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, 2009

Two charged with burglary to Marathon home

Marathon - Two teens were arrested Monday night and charged with stealing stuffed fish from a home on 12th Street in Key Colony Beach.

The two thieves were foiled in their attempts when a neighbor spotted their truck parked in the driveway of the home next to him at 10:20 p.m. He knew the truck, and the two people in it, did not belong there. After the two left the truck, the neighbor walked over and took their keys, telling his wife to call the Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Wilfredo Guerra was nearby and arrived within two minutes. One of the two suspects, 19 year old Benjamin Zdan, was still there. The other boy, 17 year old Michael Schofield, had fled on foot. The stolen fish mounts were found in the truck.

Zdan was charged with burglary and grand theft. Schofield was found at his home later that night. He was also charged with burglary and grand theft. Each one of them blamed the other one for having the idea to commit the crime.

Large amount of construction equipment stolen

Marathon - A large amount of tools were stolen from a construction site in Marathon between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.

The foreman of the construction site, located at 7155 Overseas Highway in Marathon, said his employees finished work Saturday afternoon and locked all the tools in a shed on the property. When he arrived for work Monday morning, he found the lock on the front gate had been cut. He then found the latch on the shed door had also been cut - he found bolt cutters on the ground nearby.

Thousands of dollars worth of tools were missing from inside, including a generator, a compressor, chipping hammers, concrete and circular saws, drill guns and screw guns. Total value of the tools is estimated to be almost $12,000.00.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Sheriff's Office or contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters may remain anonymous and may receive a reward if their information leads to an arrest. Tips can be submitted on line at www.tipsubmit.com or called in to the Crime Stoppers hot line at 1-800-346-TIPS.

March 30, 2009

Safe stolen in home burglary

Stock Island - A home in the neighborhood of Key Haven was burglarized sometime over the last few days and a large safe was stolen.

According to reports by Deputy Caridad Bellon and Detective Henry Hamilton, there was no forced entry to the home on Floral Avenue. While the owners were out of town, sometime between Friday and Sunday, someone entered through a locked back door. A safe that was in a closet of the home was taken. The safe weighed an estimated 200 - 300 pounds and, as the theives were removing it they damaged the floor and stairs of the home.

There was a large amount of valuables inside the safe, including jewelry and coins. Crime Scene Detective John Underwood processed the scene for evidence and the investigation will continue.

Anyone with information about the crime should contact the Sheriff's Office or Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Crime Stoppers tipsters may remain anonymous and, if the tip leads to an arrest, they are eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line is 1-800-346-TIPS or e-tips can be submitted at tipsubmit.com.

Summerland man charged with burglary

Summerland Key - A Summerland Key man was arrested after he was caught burglarizing a closed business Sunday evening.

At 7:30 p.m., Deputy John Riggs and Sgt. Tom Walker responded to the Shrimp Farm, a closed business located at the 23.8 mile marker on Summerland Key. On the scene, they found the reporting person and the suspect, 44 year old Jeffrey Nowicki.

The reporting person said he was the caretaker of the property and saw Nowicki walking around the property without permission. He said when he checked the property prior to calling the Sheriff's Office, he found evidnce Nowiicki had been attempting to take copper tubing from one of the buildings.

Deputy Riggs and Sgt. Walker checked the property and spoke with Nowicki, who claimed he hadn't seen the "No Trespassing" signs posted on the gate. A 14 foot piece of copper tubing used in the air conditioning system of the business had been cut and the black cover on it had been stripped off.

Nowicki was arrested and charged with burglary and trespassing and he was booked into jail.

March 29, 2009

Update on man found dead in waters off of Key Largo

An autopsy performed today failed to confirm a cause of death for the man whose body was found floating in some mangroves in north Key Largo yesterday. None of the injuries in evidence on his body was the cause of death. Toxicology tests will have to be performed to see if they will help determine how he died.

Detectives are still attempting to confirm his identity but because of the condition of the body when it was found, they say they may have to use fingerprints or dental records to determine who the man is for sure.

Investigations are continuing.

March 28, 2009

Man found dead in waters off of Key Largo

Key Largo - The body of a man was found floating in the waters on the oceanside of Key Largo this morning.

Sheriff's deputies and detectives responded to the vicinity of the 107 mile marker oceanside in Key Largo at 10:30 a.m. after someone called to report a dead body floating just off shore. The body turned out to be a white male whose body was decomposed. Detectives say he may have been in the water for several days.

Detectives say he did have identification in a wallet in the pocket of the shorts he was wearing. The condition of his body did not allow them to confirm if the identification belongs to the person they found, however. The body was removed from the water and taken to the Medical Examiner's Office. There were some injuries apparent on the body upon initial examination. Detectives say they will not elaborate on what those injuries are.

An autopsy will be performed within the next two days to attempt to determine the cause of his death. Homicide Detective Mark Coleman will be assigned as lead investigator on the case.

Boat fires shut down highway

The Sheriff's Office, Monroe County Firefighters and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are all at the scene of two boat fires in the vicinity of Cudjoe Key today. Due to one of the fires causing a large amount of smoke, the highway at the 20 mile marker was shut down for about 40 minutes, but traffic is flowing now.

The first fire was reported at 3:30 p.m. on a boat that was in some mangroves near the KOA Campground across from the Cudjoe Garden's area. At one point, the flames were reported to be about 15 feet high and smoke caused the highway to be closed to through traffic. As firefighters were trying to reach that offshore fire with water from their hoses, another fire was reported to have broken out on a boat in a Canal on 2nd Avenue, Cudjoe Key. That fire was just reported to be smoldering and was contained rapidly, according to dispatch notes.

FWC Officers will reportedly be handling the investigation, since the blazes took place on the water. No information is available about the size of the boats, or who they may belong to at this time.

Special Operations tackles drugs, alcohol

Two special operations were held Thursday to tackle both drug and alcohol use.

The first Highway Interdiction Operation, organized by the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division, targeted vehicle violations in the vicinity of the 99 to the 106 mile marker in Key Largo. Florida Highway Patrol and Sheriff's Office road patrol deputies assisted. In just a few hours Thursday night, they issued 15 citations, 24 warnings, arrested one person on drug charges, issued three notices to appear in court on drug charges and arrested one person on a warrant.

The person arrested on drug charges was 35 year old Michael Beckman of Key Largo; he was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol for possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. 29 year old Travis Holcomb of Key Largo was in the car with him and was arrested on a warrant for violation of probation. The three notices to appear in court were issued to juveniles who were stopped in their car and found to have a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. They were not impaired when they were stopped and, after being issued notices to appear, they were allowed to go home after contact was made with their parents.

On the same day, a county-wide check of businesses that sell alcohol was also conducted. Twenty-four businesses were checked including restaurants, convenience stores and bars. All the businesses checked were in compliance with the law.

This operation was conducted in cooperation with the Monroe County Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community.

March 27, 2009

FHP, Sheriff's Office to conduct checkpoint

The Florida Highway Patrol, assisted by the Sheriff's Office and Miami-Dade Police, will be holding a sobriety checkpoint tonight in the vicinity of Coral Shores High School at the 89 mile marker of highway U.S. One in Islamorada.

Vehicles will be pulled over to the side of the road. Drivers will be checked for signs of intoxication, and the car will be quickly checked over for safety violations. Sober drivers with equipment in compliance with the law will be allowed to proceed on their way; those who are found to be intoxicated will be arrested. Those with safety violations - such as lights that are not functioning - will be warned or cited.

The checkpoint will begin at 10 p.m. and continue into the early morning hours Saturday.

Sheriff's detectives complete Sexual Offender checks

Monroe County - Sheriff's detectives, assisted by road patrol deputies and the State Office of Probation and Parole, completed their quarterly checks on Sexual Offenders in the county recently.

Every quarter, detectives check to make sure all local offenders are in compliance with the law, and are living at the residence that is on file with the State of Florida.

County-wide, 44 Sexual Offenders were checked. Out of those, one was no longer at the residence he listed in his registration. 60 year old Frank Rogers was not found at the Safe Zone homeless shelter on Stock Island and a warrant will be issued for his arrest. In addition, one other person - 50 year old Anthony Fernandez - was wanted on a warrant for failure to appear in court ref. fleeing and eluding police. He was arrested on that warrant.

All other Offenders were found to be in compliance with the law.

Warrant issued for Whitmore in Gardner death

Monroe County - Homicide Detectives say a warrant has been issued for the arrest of 40 year old Kirsten Whitmore in connection with the murder of Richard Gardner.

Gardner was murdered February 10th on board his boat, docked at a Stock Island marina. Whitmore is currently in custody in Salt Lake City, Utah and will be returned to Monroe County to face charges of accessory after the fact to murder and grand theft auto.

Charged with capital murder in the case is 32 year old Jonathan Lebaron, who is also in custody in Salt Lake City. He is reportedly fighting extradition. A Governor's warrant was recently obtained to return him to Monroe County to face the charges.

March 26, 2009

Key West woman charged with robbery

Stock Island - A Key West woman has been charged with robbing another woman after offering her a ride home.

The victim told Deputy Caridad Bellon she was on Duval Street Tuesday night drinking with friends when she met up with 42 year old Sharnetta Oliphant Hendrych, an acquaintance of hers. She said Hendrych offered her a ride home to Stock Island and she accepted.

The victim said they arrived at her home on 6th Street just before 3 a.m. Wednesday. She said as soon as they pulled up on front, the suspect attacked her. They struggled and the suspect grabbed a gold chain off her neck, with a pendant, and her gold earrings. She said the suspect then got out of the car and pulled the victim out onto the ground. The struggle continued outside the car. Finally, the suspect got back in her car and left.

The investigation was assigned to Detective Henry Hamilton. The victim was able to pick the suspect out of a photo line up, confirming it was Oliphant Hendrych who attacked her. On Thursday, Detective Hamilton arrested her on a warrant for robbery. She was booked into jail. Bond is set at $25,000.00.

March 23, 2009

Man charged with animal cruelty

Key Largo - A Key Largo man has been charged with animal cruelty after a witness saw him drown a possum Sunday.

A woman witnessed 66 year old Lorenzo Hugo killing the possum at 3 p.m. Sunday at a boat ramp at the 94.8 mile marker. She told Deputy Robert Dosh he put the possum in a cage, then lowered it into the water with a rope. When he pulled the cage back up the animal was dead. He then put it in a black garbage bag an placed the bag behind a nearby wall.

The dead animal was found where she said it was, and the trap, still wet, was found in the back of Hugo's truck. He was issued a notice to appear in court for animal cruelty and he was released on his own recognizance.

Man breaks in to residence, beats ex-roommate

Big Pine Key - A Big Pine Key man is under arrest, charged with breaking in to his ex-roommate's apartment on Gordon Road, Big Pine Key and beating him into unconsciousness.

Witnesses told Deputy Christopher Rhinehart 58 year old Edward Gilhooly used to live with the victim and they had a relationship. He now reportedly lives in an apartment upstairs from the victim. At 3 a.m. today, Gilhooly knocked on the door. When one of the witnesses answered the door, he pushed his way inside and began taking CDs from the apartment. The victim ordered him to leave and they began to fight. The fight moved outdoors and the victim returned inside, locking the door and locking Gilhooly out.

Gilhooly began pounding on the door, yelling and tried to pry the door open. He finally smashed a sliding glass door to gain entrance. He pushed and shoved the two witnesses who finally retreated outside and called 911 for help. When Deputies Rhinehart and Nick Oettinger, assisted by a Border Patrol agent, arrived they found the victim unconscious and the suspect injured from broken glass. He was sitting on the victim's lap.

Gilhooly was arrested and charged with two counts of battery, burglary with battery on the occupant and aggravated battery. He was booked into jail.

March 20, 2009

Chase winds up in arrest

Key Largo – A Key Largo man is under arrest after he stole his roommates car today then fled from deputies when they tried to stop him in it.

Deputy Shiela Swindle took a report of a stolen 2003 Hyundai from a woman who lives with the suspect. The two of them live at a residence at the 106 mile marker. She told the deputy she noticed the car gone when she tried to go to work this morning at 7:45 a.m.

Deputy Swindle spotted the car about an hour later, southbound at the 101 mile marker. The roommate, 33 year old George Gamber was driving. When the deputy attempted to stop him, he fled in the car. She followed him from 2nd Street to Kay Drive. He then turned onto Avenue B – a one way street. Gamber turned around at the end of the street and then tried to ram the front of the deputy’s vehicle as he fled back down the street.

He continued to flee back down Kay Drive, heading toward U.S. One. By that time, Deputy Swindle had called for backup.

Gamber turned onto the highway, southbound at a high rate of speed, running cars off the roadway as he fled. At one point, he cut in front of a school bus causing the bus driver to slam on his brakes to avoid an accident. Gamber did a U turn at the 95 mile marker, and while attempting to turn on Cuda Lane, he ran over a stop sign and into a chain link fence. At that point, he jumped out of the car and fled on foot.

Deputies chased him on foot and jumped into the water behind a residence. He got out of the water and continued to flee through back yards on on private docks behind homes in the area.

Gamber was finally stopped by deputies on Cuda Lane and taken into custody. He was charged with grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding police and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and he was booked into jail. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the related accident.

Two accidents involving motorcycles

There were two serious accidents today involving motorcycles. Both are being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol:

March 19, 2009

Key Largo man charged with stealing, selling jewelry

Key Largo - Sheriff's deputies arrested a Key Largo man Wednesday after he stole jewelry from a residence he was working in and pawned it.

Deputy Kenneth Baker responded to a home on 1st Court in Key Largo at 1:30 p.m. The owner of the home said a large amount of his wife's jewelry had been stolen from his home sometime between March 9th and March 18th. He said he suspected a man who'd been remodeling his bathroom during that time, 42 year old Stanley Fisher of Key Largo.

Deputy Baker went to Coral Financial, a local pawn shop, and found the stolen items had been pawned there by Fisher. He then went to Fisher's house on Janet Place and placed Fisher under arrest. Fisher was charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. He was booked into jail.

March 18, 2009

Woman who reported rape doesn't want to pursue the case

Little Torch Key - The woman who reported being raped as she walked home on Pirates Road, Little Torch Key the night of March 7th now is telling detectives to stop investigating the case.

The victim is no longer being cooperative with detectives, saying she wants them to drop their investigation. During the course of investigating, detectives say her story has changed several times and there were a number of avenues in the investigation she did not want them to pursue. Finally she just quit cooperating with them. They say it is possible the rape did not occur at all, although without further help from the victim, they will probably never know for sure.

"We know there are people who live in that area who are concerned about this. We wanted to let everyone know where the case currently stands," said Undersheriff Rick Ramsay. "It is our recommendation that no matter where you live, you should take appropriate precautions when walking outside late at night, particularly in areas with little or no lighting and few houses around. And, if you see any suspicious activity or people in your neighborhood, call us so we can check it out," he said.

Marathon man arrested on marijuana charges

Marathon - Sheriff's deputies responding to the area of 109th Street on a call of possible animal abuse wound up arresting a man on marijuana charges Tuesday.

The alleged animal abuse was reported to be taking place in a duplex on that street. Deputies, assisted by agents with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) checked out the reports at 9:30 p.m. and found the dog in good health. The owners admitted to hitting the dog for disciplinary purposes and were counseled on the proper care of the animal. The incident was reported to Animal Control.

While there, the resident of the other unit in the duplex opened his door and the CBP officers were able to smell the odor of marijuana smoke coming from inside. Deputy Joel Slough confronted the resident, 52 year old Ricky Ransom, who agreed to a search of his residence. During the search, he voluntarily told Deputy Slough he had "almost an ounce" of marijuana in his closet. Deputy Slough found the drugs, and found numerous items of paraphernalia. He also found a small marijuana plant growing in a pot.

Ransom was arrested. He was charged with possession of 26 grams of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia and he was booked into jail.

Teen charged with multiple felonies

Stock Island - A Stock Island teen was arrested on outstanding felony warrants for an incident which took place in February.

On February 22nd at 2:30 a.m., deputies responded to reports of a moped being stolen from the front yard of a residence on Miriam Street. When they arrived, they saw the suspect, who fled. Deputies chased him as he threw rocks at them and yelled obscenities. He had bare feet, and was only wearing underwear. He was wet, as if he'd been in the water, and his actions indicated he was probably under the influence of some type of drugs. He eventually eluded the officers..

His clothing, which was also wet, was found near the scooter he was trying to steal. Inside the pocket of his pants were two Key West High School class rings which had been reported stolen earlier in a vehicle burglary on Miriam Street.

On March 1st, deputies arrested 15 year old Manuel Argomaniz for violation of probation. During the arrest, the boy bragged about the February 22nd crimes. A warrant was obtained for his arrest on charges of assault on a law enforcement officer, burglary, theft of a vehicle and resisting an officer with violence and he has now been additionally charged with those crimes.

March 15, 2009

Armed robber, accomplice arrested in Key Largo

Key Largo - A man who robbed Papa John's Pizza and his pregnant sister who drove the getaway vehicle are under arrest.

The robbery took place at midnight. The assistant manager told Deputy Edgar Piniero he was behind the cash register when a man later identified as 39 year old David Green of Miami walked in and ordered a pizza. As the victim told him how much the pizza was, Green pulled out a handgun, pointed it at him and told him, "If you move you die." He then ordered the victim to give him the cash from the register.

After receiving the money from the victim, Green fled through the front door. A number of witnesses were present as the victim ran out after him yelling that he'd just been robbed.

Witnesses saw Green get into a 2009 white Chrysler sedan. The car took off northbound. Sheriff's dispatchers put out a notice to be on the lookout for the car. Deputy Richard Bellon and Deputy Keith Albert both spotted it at the 99 mile marker. He and several other deputies pulled the car over and safely got the driver, 24 year old Devaroh Green out of the car and in custody. Then ordered David Green out of the passenger side.

Once he was handcuffed, the deputies looked inside the vehicle. They found a loaded handgun, a ski mask and gloves. They found the stolen cash in Green's pocket.

Devaroh Green, who is eight months pregnant and says she is David Green's sister, complained of stomach pains. Paramedics were called to the scene, but she refused treatment.

She was charged with driving with a suspended license and being an accessory after the fact to armed robbery. David Green was charged with robbery with a firearm, grand theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was further charged with an outstanding warrant from Dade County for sale of cocaine.

March 14, 2009

Man charged with more Big Pine Crimes

Detectives charged a Big Pine Key man with more burglaries and thefts in connection with a large spate of such crimes on Big Pine early this year.

47 year old Billy Welch was originally arrested on February 27th. There were approximately 40 thefts and break ins in the Big Pine Key area between January 1st and the time of his arrest. Since he was booked into jail, there have been only a few such crimes reported, and some of those reported had happened prior to the 27th.

Between yesterday and today, Welch has been charged with more of the crimes and detectives say their investigations are continuing. He was charged with four more counts of burglary, six counts of theft and one count of criminal mischief. These crimes included:

A 25 HP boat motor taken off a boat at Breezy Pines Trailer Park February 22nd; Welch told detectives he took it and began to carry it away to give it to someone but when it got to heavy he dropped it in some weeds. The following day, the victim noticed it missing. He looked around the area and found it, putting it back on the boat.

A bicycle taken from Royal Palms Trailer Park February 24th. He said he took it, but abandoned it a short time later when he heard what sounded like police officers on bicycles chasing him. It was indeed detectives on bikes, patrolling the area for the criminal preying on Big Pine residents. They chased Welch, but failed to catch him that night. The bike was returned to the owner.

A vehicle burglary on Sands Road sometime between February 7 - 10th. Welch took a GPS, cordless razor, CDs and a Solitaire game which he stashed in the woods. He took the detectives to where he'd stashed the items and they were recovered.

A boat burglary at Royal Palms Trailer park on February 24th. He took a GPS, depth finder, medications and glasses.

A vehicle burglary on February 24th at Royal Palms Trailer Park. He took a tool box, but left it beneath a tree when it got too heavy to carry. He led detectives to the tree and the tool box was still there. It was returned to the owner.

A business burglary on February 5th at Biosphere Import Car Service on Quail Roost Drive. He took a camera and other items. He returned the camera to detectives, who returned it to the owner.

March 11, 2009

Sheriff's Office looks into "fight club"

Marathon - The Sheriff's Office is looking into a fight club formed by a group of students at Marathon High School.

Videos of the Florida Keys Fight Club are posted on You Tube and depict boys fighting and wrestling in a ring set up in what looks like the back yard of a home. The fights do appear to have some rules attached, and there does appear to be a boy acting as referee in the videos.

Sgt. Glenn Test, the School Resource Officer at Marathon High School, became aware of the videos and began looking into it. He will continue his investigation into the case and will be consulting with the State Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit. He is working with School authorities as well in an attempt to identify some of the kids in the videos. He wants to make sure parents are aware of this club, and what they are doing.

"We are concerned because several kids at the school have come to school with bruises and minor injuries, apparently from these fights," said Director Becky Herrin, who oversees the School Resource Officer Unit." We are certainly concerned because this type of activity has the potential to cause serious injury to these kids. If parents aren’t aware of it, they should be and, if any new information is uncovered indicating anything illegal is going on, our investigation will continue and we will take appropriate action."

March 10, 2009

Shots fired; fugitive, shot and apprehended

Photos of the shooting scene

Press Statement by the Environmental Protection Agency

Marathon -
Shots were fired today at a Marathon marina as Officers from the Environmental Protection Agency, assisted by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, apprehended a federal fugitive. Details of the warrant, including the name of the fugitive, is included in the EPA Press Statement issued today.

The fugitive, who pointed a loaded assault rifle at the officers, was shot and was airlifted by Monroe County's Trauma Star helicopter to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami where he will be treated for his injuries. He is in secure custody at that facility, being held on the federal warrant.

He was reportedly staying at a trailer in a marina on 11th Street Gulf in Marathon. Information was received that he might be there. Just before 9 a.m., deputies and officers from the EPA responded. The fugitive came out of the trailer and pointed a loaded rifle at them. They shot him.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be investigating the shooting.

March 9, 2009

Woman reports rape on Little Torch Key

Little Torch Key - A Little Torch Key woman called the Sheriff's Office at 10:30 p.m. Saturday to report being attacked and raped as she walked home.

The woman said she was walking along Pirates Road when a man came out of the bushes. She said he grabbed her, threw her to the ground and raped her. She said during the attack, he told her he'd been watching her over a period of time. The victim told Deputy Nick Oettinger she does have a regular routine and he could have been watching her and planning the attack.

The victim had scrapes and bruises on her knees, her arms and her shoulder. She refused medical attention for her injuries. She described her attacker as "dirty" and "smelling of alcohol". She said he is a white male, about 6 feet tall, medium build with brownish "shaggy" hair. He was wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt and a baseball cap.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Sheriff's Office or contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters may remain anonymous and may receive a reward if their information leads to an arrest. Tips can be submitted on line at www.tipsubmit.com or called in to the Crime Stoppers hot line at 1-800-346-TIPS.

March 7, 2009

Indiana man charged with rape of college student

Stock Island - A young woman visiting the Keys on Spring Break was raped early today. Her attacker is under arrest after admitting to the sexual assault

Just before 6 a.m., Deputies responded to Boyd's Campground on Stock Island after dispatchers received reports of a sexual assault that took place there. According to the 21 year old victim from Orlando and the two male friends she was visiting the Keys with, they arrived at the campground around 2 a.m. and set up a tent. The victim was tired and went into the tent to go to sleep. The two men with her were trying to set up a second tent and had trouble, so they walked away for a short time. As they were returning, they saw a man sitting in a pickup truck at the lot next to theirs.

The man in the truck - later identified as 30 year old Charles Snyder of Indiana - offered them some vodka. The three of them drank together for a while until Snyder made a sexual remark about the victim. At that point, offended by the remark, the two friends of the victim parted company with Snyder.

They went across the street from the campground to eat breakfast. While they were ordering food, they received a call from the victim, who told them she'd just been sexually assaulted. The description she gave them of her attacker matched the man in the truck they'd been drinking with earlier.

The two returned to the campground looking for the suspect. They found Snyder sitting in a shower stall. They attempted to detain him while they called for the Sheriff's Office to respond. A female witness later told deputies she saw the two men punch and kick Snyder several times while attempting to detain him. Snyder broke away and jumped into the water.

Deputies arrived a short time later and found Snyder in the water near the campground. Upon questioning, he admitted to the sexual assault of the victim. He said he crawled into the tent with her and began kissing and fondling her.  Detective Kim Trullender with the Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit responded.

The victim told him she was sleeping when the suspect crawled in the tent with her. She said at first she thought it was her boyfriend, but when she realized it was a stranger who was kissing and fondling her, she yelled at him to leave and he did.

Snyder was arrested. He was charged with Sexual Battery and he was booked into jail.

March 6, 2009

Crane falls on boat

Click here for pictures of the crane after it fell

Marathon – A large crane fell onto a boat at a Marathon marina Wednesday after what appears to be an old septic tank collapsed under the weight of the crane.

The owner of AC / DC Electric Incorporated, Jerry Doss, told Deputy Sydney Whitehouse he was lifting a derelict vessel out of the water at a marina on 15th Street around 1 p.m. when the incident occurred. He said he’d extended the outriggers that stabilize the crane and had begun to lift the vessel from the water when one of the outriggers fell into what appears to be an old underground septic tank. The crane fell over onto a 42 foot Hatteras  owned by Andrew Schlieper, docked nearby. The Hatteras sank under the weight of the crane.

It took several hours to right the crane, which sustained some damage. The Hatteras was lifted upright, but the owner told Deputy Whitehouse he’d lost all the belongings on it. He said he’d just purchased the boat and had not been able to register it or get insurance for it yet.

March 4, 2009

Beach patrol deputy arrests man for threats and theft

Key West - A deputy patrolling Higg's Beach in Key West today arrested a man who stole money from a woman's purse then made numerous violent threats to a witness, and to the deputy himself.

Deputy Ken Fricke was patrolling the beach when the water sports vendor at the beach called him for help. The man told Deputy Fricke he'd just seen 46 year old Jerry Cunningham go through the purse of a woman who was sleeping on the beach. Cunningham then approached the vendor, attempting to rent towels. The vendor asked him if he was using his own money, or the money he'd taken from the sleeping woman. That is when he said Cunningham threatened to kill him and to cut off his head.

Deputy Fricke confronted Cunningham, after confirming the woman was missing money from her purse. Cunningham replied by telling Deputy Fricke he was going to "blow up the beach" and "blow up Key West". He made numerous other threats and told the deputy he was a hired killer for the government and that Bill Clinton was his attorney.

The money was returned to the victim and Cunningham was arrested. He was charged with assault and theft and he was booked into jail.

Bar check shows compliance

The Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division conducted a bar check recently and found all the locations they checked were in compliance with the law.

Detectives visited 20 bars between Marathon and the Upper Keys on February 25th. In the bars, they checked to make sure patrons were 21 years of age or over, and they checked to make sure the establishment’s alcohol license was up to date and properly displayed. All the locations were in compliance and no underage patrons were found.

“Obviously our efforts to regularly check local bars is paying off,” said Sheriff Bob Peryam. “We appreciate the fact that our local establishments are policing themselves. We will continue to run these routine checks on bars, liquor stores and convenience stores to ensure this compliance continues. This is an ongoing effort to reduce the occurrence of underage drinking here in Monroe County. We want to do everything we can to make sure our kids stay safe and stay sober,” he said.

The operation was coordinated with the Monroe County Coalition Against Underage Drinking.

March 3, 2009

Update on Gardner homicide case

Monroe County Sheriff's Homicide Detectives and the Monroe County State Attorney's Office say they have issued a warrant for 32 year old Jonathon LeBaron for first degree premeditated murder in the homicide of Richard Gardner. Click here for a copy of the warrant in pdf format.

Gardner's body was found on board his boat at King's Pointe Marina on Stock Island February 13th.

Detectives say LeBaron and 40 year old Kristena Whitmore are suspects in the homicide case. Today, they charged LeBaron with murdering Gardner; they have not yet charged Whitmore in connection with the death. Both suspects are in custody in Salt Lake City, Utah.

LeBaron will be brought to Monroe County to face the homicide charges.

Man charged with aggravated battery now charged with stealing, selling stolen items

Plantation Key - A man arrested for cutting another man during a fight February 25th on Plantation Key is now under arrest for burglarizing a home, then selling some of the items he took.

The burglary on Kahiki Drive was reported February 12th. The owner reported large amount of fishing equipment, dive gear and a refrigerator stolen, including 35 assorted big game fishing rods valued at approximately $10,000.00 and $3,000 worth of dive gear.

On February 25th, deputies responded to take a report of a man being cut on the face with a sharp object. The victim of the fight told them he and Jorge Villareal had been fighting the night before over six rods and reels he'd bought from Villareal. He said Villareal cut him on the side of the face during the fight. Villareal was arrested the following day and charged with aggravated battery.

Investigators asked the victim if they could see the rods and reels he bought from Villareal. They turned out to be some of the same equipment stolen from the home on Kahiki Drive. Further investigation led detectives to obtain a warrant for the arrest of Villareal. The arrested him Monday, charging him with burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. The investigation continues as detectives attempt to find the rest of the items stolen during the break in on Kahiki Drive.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Sheriff’s Office or call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and may receive a reward if their information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.