Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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

January 29, 2004

Key Largo man charged with burglary to business

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Key Largo – Deputies arrested a Key Largo man for burglarizing a business in the early morning hours today (Thursday).

38 year old Michael Howley was still in the vicinity of the Paradise Pub at the 102 mile marker of the highway when he was apprehended for the crime just before 5 a.m. A janitor at the business said he arrived in the parking lot to find Howley walking around carrying a lamp from the business. Further investigation revealed a window broken on the side of the business.

Howley was arrested by Deputy Jason Keith and Sgt. Joe Passerelli and he was charged with burglary. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Sheriff reminds people to lock car doors

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Monroe County – The reporting of four automobile burglaries over the past two days should serve as a reminder to everyone in Monroe County to always lock a vehicle’s doors when you are not driving it.

In all four cases, one in Key Largo and three in the lower Keys, the vehicle owners left them parked overnight, unlocked. A cell phone, charger, stereo, scanner and a handicap placard were stolen in the burglaries.

Even if you are only exiting the vehicle for a few minutes, it doesn’t take much effort to lock it. You should also remove any valuable items from sight, putting them under a seat, in a glove compartment, in the trunk, or taking them with you. And remember – no place is really safe - many of these crimes take place in residential areas, when the vehicles are parked in driveways, or on the street in front of the owner’s house.

Save yourself the trouble of dealing with the loss of your belongings, and save us the trouble of doing all the paperwork and investigation associated with a burglary. Lock your car doors and secure your valuables before you become a victim.

Big Pine man charged with burglary and theft

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Big Pine Key – A Big Pine Key man was arrested Wednesday, charged with burglarizing a man’s trailer and stealing his tools and plants while the man was in the hospital.

The victim told Deputy David Chavka he was in the hospital from December 3rd until January 23rd and when he returned to his trailer at the Seahorse Campground on Big Pine Key, he found it had been burglarized. He said he found his refrigerator empty, his television packed up as if it were about to be removed, several potted plants gone and a large number of expensive tools missing. Further investigation revealed some of the stolen plants in front of a nearby trailer.

Upon questioning, 68 year old Gordon Bell, who lived at the trailer where the plants were found, admitted to Deputy Chavka that he’d removed the items from the victim’s trailer site. He said he also put his own padlock on the door of the victim’s trailer, and had his electricity and water turned off.

He agreed to give the tools and plants back to the victim. In an effort to find where he put them, Bell took the deputy into his trailer, which was reportedly piled high with various items, including tools which Bell claimed belonged to him. He then took the deputy to a warehouse on Industrial Road on Big Pine Key. At the warehouse, Bell showed Deputy Chavka another mobile home, a trailer and several vehicles all stuffed with various items, including dive gear, tools, electronics and other things. Finally, he took the deputy to a van parked at his trailer which was packed with boxes. In the boxes were various items marked as if for sale. In a box in the van, he finally uncovered the tools taken from the victim’s residence.

The tools and plants were returned to the owner. Bell was arrested, charged with burglary and grand theft and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 27, 2004

Florida City man charged with fleeing from officer

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Islamorada – A Florida City man was arrested Monday after he failed to stop and tried to elude a law enforcement officer in Islamorada.

Captain Joe Leiter was parked in his patrol vehicle at the 90 mile marker Monday at 3:15 p.m. when he saw a 1992 Cadillac stop in the middle of the roadway, apparently for no reason. The car, stopped in the southbound lanes of the highway, was causing a traffic obstruction, so Captain Leiter activated his lights and siren and pulled up behind it to see what was wrong.

The driver, 47 year old Phil Harris of Florida City, looked in his rear view mirror, saw the patrol car, and took off, accelerating southbound. Captain Leiter followed him, still trying to stop the car.

Finally, at the 88 mile marker, the passenger in the Cadillac reached over and grabbed the steering wheel, forcing Harris to pull the car to the side of the road. Captain Leiter, backed up by other deputies, had to struggle with Harris, who refused to let go of the steering wheel. They finally removed him from the car and placed him under arrest.

A check on his name revealed he had a suspended driver’s license. In fact, the license had been suspended three times: once for failing to complete court ordered substance abuse treatment, once for being a habitual traffic offender and once for failing to pay a traffic fine.

Harris was charged with fleeing and eluding police, driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest without violence. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Key Largo man arrested for stolen auto, warrants

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Islamorada – A Key Largo man was arrested after he was found sleeping in a stolen car parked at a bridge in Islamorada.

Deputy Chuck Kellenberger was on patrol today (Tuesday) in the early morning hours when he spotted the white 1992 Saturn parked at the north end of the Channel 2 Bridge in Islamorada. He noticed someone sleeping inside, and when he ran a check on the car’s license tag, the car turned out to be reported stolen out of Palm Beach County.

Deputy Alvin Burns and Sgt. Tim Hurd responded as back up and the man inside the car, 49 year old Steven Stanke, was arrested without incident. He was charged with grand theft auto.

A check on Stanke through law enforcement computers turned up six outstanding warrants, five for violation of probation ref. various charges, and one for making a fraudulent insurance claim. All the warrants were from Palm Beach County.

Stanke was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 23, 2004

Orlando man arrested for stolen boat

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Key Largo – A Kissimmee, Florida man was arrested Thursday for possessing a stolen boat. He told deputies and Border Patrol officers the boat was going to be used to pick up his brother in Cuba.

34 year old Adalberto Castillo-Martinez told the officers several different stories Thursday after he was stopped by Border Patrol officers at 5:45 p.m. on Card Sound Road pulling the stolen boat. The boat, a 1987 Chris Craft Scorpion, is valued at $80,000.00 and was reported stolen from St. Petersburg, Florida in September of 2003.

Deputy Nelson Sanchez responded to assist Border Patrol with the case. Upon questioning, Castillo-Martinez told several different stories about what he was doing with the boat, which was carrying 16 barrels on board, each containing 15 gallons of fuel.

He said another man he only knows as “Francisco” was traveling with him in a different vehicle, but took off when Border Patrol pulled him over. He said he was paying “Francisco” to go to Cuba to pick up his brother. He said “Francisco” was the one who had the boat. He said “Francisco” just asked him to tow it to an unknown location in the Keys to launch it.

Castillo-Martinez was arrested and charged with grand theft and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.


January 22, 2004

Traffic stop leads to drug arrest

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Marathon – Deputies on routine patrol in Marathon Tuesday arrested a Marathon man for possessing cocaine and marijuana.

Deputy Wilfredo Guerra spotted a man driving a car near 39th Street in Marathon and he knew the driver had a suspended driver’s license. He pulled the car over and confirmed that the driver, 25 year old Jerry Anderson, was driving with a suspended license.

Two other men were in the car. The front passenger got out and offered to drive, saying he had a valid license. The rear passenger, 39 year old Elkanah Hepburn, also exited the car. At that point, Deputy Andrew Ensminger arrived as backup.

The deputies noticed a plastic bag with white substance inside sitting on the rear passenger seat, where Hepburn had been sitting. A plastic bag with a green, leafy substance was found on the rear floorboards, along with a pill bottle with a white substance inside. A search of Hepburn’s pockets turned up another plastic bag with white powder inside.

Hepburn was arrested and charged with possession of 13 crack rocks, possession of one gram of powdered cocaine and possession of marijuana. He was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center. Anderson was charged with driving with his license suspended. He was issued a notice to appear in court and he was released.

Couple arrested for selling prescription medication

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Key Largo – A man and a woman were arrested Wednesday after they sold prescription medication to an undercover operative.

Detectives with the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division received information the two were selling the prescription medication. They were reported to be staying at a small motel near the 95 mile marker of the highway. On Tuesday, an undercover operative with the Sheriff’s Office purchased 15 Oxycodone pills from the woman, 55 year old Joann Weinman of Coral Springs, Florida.

The following day, Weinman called the undercover operative and asked if he was going to buy any more drugs from her. At that time, the operative arranged to make another purchase of drugs. He told her he’d meet her at the motel at 10 a.m.

When he arrived, Weinman greeted him at the door. He entered, and, once inside, met a man who identified himself as “Giovanni”. Giovanni retrieved a small safe disguised as a dictionary from under the bed. Inside was a plastic bag with Methadone tablets inside. He gave the operative four pills, and took $80.00 in exchange. The operative then gave Weinman $400.00 in exchange for 50 Oxycodone pills.

At that point, detectives entered the room and both Weinman and Giovanni were arrested. Giovanni was later identified as 29 year old John Wolter, also from Coral Springs.

A search of the room turned up more Oxycodone and methadone, along with Xanax, and some unidentified pills. Weinman was charged with two counts sale of a controlled substance; Wolter was charged with sale of a controlled substance, being a principle in the first degree to sale of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Both were transported to the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 19, 2004

Man shot twice in lower Keys robbery

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Cudjoe Key – A man in town for a short time looking for work is now in the hospital, shot twice in a robbery which took place on Cudjoe Key Sunday morning.

45 year old Osmel Gonzalez told Detective Manuel Cuervo he’s been in Key West for about 12 days looking for work. He said he was unable to find a job, so he was hitchhiking to Miami to try his luck there. He was on Cudjoe Key near the 23 mile marker just after 9 a.m. when two men approached him on foot. He said they asked him for a cigarette. He pulled his cigarettes from his pockets along with his cash. That is when the two men robbed and shot him.

The victim said they asked for his money and he refused to give it to them. The older of the two men then pulled out a small caliber handgun and shot him in the upper left chest. When Gonzalez fell to the ground, they shot him again, hitting him in the right ear. They took his money and cigarettes and left on foot.

Gonzalez got up and began walking back southbound. He said he remembered seeing the Sheriff’s Office substation two miles back. He was waving down cars, hoping someone would help him. That is when a pickup truck driven by 51 year old Lawrence Burns pulled over.

Burns helped Gonzalez into his truck and called 911 for help at 9:45 a.m.. Paramedics arrived, along with Deputy Diane Mimosa. Gonzalez was taken to Lower Keys Hospital for treatment.

Gonzalez describes his attackers as black males, both with heavy Jamaican or Haitian accents. One was between 20 and 25 years of age and had short hair. The other was between 30 and 35 years of age and had longer hair, with dreadlocks. He said the two men were on foot as far as he could tell – he saw no vehicles which might have belonged to them.

Anyone with information about this case should call 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. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Two teens charged with theft of motor scooters

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Rockland Key – Two boys were arrested Friday afternoon after a citizen saw them hiding mopeds in a wooded area at the end of Rockland Drive.

Thinking the mopeds might be stolen, the witness called the Sheriff’s Office at 1:15 p.m. to report the activity. When deputies arrived, they found the two scooters in the bushes. The two teens were found walking nearby. The witness identified them as the ones he saw with the mopeds. A check on the two vehicles revealed they had been stolen from Key West.

14 year old Robert Lopez of Rockland Key and 16 year old Dalvis Perez of Big Coppitt Key were both charged with grand theft auto and they were booked at the Monroe County Detention Center.

Sheriff’s Office to hold Vehicle Safety Equipment Check

Stock Island - On January 23rd, from 8 p.m. until midnight Sheriff’s deputies will be holding a vehicle safety and equipment checkpoint on Stock Island.

The checkpoint will be held in the vicinity of Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue, and at Fifth Avenue and Cross Streets on Stock Island. Cars will be stopped and inspected to make sure all safety equipment is functioning properly. Citations will be issued for safety equipment violations. Any other observable violations of the law will also be enforced, including the arrest of anyone driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

January 16, 2004

Marathon man charged with attempted murder

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Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested today, charged with attempting to murder his girlfriend.

40 year old Walter Dieter is accused of holding his girlfriend against her will, beating her, threatening to kill her with a screwdriver and holding his hand over her mouth and nose so she couldn’t breath. He was arrested by deputies at his apartment on 91st Street in Marathon at 5:30 a.m.

According to the 38 year old victim, Judith Bannon, she and Dieter were at a bar drinking when he began to threaten people in the bar and the bartender kicked him out. She stayed for a while, then went home at about 2 a.m. When she arrived home, he became violent, hitting her several times in the head and throwing her against the wall, where she cut her head. He threatened to stab her with a screwdriver several times, and held her down with his hand over her nose and mouth so she couldn’t breathe. When she said she was going to call the police, he said he would kill her. At one point, he told her “You will not get out of this house alive tonight.”

He left her in the house, removing the door knobs so she couldn’t get out. The victim said her head was bleeding profusely and she pleaded with him to let her go to the hospital, but he refused. He finally let her out of the house shortly after 5 a.m. and she went to the hospital for treatment. That is when the Sheriff’s Office was notified about the incident.

The victim told deputies it was not the first time he was violent with her. She said last week, he threatened to kill her with his pocket knife if she fell asleep before he did.

Dieter was charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, and false imprisonment. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 14, 2003

Woman flown to Miami after fight with boyfriend

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Marathon – A Missouri woman was airlifted to a Miami hospital after she and her boyfriend were involved in a fight in Marathon Tuesday afternoon.

27 year old Carrie Gray, from Rogersville, Missouri suffered numerous injuries, including head trauma, during her fight with 31 year old Lance Tinsley, also from Missouri. Tinsley told Deputy Sonya Morgan he and Gray went on a fishing trip Tuesday, and were drinking for most of the day. He said they began arguing on the boat, and the argument continued after they left the boat. It became a physical confrontation once they got to their car and continued as they drove. The victim insisted that Tinsley pull the car over and he did, pulling in to the parking lot of the Marathon jail facility just off of U.S. One in Marathon. He said they both got out of the car and continued fighting.

A witness, who called the Sheriff’s Office at 5:45 p.m. to report the fight, said he saw Tinsley and Gray. He said Gray was on the ground and Tinsley was kicking her. Tinsley then got into his vehicle and left the scene. Deputy Sonya Morgan was first to arrive in the area and found Tinsley a short distance away.

When Deputy Dennis Coleman arrived on the scene he began looking for the victim, who had left the area. He spotted her running away from the area. She got into a cab in the parking lot of the Overseas Lounge in Marathon, and the deputy caught up with her, stopping the cab. According to Deputy Coleman, the victim had numerous injuries, including bruises on her body, an injury to her wrist and an injury behind her left ear.

She was transported to Fisherman’s Hospital, where she began losing consciousness, perhaps due to the head injury. She was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, where she was reported to be in critical condition.

Tinsley was arrested and charged with Aggravated Battery. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center. Gray’s two young children, who were present when the fighting occurred, were turned over to the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

January 12, 2004

Husband and wife arrested for sexually abusing teen

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Cudjoe Key – A husband and wife were arrested by Sheriff’s Office detectives Monday, charged with sexually abusing a teenage girl at their home on Cudjoe Key.

25 year old Jennifer Arnold and her 29 year old husband Jeffery allegedly had sexual relations with the 16 year old victim in the early morning hours Saturday. She told her boyfriend and her father about the incident. Her father called the Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Crimes Against Women and Children’s Unit investigated the report. The victim told the detectives the two adults showed her pornography, gave her Xanax, Valium and alcoholic beverages and had sex with her. Detectives placed the two adults under arrest at their Cudjoe Key home at 8:15 a.m. Monday. They are both charged with having sexual activity with a minor and delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.

They are currently in the Monroe County Detention Center.

Man arrested for reckless driving

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Big Pine Key – A Miami Beach man was arrested Saturday afternoon for reckless driving. He was finally stopped on Big Pine Key. Deputies estimated his speed to be in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Sheriff’s dispatchers began receiving calls at 3:30 p.m. about a man driving an older model Cadillac recklessly at a high rate of speed northbound at the 22 mile marker.

Deputy David Chavka was in the vicinity and spotted the car as it sped past him at the 29 mile marker. The deputy turned around and caught up with the car a short time later. The car continued through the business district of Big Pine Key passing cars on the right and left sides, and driving in the center of the roadway.

Deputy Chavka managed to pass the car and get in front of it. He began to slow down in front of the Cadillac, which finally came to a stop on the Spanish Harbor Bridge. The driver, 26 year old Christopher Miller, was laughing when he exited the car. He said he’d run from the police before and always got caught.

According to Deputy Chavka, Miller was charged with reckless driving and fleeing and eluding police. The deputy said Miller laughed all the way to the Monroe County Detention Center.


January 2, 2004

Fleeing driver apprehended

Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies finally apprehended a fleeing driver in the Upper Keys New Year’s Eve after the driver avoided two attempts to spike her tires. The incident started shortly after 11p.m. on Dec. 31 when Deputy Thomas Kiffney clocked a southbound vehicle doing over 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone near the 78 mile marker on U.S. Highway One.  Deputy Kiffney turned on his emergency lights and pursued the speeding car.  The driver turned into a parking lot, drove through a grassy area and then proceeded northbound on the highway.  Deputy Kiffney radioed for assistance and requested deputies to set up the stinger spike system at the 85-mile marker.  Deputy Kiffney reported that the fleeing driver tried to get from U.S. One to the old highway on Islamorada by driving through a grassy area.  After almost hitting several palm trees, the driver stopped the vehicle.  Deputy Kiffney reported that he jumped out of his patrol car, drew his pistol and ordered the suspect to get out of the car.  The driver fled again, driving through a grassy tree-filled area back to the main highway.  Deputy Kiffney continued to follow the fleeing driver at a safe distance and observed the fleeing driver forcing other vehicles off the road and almost hitting several pedestrians.  An attempt to spike the fleeing vehicle’s tires at mile marker 85 failed, as did a second attempt at the 90-mile marker.  The chase finally ended when the fleeing driver lost control of his car, spun out and crashed into another vehicle.  Deputies surrounded the vehicle, but the suspect refused to get out of the car. Deputies used pepper spray on the suspect and had to forcibly remove her from the vehicle.  23-year old Amy Lyn Bohnstedt, of Tavernier, was taken into custody and charged with aggravated fleeing and eluding law enforcement with property damage and injury.  She was also charged with resisting arrest and booked into the jail at Plantation Key.

Burglary Arrest 

Sheriff’s Deputies Thursday arrested a suspect in connection with a business burglary on Key Largo.  Deputies responded to a report that two suspects were fleeing northbound in blue Honda automobile.  Deputy Edward Askins spotted the suspect vehicle at the 103-mile marker and initiated a traffic stop. One of the suspects, 42-year old Raymond J. Swiech, of Casselberry, Florida, admitted that he jumped the fence at the Key Largo business and took a metal grate.  Deputies arrested Swiech on burglary charges. A check of his background showed he also had an outstanding warrant from Orange County, Florida.

Woman jumps from fourth story window

Sheriff’s Deputies responded to call early today (Friday) that a woman was severely injured after jumping from a fourth story window at an Islamorada motel.  The 42-year old victim was taken to Mariner’s Hospital and airlifted to a Miami trauma center for further treatment.  Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the incident as an attempted suicide.

Drug arrest at Key Haven boat ramp

Acting on complaints about drug dealing at the boat ramp near Key Haven in the Lower Keys, Sheriff’s officers from the Special Investigations Division arrested 63-year old Miguel A. Gil, of Stock Island, on multiple drug charges.  The officers conducted a surveillance of the boat ramp on Wednesday afternoon. Gil was observed making a suspected drug transaction.  The officers moved in and asked Gil if he had any narcotics on him. Gil replied that he did not, but stated that the officers could search the bag he was carrying.  The officers found nine crack cocaine rocks hidden in a boat engine part inside the bag. Gil was booked into county jail on charges of possession and intent to sell cocaine.


Law Enforcement busy over New Year’s holiday

The New Year’s holiday resulted in lots of activity for Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies and Communications Officers.  From six p.m. December 31 to nine a.m. January 2, Deputies responded to numerous calls including 11 traffic accidents, four hit and run traffic accidents with property damage, 26 complaints about fireworks and 31 complaints about reckless drivers.  Deputies also ticketed 64 motorists for various traffic offenses and issued 32 traffic warnings along with arresting two impaired drivers.