 year old Kelly Wheeler of Ramrod Key was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and sale of a controlled substance. She is accused of selling Oxycontin and other controlled substances to an undercover operative on at least two occasions. On one of those occasions, she sold the operative 20 Oxycontin pills for $1,600.00.
37 year old Lori Pilotti of Summerland Key was charged with two warrants for sale of cocaine. On two separate occasions she sold crack cocaine to an undercover operative.
36 year old Melody Fitzgerald and 45 year old Robert Bell, both of Big Pine Key are accused of selling prescription drugs and cocaine to an undercover operative. They sold 33 hydrocodone pills on one occasion and powdered cocaine on another occasion. Bell was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and with being a principle in the first degree to sale of cocaine. Fitzgerald was charged with sale of cocaine and being a principle on the first degree for helping Bell with the sale of the hydrocodone.
47 year old Greg Cawthern of Marathon was arrested by road patrol officers for an outstanding warrant for sale of cocaine. He is accused of selling crack cocaine to an undercover operative. When he was arrested, he was found to have five crack rocks in a Marlboro cigarette pack in his truck. He was further charged with possession of cocaine and the 2001 Chevrolet truck was seized.
January 10, 2006
Naples man charged with burglary, resisting arrest
Plantation Key - Deputies responded to a Woods Avenue home on Plantation Key Saturday after the homeowner called to report a man threatening his wife and attempting to enter his home.
Deputy Patrick Crozier and Sgt. Tom Kiffney arrived at the home just before 6 a.m. They found 35 year old Patrick Murphy standing at the screened back porch. They took him into custody and, as they were handcuffing him, he struggled violently refusing to comply with orders to put his hands behind his back.
Once he was safely handcuffed, the officers spoke with the victims. The female victim said she woke and heard dogs barking so she walked to her back porch. She saw Murphy on the dock outside. When she asked who he was, he began walking towards her and said "I am coming to get you." She became frightened and called for her husband to wake up and call the police.
The husband called 911 for help, then confronted Murphy, who told him he was looking for "Sandra". He told Murphy no one by that name lived there, but Murphy continued to make threatening comments until the officers arrived.
Further investigation revealed Murphy had entered the victim's vehicle, which was found running with the heater on and the radio playing. He also entered the screened porch and took a sweatshirt, which he was wearing when he was arrested.
Murphy was charged with burglary to the home, burglary to the vehicle, resisting arrest and theft. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
Citizen's report of a reckless driver results in DUI arrest
Tavernier - A Tavernier man was arrested Friday night for driving under the influence of drugs after a citizen called to complain about a gold colored pickup truck driving recklessly near the 89.2 mile marker of highway U.S. One.
The caller reported the reckless driver just before 10 p.m. Deputy Stephen Pitts responded to the vicinity of Seminole Boulevard and Mohawk Streets where he spotted a truck fitting the description parked in a driveway. He was not certain the vehicle was the reckless driver, however, so the deputy parked a short distance away to observe traffic.
A short time later, the deputy saw the same truck coming toward him. It ran a stop sign and swerved, almost hitting a fence and some trees. Deputy Pitts, assisted by Deputy Edwin Grove, pulled the truck over. It was driven by 48 year old David Applegate of Tavernier. Deputy Pitts asked Applegate if he'd been drinking or if he'd take drugs. He initially denied taking any substances which might impair his ability to drive. He was given a series of field sobriety exercises which he failed.
Further questioning revealed he'd been taking the drug Percocet. A search of the vehicle turned up a plastic bag of various pills including hydrocodone. A search of Applegate's pockets turned up a small pipe and a bag of marijuana.
Applegate was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.
Traffic enforcement detail in Tavernier
Tavernier - On Saturday between 11:30p.m. and 1:30 a.m. deputies conducted a traffic enforcement detail at the 90 mile marker south bound near the Tavernier Creek Marina.
During the detail, 14 tickets where issued and 18 warnings were issued.
This is an ongoing effort in Islamorada to educate drivers as well as enforce traffic laws.
Deputies involved in the detail included: Sgt. Tom Kiffney, Dep. Stephen Pitts, Dep. Patrick Crozier, Dep. Edwin Grove and Dep. Luis Blasco.
January 6, 2006
An inmate who escaped from the Monroe County jail in Marathon last April is back in custody. 47-year old Osmel Gonzalez-Gutierrez, of Marathon, is being held in the Pinellas County jail after being apprehended for shoplifting in St. Petersburg, Florida. Gonzalez-Gutierrez and another inmate, Lonnie Parrish, cut a hole in a recreational area fence, climbed on the jail roof and escaped on April 25, 2005 after draping a blanket over the razor wire that topped the fence surrounding the Marathon facility. Parrish was apprehended in North Carolina last July. Gonzalez-Gutierrez was on the lam until November 25th He will be transported back to the Keys after disposition of the charges in Pinellas County. Gonzalez-Gutierrez was initially jailed in Monroe County on petit theft charges. He now faces an additional charge of escape.
January 5, 2006
Illegal dumping arrest
Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Melbourne Beach man on illegal dumping charges following an investigation into complaints of construction debris being dumped on county right of way at Crane Boulevard on Sugarloaf Key. Witnesses called the Sheriff’s Office when they observed the suspect unloading the debris near Hawksbill Lane. Deputies confronted the suspect, identified as 45-year old Paul F. Visconti, who had dumped about 100 pounds of construction wood from his pickup truck. Visconti told deputies that he did not know that it was against the law to dump construction debris along the highway. After Visconti removed the wood, Deputies issued him a notice to appear in court to face first-degree misdemeanor charges of littering. The charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The Sheriff’s Office is actively monitoring Keys roadways for illegal dumping. The dumping of over 500 pounds of debris is a felony that could result in a five thousand dollar fine and five years in prison. Residents are urged to help and call 9-1-1 to report illegal dumping in the Keys. Crime Stoppers will pay a reward of up to one thousand dollars for information leading to an arrest in an illegal dumping case. The Crime Stoppers’ hotline is 1-800-346-TIPS.
January 3, 2006
New Year’s weekend roundup
Sheriff’s deputies arrested eight people for driving under the influence and one person for boating under the influence during the three day New Year’s holiday weekend. The Sheriff’s Marine Unit arrested 31-year old Michael B. Kittle, of Ft. Myers, after stopping his rental boat early New Year’s morning on waters off Key Largo. Kittle’s boat was not displaying any navigational lights. Sobriety and Breathalyzer tests indicated Kittle was impaired. Deputies also found four plastic bags with a small amount of marijuana aboard Kittle’s rental boat. He was also charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. The DUI checkpoint at Marathon on Friday night resulted in three DUI arrests and numerous warnings given to motorists. In all, deputies, reserve officers and FHP troopers stopped 211 vehicles during the five hours of the checkpoint’s operation. Officers cited eight drivers for seatbelt violations, and handed out seven driver’s license citations, along with one open container citation, and two Driving while license suspended criminal citations. Officers also gave written warnings to 21 drivers for equipment and other vehicle violations. Sheriff’s deputies Sunday also responded to a boat fire on Stock Island and arrested 66-year old David Wells for interfering with fire fighters at the scene. Deputies repeatedly told Wells to step aside but he refused, saying that it was his vessel and he wanted to fight the fire. Deputies finally had to restrain Wells, who was handcuffed and taken to jail.