Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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


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

August 24, 2005

Items seized in drug case. Click here for larger photo...

Traffic infractions lead to drug arrest

A Miami man, driving with a suspended license, faces drug charges after he ran a stop sign and a stop light, catching the attention of a Sheriff's deputy.

Deputy Ryan Cowart was on patrol at 1:30 a.m. today (Wednesday) near the 99 mile marker when he spotted a gold colored Ford Explorer running a stop sign at the intersection of Atlantic and Homestead Avenues. He followed the vehicle as it ran a red light at Atlantic Avenue and U.S. One, turning southbound. Just before the deputy attempted a traffic stop, the vehicle turned into a gas station. The deputy approached the driver, told him what he'd seen and asked for identification, registration and insurance.

The driver, 23 year old Stephen Armstrong, handed over a Florida I.D. card. He then began digging through paperwork in his center console. As he was doing this, Deputy Cowart spotted a plastic bag with white powder inside. The powder turned out to be cocaine. Armstrong was arrested. A check of his name revealed his license had been suspended numerous times for failure to pay traffic fines.

More drugs and drug paraphernalia were found in his pockets, and in various locations in his car. The contraband found included 37 grams of marijuana and four small plastic bags of powdered cocaine under the driver's floor mat, along with three crack rocks, two Xanax pills and several crack pipes found in Armstrong's pockets and in the vehicle.

Armstrong was charged with driving with his license suspended, possession of cocaine, marijuana, Xanax and drug paraphernalia. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

August 23, 2005

Guatemalan teen electrocuted in Ocean Reef

A Guatemalan teenager, believed to be 16 years old, was electrocuted while trimming trees at an Ocean Reef residence Monday afternoon.

The boy, whose name is not being released until his family can be notified of his death, was working for a Homestead tree trimming business when he died. He'd climbed up a tree in the back yard of the home on Perky Road and was using a chain saw at 5:10 p.m. Sheriff's Detectives say it appears that the branch he was sitting on blew into a power line and the current traveled up the branch, killing the teen.

An autopsy will be done today or tomorrow to officially determine the cause of his death.

Two men charged with abusing an elderly man

Two men have been arrested, charged with abusing an elderly Big Pine Key resident.

On July 26th, Lt. Mitch Snider was dispatched to a residence on Wilder Road. When he arrived, he met with the person who called the Sheriff's Office. The man said he was a friend of the 76 year old victim. He said he and his wife check on him from time to time to make sure he is all right. He said two men had been living with the victim. He said they had not been paying any rent and he said when he stopped by he found the victim and his home in a severe state of neglect.

When Lt. Snider entered the residence, he found the victim clothed only in an adult diaper. The home smelled strongly of urine and dirty clothing and feces were strewn all over. The victim told him the two men frequently slapped him, and sometimes failed to feed him for days at a time. A trespass warning was issued to both men, who left the residence immediately. A report was then made to the Florida Abuse Registry, operated by the Department of Children and Families ( 800-962-2873) and DCF began their own investigation.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of both men. On Monday, 43 year old Samuel Lospinoso was arrested and in the early morning hours today (Tuesday) 51 year old Paul Buetell was arrested. Both men were charged with abuse and neglect of an elderly person. Bond on each warrant was set at $50,000.00. Both men are currently in the Monroe County Detention Center.

August 22, 2005

Kansas man charged with aggravated battery

A Kansas man was arrested for aggravated battery after he broke a number of bones in the face of another man he got into a fight with Friday afternoon.

Deputy Brian Luth responded to Third Street just before 7 a.m. to a report of a fight. When he arrived, the suspect, victim and witnesses were still on the scene. The victim was unable to be interviewed due to his injuries and he was transported by paramedics to Lower Keys Hospital. One witness on the scene was uncooperative and the other gave a statement about what he'd seen. He was, however, unable to provide information about who started the fight, which reportedly started over a woman. At that point the suspect was issued a notice to appear in court for a small amount of marijuana he had, and was allowed to leave until more investigation could be done.

Later that afternoon, the victim was able to talk to Detective Donald Catala, who was assigned to investigate the case. His statement, along with information from the victim's physician about his injuries, provided enough evidence to arrest the suspect, 26 year old Peter Wiegmann. He was found at the Key West airport and was placed under arrest, charged with aggravated battery and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

The victim will require surgery to repair a broken eye socket, broken jaw and a broken nose.

Tavernier man charged with threats, stalking and burglary

A Tavernier man was arrested Friday just before 7 a.m. after he broke into a house where his ex-girlfriend was staying and threatened both her and the man she was staying with.

When he broke into the house at the 87 mile marker of the highway, 34 year old John Cox violated an injunction protecting the victim from him. Prior to the break in, he called the victim a number of times threatening to do violence to her and to the man she was staying with. On Friday morning, he allegedly forced his way in to the house and, in front of a witness, held the victim down on the bed. He reportedly told her he would crush her head and the head of the man she was staying with. He reportedly said when he was done, they would not have "pretty little faces". He also said if he went to jail, he would kill them both when he was released.

When the witness called 911 for help, Cox fled the residence. He was found at the 88 mile marker of the highway, walking back to his truck which was parked a short distance away. He was arrested and charged with violating the injunction, aggravated stalking, battery and burglary and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Woman arrested for obtaining prescriptions by fraud; also wanted for Doctor Shopping

A Tavernier woman was arrested August 17th for obtaining seven prescriptions for pain medication under a fraudulent name. She also has an outstanding warrant for 14 counts of the crime known as Doctor Shopping.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division began investigating a report from a Marathon doctor about a woman he'd given a number of prescriptions to. The doctor suspected she may have a problem with prescription medication, and he suspected she may have been doctor shopping - obtaining prescriptions from numerous doctors at the same time without letting the doctors know she was seeing others for the same medications.

During the course of the investigation, detectives discovered that 30 year old Joann Hardee had been prescribed medication under a fraudulent name: Joann Gilliland. Her doctor said she had come to him repeatedly under that name asking for pain medication for a toothache or other pain. He said he repeatedly told her to make an appointment to address her ailment, but she kept making excuses about why she couldn't make an appointment. On seven different occasions she obtained prescriptions under the false name, receiving 448 Percocet pills and 148 Vicodin between April and August. On August 17th, she was charged with seven counts of obtaining prescriptions by fraud.

In the parallel Doctor Shopping investigation, it was discovered that Hardee had seen three different doctors between April and August of this year. During that time, in addition to the Percocet and Vicodin mentioned above, she received another 300 Vicodin, 180 Valium pills, 100 Oxycodone and 100 Hydrocodone. A warrant was issued for her arrest for 14 counts of Doctor shopping. The warrant is outstanding and detectives are attempting to locate Hardee in order to serve it. She was released from the Detention Center on the previous charges the same day as her arrest after posting a $5,000 bond.

Miami man driving erratically; arrested for marijuana

A Miami man was arrested for possessing marijuana and driving with a suspended license after a deputy spotted him driving erratically.

Deputy Brian Kibbe was on patrol Thursday at 11:30 p.m. when he saw a 1995 Cadillac weaving and speeding as it crossed the Cow Key Channel bridge northbound. He pulled the car over. The driver, William Mercado, admitted to having a suspended license and he was placed under arrest. Other deputies arrived as back up, and a Key West Police K-9 team arrived to check the vehicle. The dog alerted on two locations: on a cooler, and on the driver's seat. Small amounts of marijuana were found in both locations, in a cup in the cooler, and hidden in the seat

Mercado was further charged with possession of marijuana. Over $500 in cash was found in his pocket, which was seized for possible forfeiture. Mercado was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

August 17, 2005

Stock Island man arrested for battery and false imprisonment

A three-week investigation into a possible attempted abduction of a nine-year-old girl culminated this week with the arrest of 48-year old Mark R. Penly. The investigation began July 21 on Stock Island when the nine year old related to family members that a man told her to come with him and grabbed her arm while she was in the yard outside her mobile home on Stock Island. The young girl said the suspect jumped from behind a trashcan, grabbed her arm and said “honey let’s go.” The victim said she screamed, kicked at the suspect and escaped to safety after pulling away from him. Family members immediately called the Sheriff’s Office. The victim told responding deputies that she had earlier spotted the suspect looking at her at the community pool in Key West and at a Flagler Avenue business location. Road patrol deputies and members of the Sheriff’s Crimes against Women and Children Unit began an investigation that led to Penly, who lives on Stock Island. Deputies knew Penly and were aware that his description fit that of the suspect. Officers took photos of Penly, which were used in a photo lineup that resulted in positive identification by the victim. Detectives, with the assistance of Key West Police detectives, also confirmed through witnesses that Penly was the man spotted by the girl on the two previous occasions. Detectives obtained a warrant on August 11 charging Penly with battery and false imprisonment. Bond was set at 150 thousand dollars. On August 15, Sheriff’s detective Manny Cuervo spotted Penly on Flagler Avenue. Detective Cuervo took Penly into custody without incident and booked him at the county detention center. Sheriff’s detective Linda Mixon also worked the case.

August 11, 2005

Man charged with throwing firebomb

A Big Pine Key man is in jail, charged with throwing an explosive device at a vehicle parked at a Little Torch Key residence in July.

According to Deputy Rick Schulze and Detective Jeremy Davy, 35 year old Timothy Nellis admitted to throwing the homemade device a at a van parked on LaGrande Avenue on July 14th at 6:30 a.m. He said he made the device by filling a Budweiser beer bottle with gasoline, and using toilet paper to make a wick. A witness who was walking her dog said she saw Nellis drive up in a silver colored Ford truck. She then heard glass breaking and an explosion. He said he did it to scare the man who lives in the house, 36 year old Robert Wilhide. Wilhide was outside, near the van at the time. After the explosion, he got in the van and drove it away from the fire saving it from substantial damage.

According to the victim and the suspect, the two men met the night before. They both admit to driving around trying to buy cocaine. They reportedly ended up in the parking lot of a bar on Big Pine Key, where the suspect, Nellis, is employed. They got into a fight. The victim says he knocked Nellis down repeatedly.  He could not recall the suspect's name, however.

Detective Davy went to the bar where the suspect reportedly worked. He asked the bar's owner if any of his employees showed up for work with facial injuries. He said one of his cooks, who he identified as Nellis, had bruises on his face and a sore jaw. When the detective interviewed Nellis, he admitted to throwing the device at the victim's van. He said he did not want to hurt him, just wanted to scare him.

Detective Davy obtained a warrant for Nellis' arrest. On Wednesday, Nellis turned himself in at the Monroe County Detention Center. He was charged with manufacturing an incendiary device and with throwing the deadly missile at the vehicle. Bond on the warrants was set at $25,000.00.

Key West man arrested for warrants, fleeing from police

A Key West man who was wanted on outstanding warrants fled from deputies who spotted him driving his vehicle on North Roosevelt Boulevard Wednesday afternoon.

At 5 p.m., Sheriff's dispatchers issued a notice to be on the lookout for 26 year old Jermaine Roberts. Roberts was wanted on outstanding warrants, and was reported to be driving a blue GMC sport utility vehicle. Deputy Edgar Piniero spotted the vehicle on North Roosevelt Boulevard and attempted to pull it over. Roberts fled, speeding down numerous streets, running a number of stop signs as he tried to elude capture.

Roberts finally turned down Trinity Drive, a dead end. He pulled to a stop, jumped out and ran. Back up officers arrived from the Sheriff's Office and Key West Police Departments. They surrounded the area, and chased Roberts who fled through the residential area, through the yards of houses and through a nearby construction site clearly marked with "No Trespassing" signs. He was finally caught near an area hotel and was taken into custody. A search of his vehicle turned up an open beer he had been drinking as he was driving. A search of the area where he was caught turned up a plastic bag with a white powder inside which turned out to be cocaine.

Roberts was charged with reckless driving, fleeing from police, resisting arrest, possession of cocaine, driving with a suspended license, having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, and trespassing.

Roberts had outstanding warrants for a domestic battery incident which took place July 5th. The victim is Robert's wife, who reported being hit repeatedly by him as they drove southbound on U.S. One in her car. As a result of that incident, Roberts was charged with violating a court ordered injunction to stay away from her, and with battery. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Three charged with "Doctor Shopping"

Three people were arrested Wednesday, charged with obtaining multiple prescriptions from doctors for narcotics.

The investigation into this activity began in June when a physician in Marathon reported that he had suspicions about one of his patients, 23 year old Colleen Holbert, of Marathon. He said Holbert had on numerous occasions told him she'd lost her prescriptions so she could obtain new ones. That, and other behavior, led him to become suspicious that she might be acting illegally to obtain drugs.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division began investigating and discovered that Holbert had obtained narcotics from two separate doctors within the space of 12 days in April. She was prescribed 48 Endocet twice, and 40 Darvocet. A warrant was obtained for Holbert's arrest for obtaining a prescription from more than one doctor within 30 days without informing them she was seeing other doctors at the same time.

In July, two more investigations were initiated into the same type of behavior. Detectives discovered that 47 year old Kenneth Holbert, Colleen Holbert's husband, and 46 year old Diana Tolliver, who lives on Big Pine Key, were both obtaining multiple prescriptions from more than one physician in Marathon. Holbert had been seeing two doctors and had received 14 prescriptions for narcotics from one between February 7th and June 17th of this year. The other doctor issued 7 prescriptions during the same time period, also for narcotics. Holbert obtained 300 Oxycontin pills, 330 Oxycodone pills, 90 Alprazolam pills and 216 Endocet pills from the two doctors. Tolliver had seen four doctors between May 9th and June 19th. She obtained 7 prescriptions for a total of 341 Hydrocodone pills.

Warrants were obtained for their arrest as well, and on Wednesday detectives arrested all three and they were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center. "Doctor Shopping" is a third degree felony crime carrying a possible penalty of up to five years in prison.

August 5, 2005

Stabbing suspect in jail; victim at Lower Keys Hospital

A Stock Island man is in jail charged with stabbing another man in the chest with a knife.

The incident took place at 11 p.m. in the parking lot of Stock Island Apartments on 3rd Avenue. 19 year old Maria Rodriguez told Deputies Henry Amole and Tom Walker she was getting out of her car with her boyfriend, 42 year old Jesus Gomez, when her ex-husband, 27 year old Daniel Garcia, grabbed her. Gomez and Garcia then began to argue and Garcia took out a six inch long knife and began cutting him. Gomez was cut on both arms, and suffered a stab wound on the right side of his chest.
Rodriguez took the victim to the hospital, then called Sheriff's Office dispatchers to report the stabbing. Deputies responded to the hospital to find out what took place.

During the course of the investigation, Deputy Walker spoke with a man who works with Garcia at the Key West Citizen Newspaper. The co-worker said earlier, while they were both at work, Garcia talked about killing his ex wife and said he had a knife. The co-worker tried to keep Garcia from leaving, but could not stop him. He said he went looking for Garcia later, but couldn't find him.

At midnight, Garcia reportedly called the co-worker and told him he was at home, on Miriam Street, Stock Island. The co-worker called the Sheriff and reported Garcia's location and Deputies Walker and Amole picked him up on Miriam Street near 12th Avenue a short time later. He was positively idenfied by the victim and by Rodriguez and he was arrested. Garcia was charged with aggravated battery and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

August 2, 2005

Plane wreckage found along with fourth victim

With the help of a commercial fisherman and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sheriff's Office located the wreckage of the plane which crashed Saturday night off of Boca Chica Key.

The wreckage was found about a mile offshore, north and east of Boca Chica Key. It was located on the bottom, in about 28 feet of water. The fourth victim, a male, was found in the wreckage. His body, which has yet to be identified, was transported to the Medical Examiner's Office.

The location of the wreck was discovered by a commercial fisherman who was using a depth finder and noticed a large bump on the bottom of the ocean that he did not remember as being there before. At the same time, he saw bubbles rising to the surface and smelled a gasoline odor. He marked the GPS coordinates, and then reported them to FWC Officer Marty Messier, who relayed them to the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's Office divers, on board a vessel captained by Deputy Paul Schultz, were already on the water getting ready continue the search for the plane when they received the coordinates. When they dove at the location they were given, they found the plane and the victim.

The Sheriff's Office has been in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board and they will now be taking over. They have been given the GPS coordinates of the wreck and will be responding to the Keys to handle the rest of the recovery and investigation. The Medical Examiner's Office has all four victims and is working on identifying each one. Family members have been notified and a number of them have already traveled to the Keys.

Sheriff continues search and recovery efforts; Another body recovered

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has assumed responsibility for the search and recovery of a plane that crashed Saturday night in lower Keys waters. This morning (Tuesday) a third body - that of a woman - was recovered from the vicinity of Cow Key Channel.

The Cessna single engine aircraft carrying four people took off from the Key West airport shortly after 9 p.m. The plane was reportedly flying from Key West to Marathon, and then to New Smyrna Beach. After reportedly making radio contact with the air traffic control tower on the Naval Air Station, the plane was not heard from again. Efforts by navy personnel to find it at various area airports that evening were unsuccessful. One phone report to Sheriff's Office dispatchers at 9:22 p.m. by someone claiming to have seen a plane crash led to a search by the United States Coast Guard, but no plane was found in the water Saturday night.

On board the plane were the pilot, Krystal Koch, 21, of Edgewater, Florida; and passengers, Bruno Asmann, Piers Littleford, and Egon Sussmann, 31, of Deland, FL. Where the other two male victims are from and their age is not currently available.

Sunday morning, just before 8 a.m., a boater called Sheriff's Office dispatchers to report finding the wing of a plane in the waters of Boca Chica Channel, on the bayside of the Boca Chica bridge. A short time later, a male body was recovered from the Cow Key channel, and another male body washed up Sunday near Smather's Beach in Key West. The limb of another body believed to be male was found late Monday near the White Street pier. A plane seat and a tire were also recovered.

Searches by air and water all day Sunday and most of Monday failed to locate the plane crash site or any further victims. Tuesday morning, a female body was found near Cow Key by a boater. The United States Coast Guard assisted the Sheriff's Office in recovering that body, which has been transported to the Medical Examiner's Office for identification.

Members of the Sheriff's Office are meeting this morning to discuss plans for continuing the search for the crash site. Once the plane crash site is found, the investigation will be handed over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

August 1, 2005

Aggravated Battery

Sheriff’s deputies Saturday night arrested 27-year old Javier Parrado-Yanes on aggravated battery charges after he cut a man with a broken beer bottle during a fight on Stock Island. Deputies initially responded to a report of a fight outside of a seafood business on Stock Island shortly after nine p.m. Deputies found 39-year old Terrance Ridgeway bleeding from lacerations to his right shoulder and left arm. Ridgeway told the officers that Parrado stabbed him with a beer bottle. Officers searched the area for Parrado-Yanes and took him into custody about two hours after the incident. Ridgeway was taken to the hospital for treatment of his wounds, which reportedly were not serious. Parrado-Yanes was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center. Both men are Stock Island residents.

Escapee returns to Monroe County

An escapee from the Marathon jail, who was apprehended in North Carolina last month, is back in the Monroe County jail facing escape charges. 24-year old Lonnie Parrish, who is from N. Carolina, escaped April 25 by climbing onto a roof in the recreation yard, throwing a blanket over razor wire that topped a chain link fence and climbing over the fence. Parrish was initially arrested in the Keys on November 14, 2004 on battery charges. Buncombe County, North Carolina authorities apprehended Parris and held him for extradition to the Keys. Parrish is being held under a 250 thousand dollar bond.