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
February 29, 2012
Marathon man charged with burglary of trailer
Marathon – A Marathon man who broke into a trailer while the owner was gone, and appears to have lived there for several months was arrested Tuesday.
The victim has another residence in Naples. She said she had been gone since November and returned in January to find someone had apparently been living in her trailer on 47th Street. Deputy Anthony O’Dea responded to the trailer to take a burglary report. He found evidence someone broke in through a back window.
Inside, the owner said she found CDs and DVDs that weren’t hers, bottles of liquor in the freezer that weren’t hers, used condoms in the trash and numerous other items belonging to someone else. She said when she got her water and electric bills, they were much higher than they would normally be.
A couple of days after making the initial report of burglary, the victim called again. She told Deputy O’Dea a man had come to her door yelling for someone named “Kenny”.
Fingerprints were obtained from numerous areas inside the trailer. A Sheriff’s Office Fingerprint / Identification technician examined the prints and was able to identify some of them as belonging to a Marathon resident with a history of burglary, 20 year old Kenneth White. A warrant was issued for White’s arrest. On Tuesday, he was arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft. He was booked into jail. His bond is set at $10,000.00.
February 28, 2012
Marathon teen charged with second burglary
Grassy Key – A Grassy Key teen has been charged with a second count of burglary to a Grassy Key home.
17 year old Kevin Bollig was originally arrested February 13th for breaking in to a home on Grassy Key on January 24th and stealing a large amount of jewelry, an Apple IPad, Amazon Kindle, and two computers. The victim saw Bollig in a wooded area behind his house stuffing something into a bag, then hiding it. When the victim checked the bag, he found his mail inside, along with all the items stolen from his home.
A second burglary took place in the same area of Grassy Key, also in January. The victim said it appeared someone had been staying in the residence. There was extensive damage inside the house and the suspect had taken a flat screen television, a spear gun and bottles of liquor from the house.
In both cases, fingerprints found at the scene were analyzed by a Sheriff’s Office Fingerprint / Identification Technician who identified them as belonging to Bollig, who lives in the neighborhood where both crimes took place. Warrants were issued for Bollig’s arrest for both crimes. He was charged with the first burglary February 13th, and for the second burglary on Monday.
Detectives Ron Sylvester and Trevor Wirth were investigators on both cases.
19 year old charged with sex with minor
Key Largo – A 19 year old Key Largo man has been arrested for soliciting sex with a 14 year old girl on Facebook, and subsequently having sexual relations with her.
Major Crimes Detective Daniel Mehler arrested Jorge Bravo-Machuca Monday, charging him with lewd and lascivious acts on a minor and using a computer to solicit a minor.
Detective Mehler began investigating the case in June of 2011 when the victim’s father discovered Bravo was sending his daughter lewd communications on her Facebook account. He printed out the conversations, providing them to the detective. Det. Mehler questioned the victim, who admitted “dating” Bravo and admitted the two planned to have sexual relations together.
In November of 2011, the father reported his daughter had snuck out after attending a Homecoming Dance; at that point, she admitted to having sex with Bravo multiple times, both after the dance and at other times. She said Bravo told her he was 17 years old.
A warrant was obtained for Bravo’s arrest. He is currently in jail. His bond is set at $25,000.00.
February 26, 2012
Three teens charged with vehicle burglaries
Summerland Key – Three teens were arrested Saturday for vehicle burglaries on Summerland Key after a witness saw them committing the crimes.
Deputy Martin Harbin responded to West Caribbean Drive on Summerland Key just before 2 p.m. A witness told him he’d seen three people in a black Mercedes C300 burglarizing vehicles. He said a male was driving the vehicle; the two females would get out, one would enter a vehicle while the other acted as “lookout”; they would then get back into the Mercedes and go to the next vehicle. He said the Mercedes just left the area, headed toward U.S. One. He was able to identify one of the suspects as 15 year old Sarah Bell who lives on Summerland Key.
Further investigation revealed at least four vehicles burglarized on West Caribbean Drive. Detectives assigned to the case contacted Bell’s father; Bell, 18 year old Oliver Vitale and 18 year old Brook Vanarsdel, both of Key West, were subsequently interviewed and arrested, charged with four counts of burglary and theft.
Fire damages marina
Key Largo – Fire damaged a Key Largo marina Saturday night.
Deputies and Monroe County firefighters responded to Garden Cove Marina at 8 p.m. to reports of a boat fire. When they arrived, they found a fire which appears to have originated in the office of the marina; a vessel on the roof of the office was also damaged by the fire.
The Fire Marshall’s office was notified and will be investigating the cause of the blaze.
February 24, 2012
Man arrested for threats to judge; deputies family
Stock Island – A Stock Island man is in jail, charged with making threats against a judge and a deputy’s family.
48 year old Michael Haggerty posted the threat on his Facebook page, saying “Judge Luis Garcia has denied my rights to a fair hearing can u people believe the bullshit the county n the Dowling family has made?? Time to go get my guns out of storage and even the score today people, it been fun see you in the next world!” The threat against the judge is believed to be in regards to a temporary injunction petition filed against Haggerty; the threats against Deputy Dowling’s family are believed to be related to a long standing issue Haggerty has had with Deputy Dowling’s wife.
Before making the threats, during the week of February 13th, Haggerty reportedly called the Judge’s office, speaking with the Judge’s assistant; he was belligerent, demanding to know what was happening with the case. The assistant informed him a notice he filed was denied, and he began ranting on the phone, so the assistant hung up on him. Soon after this call, he posted the Facebook threats.
The Sheriff’s Office posted a protection detail for both Judge Garcia, and for Deputy Dowling and his family while detectives investigated the case. On February 17th, Detective Sgt. Bobby Randolph had a conversation with Haggerty during which he asked him why he posted such comments on Facebook. Haggerty replied “Because I like causing you people problems, because sooner or later you are going to violate my civil rights and I am going to own you people.” During the same conversation, he tells Det. Sgt. Randolph “I want you people to be afraid.” And also, “There is only two ways that this will all end, violently or I win a Federal Lawsuit.”
Today, a warrant was issued for Haggerty’s arrest for two counts of making threats to kill or injure someone. He was booked into the Stock Island jail. There is no bond allowed on the warrant.
Islamorada Business burglaries under investigation
Islamorada – Detectives say they are investigating two business burglaries in Islamorada which may be connected. One at an optical shop and one at a print shop next door, both located at the 81 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.
They are hoping the release of two photos from a surveillance camera will help the investigation. The camera caught suspects inside Tropical Optical, which was burglarized just before 11 p.m. on February 14th . The print shop - Print Source of the Keys - is believed to have been broken into sometime the night of the 17th. Suspects took thousands of dollars worth of sunglasses and eye glasses from the optical shop; they took an office computer from the print shop.
In both cases, suspects forced entry through the front doors of the businesses.
Detective Yunier Galvez is lead investigator and anyone with information about this crime should contact him immediately at 305-853-3211. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip to Crime Stoppers results in an arrest, the tipster would be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-TIPS or at www.tipsubmit.com.
February 21, 2012
Marathon man charged with burglary
Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested Monday afternoon after he was caught inside a woman’s house.
The victim called the Sheriff’s Office just before 2 p.m. She said she returned home to her residence on 6th Avenue and found 20 year old Travis Leachman inside. She said he broke in to the home through a locked back door.
When Deputy Jeffrey Deluca arrived, Leachman was still on the premises. Leachman said he’d entered the home to get his belongings from inside. He had a screwdriver with him which may have been used to force open the back door.
Leachman was arrested and charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools. He was booked into jail.
February 16, 2012
Traffic stop leads to marijuana arrests
Marathon – Two men were arrested for possessing marijuana after failing to stop at an intersection on Aviation Boulevard Wednesday night.
Deputy Nicholis Whiteman was on patrol when he saw a dark colored SUV fail to stop at 107th Street and 6th Avenue shortly after 10 p.m. When he pulled the car over, he found 22 year old Giuseppe Melia of Marathon driving and 20 year old John Kornetti of Marathon riding as his passenger.
When Melia rolled down his window, Deputy Whiteman smelled the odor of marijuana coming from inside. He called back up officers to the scene. When Melia was confronted with the odor, he admitted to having marijuana in his vehicle.
At first, Melia handed over a mason jar with one bud of marijuana inside; when the officers asked if he had any more, he admitted to having plastic bags of the illegal substance under the back seat. The bags were located, Inside were 472 grams of marijuana. A digital scale was also found in the truck. Kornetti admitted the scale was his.
Melia was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Kornetti was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. They were both taken to jail.
Business burglary under investigation
Islamorada – An optical shop in Islamorada was burglarized Tuesday night with suspects taking thousands of dollars worth of sunglasses and eye glasses.
Deputies and detectives responded to Tropical Optical Wednesday morning and met with the owner who reported his business had been broken into. Investigations revealed suspects entered the business at about sometime overnight. by removing the lock from the front door and disabling the alarm system. They took over $30,000.00 worth of property from inside, including sunglasses and eye glass frames.
Detectives are investigating. Anyone with information about this crime should contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately at 305-853-3211. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip to Crime Stoppers results in an arrest, the tipster would be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-TIPS or at www.tipsubmit.com.
February 15, 2012
Observant citizen helps with burglary arrests
Big Coppitt Key – A Big Coppitt resident saw a crime taking place on his street Tuesday afternoon and called the Sheriff’s office. Two men are now in jail for burglary.
The man who reported the crime lives on Dolphin Road. He told Deputy Richard Wang he was walking by an lot at #2 Dolphin Road at 12:45 a.m. when he saw two men carrying large rolls of copper wire from a storage shed on the property. When they saw him, they dropped the wire and fled. The witness said he saw them get into a grey colored Ford Escape and flee southbound. He was able to describe the vehicle in detail, and gave dispatchers the vehicle’s license tag number as well.
Deputy Wang contacted the owner of the storage shed, who told him she did not give anyone permission to be in her shed or to take the copper wire.
The vehicle was located at U.S. One and Cross Street on Stock Island by Detective Dave Chavka. Inside the vehicle were 29 year old Fernando Lopez and 31 year old Tommy Morales, both of Key West. The witness identified both the vehicle and its occupants as the ones he saw at the crime scene.
Both men were charged with burglary and grand theft and they were booked into jail.
Dogs rescued from burned trailer
Stock Island – Stock Island Firefighters rescued two dogs from inside a burned trailer today on Stock Island.
Deputies and firefighters responded to Jerome Trailer park at 6633 Maloney Avenue at 1 p.m. to reports of a trailer on fire. When they arrived, residents of the park told them they thought there were dogs inside the trailer.
Firefighters were able to pull the two dogs out of the smoke filled structure, still alive. They administered first aid to them and, as of this afternoon, it appears the dogs will be fine. The trailer was severely damaged by fire and the Fire Marshalls Office is investigating the cause of the fire.
February 14, 2012
Inmate on work detail escapes
Sheriff’s deputies and detectives are looking for a Monroe County jail inmate who walked away from a trusty job he was working for Monroe County Public Works at the Marathon Government Center.
48 year Donald Cook was in jail on charges of battery and resisting arrest. He was arrested on December 12th. He was last seen at 2:45 p.m. at the Government Center. He is described as a white male, 6 feet tall, 146 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. His inmate uniform was located a short distance away so it is unknown what he might be wearing, although he may have on the pair of blue shorts and a light blue t-shirt he had on under the uniform.
Anyone who knows where Cook is, or who has information which could help the Sheriff’s Office locate him should call 911 immediately. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a tip leads to an arrest, the caller is eligible for a cash reward. Tips can be submitted to 1-800-346-TIPS or www.tipsubmit.com.
February 10, 2012
Vehicle burglaries in Key Largo
Sheriff’s deputies took reports of seven vehicle burglaries in the vicinity of Largo Road Thursday morning.
The vehicles which were entered were all left unlocked, parked in front of or in the driveways of residences in that area. Suspects took a wallet, DVD player, a watch, a purse, a carton of cigarettes and cash from the vehicles.
One victim said his dogs were barking overnight, but he didn’t check to see what they were barking at; one said he heard his car alarm go off, but didn’t look to see why.
The Sheriff’s Office always recommends locking car doors, even if they are parked in the driveway or in front of your house. It only takes a moment to lock the doors, but it will, in most cases, prevent a crime from taking place. Most vehicle burglars will not use force to enter a vehicle. They simply walk down a roadway in the middle of the night trying car doors until they find one open.
Anyone who has information about these crimes should contact the Sheriff’s Office. 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 from Crime Stoppers. To submit at tip, call 1-800-346-Tips or go to www.tipsubmit.com.
February 8, 2012
Five arrested on drug-related warrants
Marathon – Detectives from the Special Investigations Unit arrested five narcotics suspects on a total of seven outstanding warrants during a warrant sweep in Marathon.
The warrants were the result of narcotics purchases made from local drug dealers in Marathon over the past several weeks. The following people were arrested:
43 year old Nelson Cruz Chico of Marathon, charged with sale of cocaine. He had marijuana when he was arrested, so he was further charged with possession of Marijuana.
32 year old Julian Jose Lami of Marathon, charged with sale of marijuana. He had marijuana and drug paraphernalia with him when he was arrested, so he faces those charges as well.
43 year old Virginia Pauline Kuhn of Marathon. Sale of cocaine.
27 year old Amy Nicole Kerill of Marathon, charged with two counts sale of marijuana and use of a two way communication device to commit a felony.
53 year old William Beagle of Marathon. Sale of cocaine.
More arrests are pending.
February 5, 2011
Man makes false 911 calls, is arrested for drugs
Stock Island – A Key West man who called 911 three times in the early morning hours today was arrested after deputies found him with drugs.
At 1:20 a.mm., Dispatchers received three calls from a man who said he was at Cross Street and 6th Avenue, complaining of chest pains; he hung up abruptly on each call. When dispatchers tried to call back, there was no answer. Deputies Massiel Brimo and Chris Fraser responded to the area. They found 51 year old Thomas Ecker in that area. As the deputies approached him, Ecker threw something into the grass. The deputies could smell marijuana as they approached Ecker and the item he threw turned out to be a plastic baggy with cocaine in it. He had marijuana in his pocket, along with cigarette rolling papers.
They asked Ecker if he called 911 and he denied it. They asked if he needed medical attention, he said no. When they called the number back, however, Ecker’s cell phone rang.
Ecker was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia and misuse of 911. He was taken to jail.
February 3, 2012
Manslaughter arrest in connection with homeless man’s death
Marathon – A Marathon man has been charged with manslaughter for being instrumental in the death of a homeless man, whose body was found in a wooded area near 62nd Street January 20th.
45 year old Fredrick “Fritz” Berndt admitted to fighting with the victim, 41 year old Kenneth Anderson, the day before Anderson’s body was found. He told Detective Mark Coleman he hit Anderson with his elbow and Anderson fell to the ground. He said the fight took place near Dion’s convenience store. He said after the fight, Anderson fell, got up and then began staggering toward the wooded area. Berndt said he walked with the victim and helped him find a place to lie down. He said, “you found him in the woods, I know, I left him there.”
An autopsy showed Anderson died of blunt trauma to the head.
During the course of their investigation, detectives interviewed numerous people who saw the two together. Several witnesses said they saw Berndt hitting Anderson; one said she saw Berndt dragging Anderson on the ground. Two others said Berndt was talking about the fight and about Anderson’s death after the fact.
When he was charged with manslaughter, Berndt was already in jail, charged with grand theft. He was arrested on January 6th after a friend let him use his shower and then caught him stealing cash from a drawer in his bedroom.
Man arrested for attempting to rob bank
Stock Island – A man is in custody today, charged with attempting to rob the First State Bank on Stock Island.
43 year old Eli Escalera walked in to the bank at 12:30 p.m. He had a pair of shorts on his head and he handed one of the bank tellers a note which said “give me what are 20s and 50s”. The manager was nearby watching, and the teller asked “what do you want?” At that point, Escalera said “never mind” and walked out of the bank.
The manager of the bank called Detective Donald Catala and relayed descriptive information to him. Detective Catala was close by and responded; he also issued the descriptive information over police radios to deputies in the area. Deputies were looking for a Hispanic male wearing a blue shirt, dark colored cargo pants, with scars on his face.
Deputy Matt Dowling was nearby as well and, as he approached 5th Street and MacDonald Avenue, he looked down 5th Street and saw a man fitting Escalera’s description who was taking a pair of dark colored pants off. When he saw Deputy Dowling he jumped on his bike and fled. He was caught near 3rd Avenue and 5th Street and was taken into custody. The discarded clothing was taken as evidence.
Detective Catala transported a witness to the area and she identified Escalera as the man who had tried to rob the bank. She also identified the clothing he had discarded as the clothing he was wearing at the time of the robbery.
Escalera was charged with robbery. He was booked into jail.
Detectives arrest wanted fugitive
A man wanted on multiple felony drug related charges was arrested Thursday in Miami.
A tip came in to Lower Keys detectives that fugitive Ernesto Cabrera-Rodriguez was hiding out in a residence in Miami Dade County. The information was passed along to the Special Investigations Unit. The unit sent narcotics detectives to Miami to coordinate the apprehension with Miami-Dade County Police.
Surveillance was conducted on the residence to confirm he was there; detectives followed him when he left the home, taking him into custody at a nearby shopping center near 184th Avenue and the Florida Turnpike. At the time of his arrest, Cabrera-Rodriguez was in possession of 16 grams of powdered cocaine.
Cabrera-Rodriguez faces charges of failure to appear in court for possession of cocaine and distribution of synthetic narcotics; possession of cocaine, possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana; trafficking in oxycodone; sale of oxycodone, sale of cocaine and use of a two way communication device to facilitate a felony.
His girlfriend, Thea Phillips, was with him and was also arrested after 8 grams of marijuana were found in her possession. Detectives say more charges are pending against her.
Both suspects are currently in custody in Miami-Dade County and will be returned to Monroe County to face charges.
February 2, 2012
Detectives arrest two FKCC students for marijuana
Stock Island - At the request of college administrators, detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit conducted a K-9 search at the Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island Wednesday. Two students were arrested after the dog found drugs in two rooms.
Detectives, along with K-9 Deja searched dorm rooms on the campus. Deja alerted on Suite 214, which has four occupants with individual rooms. As they began searching the rooms, 20 year old Neil Boyle came forward, admitting to having marijuana in his room. During a search, Deja located marijuana and a scale with marijuana residue. Boyle was arrested and charged with Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, on school grounds.
Detectives continued their operation. Deja alerted on Suite 310, which also has four individual rooms. They knocked on the door of a room belonging to 19 year old Codie Kelley. Initially, no one answered the door. Detectives had a maintenance person monitoring the sewer outlet from the dorm room, however, and he observed a bag of marijuana being flushed into the sewer. After repeatedly knocking on the door, detectives were eventually admitted to the room by Kelley. When Kelley opened the door, detectives could smell marijuana. They questioned Kelley, who told them he no longer had any marijuana because he had flushed it down the toilet. Kelley was arrested and charged with Tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana on school property.
February 1, 2012
Man charged with gun threats
Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested after he threatened another man by pointing a gun at him.
The victim called the Sheriff’s Office at 5:50 p.m. to report the incident. He described the suspect a wearing a yellow shirt and living on a boat in Boot Key Harbor. He said he only knows him as “Jose Cuba”.
Deputy Josh Brady responded. He was taken into the Harbor by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. As they entered the harbor, they saw a man wearing a yellow shirt on a red boat. They stopped him and he was identified as 43 year old Jose Parrado. He denied having a gun and none was found on the boat. He admitted to having a second boat anchored in the harbor, however and agreed to a search of that boat as well.
As the officers approached Parrado’s second boat, called “Jose Cuba”, they saw a gun on the cabin roof. Closer inspection revealed it to be a pellet gun.
Although Parrado denied threatening anyone with the pellet gun, the victim identified him as the man who pointed a gun at his head. Several other people who witnessed the incident corroborated his story. Parrado was arrested, charged with aggravated assault and he was taken to jail.
Fleeing man caught after traffic crash
Stock Island – A man wanted for escaping from a jail in Louisiana the day after Christmas was caught just before midnight after he crashed a stolen car on Stock Island.
Key West Police radioed the Sheriff’s Office they were following a red Mini Cooper that was stolen and wouldn’t stop. Deputies Chris Fraser and Massiel Brimo parked on the Stock Island side of the Cow Key Channel Bridge and spotted the vehicle as it crossed the bridge at 11:40 p.m., with a Key West Police car behind it.
The deputies got behind the Mini Cooper with his lights and siren activated. At first it appeared the vehicle was going to stop in the parking lot of Dion’s Quik Mart, but then the car sped off, onto MacDonald Avenue. The driver, later identified as 43 year old Craig Rannells, attempted a sharp turn onto Hollerich Street, but instead crashed into some utility boxes on the side of the road.
He was taken into custody as he exited the vehicle. A check on his name revealed he was wanted in Louisianna for escaping from the Richland Parish Detention Center; he was reportedly in jail on charges of kidnapping and attempted aggravated rape.
Rannells told the officers he stole the vehicle so he could leave town. He was charged with fleeing and eluding police and driving with a suspended license. More charges are pending by Key West Police.