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

January 29, 2007

Drug Arrests

The Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit arrested two upper Keys men on felony drug charges in separate incidents Friday.  48-year old Osvaldo Larrazabal was arrested on cocaine trafficking and marijuana possession charges after a covert operation at his residence on Coral Drive in Key Largo.  Detectives seized over one ounce of cocaine with a street value of about one thousand dollars along with a small amount of marijuana.  In the second incident, 54-year old Perry Alexander, of Grassy Key, was taken into custody after detective set up a surveillance of the parking lot at Tavernier Towne Friday afternoon.  Detectives had received information that Alexander was transporting a large amount of marijuana.  After spotting and stopping Alexander’s vehicle, detectives located a plastic bag filled with marijuana in Alexander’s pocket during a pat down search.  The baggie contained 37 grams of marijuana with a street value of around four hundred dollars.  Detectives booked Alexander on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Neighbors nab burglar

A burglary suspect was apprehended by alert neighbors in the Marina Avenue area of Key Largo Saturday night.  The incident started when the victim spotted a man sneaking into his house.  The suspect reportedly draped a white shirt over his face and was wearing tan shorts and black shoes.  The victim shouted at the intruder, who immediately fled through the back door.  The victim alerted neighbors about the incident and they searched the immediate area, locating the suspect and detaining him without incident.  Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and took the suspect into custody.  27-year old Henry Rivera-Membreno, who is from the Honduras, is charged with burglary and wearing a mask while committing an offense. Deputies also notified Border Patrol agents, who placed a hold on Rivera-Membreno.

Sexual predator notification

Sheriff’s detectives have notified residents of the Adobe Casa Court area of Tavernier that a registered sexual predator has moved into that neighborhood.  48-year old Wayne J. Scaturro is residing at 161 Adobe Casa Court, Apartment B.  Scaturro was convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim under twelve years of age. He was recently released from prison. The Sheriff’s Office, as required by state law, is notifying residents, schools and day care centers in this area about the presence of a registered sexual predator.

January 24, 2007

Man who runs stop sign arrested for suspended license and possessing four knives

Stock Island - A traffic stop for making a turn without a signal landed a man in jail after he was found to have a suspended license and four knives concealed in his pockets and his car Tuesday at noon.

Deputy Richard Bellon was on patrol on Stock Island when he spotted the blue Chevy turn on Third Avenue without using a turn signal. The car pulled into an apartment complex and stopped. The deputy approached the driver, 33 year old Charles Baber. A check through computers revealed he had a suspended Alabama driver's license, which he admitted to being aware of. As the deputy was placing him under arrest, he noticed two knives sticking out of Baber's pants pockets. Two more large knives were found tucked between the driver's seat and the driver's door, in a position where they would be easily accessible.

Baber was charged with driving with a suspended license and carrying concealed weapons and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Homestead man a suspect in paint ball shootings

Upper Keys - A Homestead man is suspected of at least six paint ball shootings in the upper Keys between November and January.

Sgt. David Carey, who investigated the cases, says the suspect lives in Homestead and drives to Islamorada to work. He says on the way to work, the man would shoot his paint ball gun out the window of his van, aiming at area businesses and at people standing alongside the highway.

The first reported case was November 3rd at 8:30 a.m. A man doing landscaping work at the 98 mile marker of Highway U.S. One said he heard several shots and was hit in the back with a paint ball, knocking him to the ground. He described the suspects vehicle as an older model white van. About ten minutes later, a Key Largo business owner called to say his business and several others had been hit by paint balls.

On November 8th, a woman riding her bike was hit by what she initially thought was a rock. When she stopped to take a look, she found out she'd been hit by a paint ball. She also described the suspect's vehicle as an older model white van.

On November 10th, at 5 p.m. two construction workers at the Jewfish Creek Bridge reported being hit with paint balls, one in the hip and one in the shoulder. Four vehicles at the site were also hit. The victims said they saw the shots come from an older model white van.

On January 17th, at 3 p.m. construction workers at the Jewfish Creek bridge were shot at again. Two men - one was a victim of the previous paint ball incident - reported being hit. This time a witness following the van was able to get a tag number, which he called in to Sheriff's dispatchers. Later that day, Sgt. Carey stopped the van at the 110 mile marker. The driver admitted to shooting his paint ball gun at signs, people and businesses. His blue Orion paint ball gun, CO2 canisters and a large bag of paint balls were confiscated.

Sgt. Carey is in the process of obtaining warrants for the suspect, who will be charged with six counts of battery. The arrest is expected soon.

January 22, 2007

Key West man charged with breaking in to house, battering girlfriend

Stock Island - A Key West man was arrested Saturday morning, charged with forcing his way into his girlfriend's house an beating her.

The 25 year old victim called the Sheriff's Office Saturday at 7:45 a.m. When Deputy Kim Trullender arrived at her Maloney Avenue home, the victim's face was bruised and beginning to swell and her mouth was bleeding. She said her boyfriend, 34 year old Nelson Sawyer, forced his way into her home. She said he began hitting her repeatedly in the face with his fists. He knocked her to the floor and continued to beat her. She said she told him to leave because she was calling the police. At that point, she said he grabbed her by the throat and continued to hit her. At one point, she said he grabbed a knife. She said he told her he was going to kill her and then hurt himself.

The victim's brother, who was sleeping upstairs, heard the commotion and came downstairs just as Sawyer was fleeing the scene in his black Hummer. While Deputy Trullender was talking with the victim, Sawyer called her on her cell phone. The deputy answered the phone and Sawyer told him he was on Geiger Key. He said he was on his way to the hospital because, he claimed, the victim stabbed him with scissors in the leg.

The victim told Deputy Trullender that Sawyer had a friend who lived on Geiger Key. The deputy radioed Deputy Charles Bon and asked him to start driving in that direction to see if he could find Sawyer. Deputy Bon intercepted Sawyer on Boca Chica Road and placed him under arrest. Sawyer had no visible injuries, except some minor scratches on his abdomen.

Sawyer was charged with burglary with battery on the occupant. As he was being transported to jail, Sawyer told Deputy Trullender he is on Federal parole.

Theft from Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center
Stock Island - The theft of $24,500.00 worth of equipment was reported by the production manager of the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center today.
Deputy Richard Bellon was dispatched to the fine arts center at 9:45 a.m. He met with the production manager who said sometime between 1:15 a.m. Sunday and Monday morning, someone stole a light board, monitor and a large amount of audio equipment from the theater. He said he noticed it when he opened the facility Monday morning. He also noticed a double door on one side of the theater was closed but not locked.
He said the last time he checked the theater was early morning hours Sunday, when he and the crew had closed the theater after the last show. Detective Henry Hamilton is investigating the theft.
Anyone with information about this crime should call the Sheriff's Office or call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and are eligible for a $500 cash reward if their information in this case leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

January 19, 2007

Argument leads to stabbing

Big Pine Key - An argument over a $20 part for a pressure washer led to a fight and a stabbing. A Marathon man is in jail today charged with the stabbing.

Deputies responded to Gulfstream Street on Big Pine Key just before 2 p.m. Thursday. When Deputy John Gabay arrived, both men were still on the scene. The victim said he and the suspect, 45 year old Richard Miller, had worked construction together and that Miller had taken a part from his pressure washer. He said they were arguing over the part over the past week with the victim demanding that Miller return it. He said that Thursday, he decided to go get the part from Miller. He said he drove to Gulfstream Street and confronted Miller. He said Miller chased him, swinging a knife at him and cutting him on the bicep.

The suspect reportedly claimed he was the victim. He said the victim ambushed him and began punching him. He said he pulled out the knife to defend himself. Miller did have a lip that was bleeding and that required three stitches to repair. Miller was arrested and charged with aggravated battery. After being treated at the hospital he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

The victim drove himself to the hospital for treatment of his wounds.

Man arrested for striking elderly man

Stock Island - A man who was arrested for hitting an elderly man on Stock Island Thursday afternoon was found to be wanted on numerous outstanding warrants from Volusia County.

Deputy Lisa Thibideau was on patrol at 1:30 p.m. on Maloney Avenue when she noticed a woman crying, near the intersection of 4th Street. She stopped to find out what was wrong. The woman told her she'd just seen an elderly man battered by another man. Just then, the 81 year old victim walked up. He said he and a man he didn't know had words and, during the argument, the man hit him in the face and ripped his shirt.

A short time later, Deputy Thibideau spotted a man fitting the suspect's description, the victim later identified him as the man who hit him. A check of his identification revealed his name to be Frank Rogers, 58 years old whose last known address is in Virginia. A check through FCIC and NCIC computer systems revealed warrants out of Volusia county for failure to register as a sex offender, and three counts of failure to appear in court for two counts of trespassing and sleeping in public.

He was arrested. A search turned up marijuana and a pipe used to smoke it. In addition to the warrants, Rogers was charged with aggravated battery on a person over 65 years of age, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Robbery suspect charged with other crimes

Key Largo - A man charged with robbing an upper Keys convenience store January 11th has been charged with a string of other crimes.

35 year old Jeffrey Thompson told detectives he broke in to the same business, and a vessel belonging to that business, multiple times in December and January. Thompson said he used to work for Keys Diver, located at the 99.6 mile marker of the highway. He said he broke in to a boat owned by the business on December 9th, on December 12th and on January 6th. He said he broke into the business itself on January 6th, then returned January 10th and entered it again. On all occasions, he was looking for cash and did not remove any other property.

Detectives charged him with outstanding warrants for three counts of burglary to a vessel, two counts of burglary to a structure and two counts of theft. He remains in the Monroe County Detention Center with a total bond on all of his charges set at $151,500.00.

Detectives ask for help identifying bus break in suspect

Suspect in Bus Burglary Monday night.

Stock Island - Detectives are asking for the public's help identifying the photo of a man who burglarized a city bus after it broke down on Stock Island Monday night.

Deputy Charles Bon responded Tuesday morning to the bus garage in Key West to meet with the city of Key West Fleet Manager. He wanted to report a break in to one of their buses. He said the bus broke down on 5th Avenue the night before and, before it could be removed by a tow truck, someone broke into it. The suspect, who was caught on video tape from inside the bus, tried to pry open the cash collection machine, but was unable to gain access. He did, however, cause an estimated $280 damage to the machine.

Detective Henry Hamilton is hoping someone will be able to identify the man from still photos taken from the video. Anyone with information about this crime should call the Sheriff's Office or call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward if their information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

January 18, 2007

A small plane's landing gear collapsed while landing at Marathon Airport this morning.  No injuries were reported when the Gulfstream Air charter landed around 9 a.m. The landing gear on the left wing collapsed causing the plane to veer slightly off the runway during landing. A minor fuel leak was reported.  The plane carried a pilot, co-pilot and one passenger. The aircraft can carry up to eight passengers.  The flight originated in Ft. Lauderdale. The Florida Highway Patrol will be investigating the incident.

January 14, 2007

Key Largo man charged with convenience store robbery

Key Largo - A Key Largo man is in jail charged with robbing a Key Largo convenience store Thursday in the early morning hours.

35 year old Jeffrey Thompson is accused of donning a ski mask and robbing the Tom Thumb store at the 98 mile marker at 1 a.m. He allegedly put his hand in his black sleeveless jacket, as if he had a gun. He then demanded the clerk turn over all the money in the register.

The clerk called 911 for help after the robbery. She was able to tell responding deputies about a suspicious vehicle she noticed driving by the store several times. She said she was outside cleaning the gas pumps when a white Jeep drove by slowly at least twice with a white male driver. Just minutes later, when she was back in the store, the robber came in. She was also able to give deputies a detailed description of the robber, despite the fact that he was wearing a mask. The ski mask and the black short sleeved jacket worn by the suspect were found discarded in bushes near the store.

Deputies issued a be on the lookout for the white jeep and Detective Mike DiGiovanni and Sgt. Todd Wyatt spotted a white jeep just north of the store and pulled it over. Thompson was driving. Not only did his vehicle fit the description of the one seem by the clerk, but his physical description was remarkably similar to that of the robbery suspect. The officers smelled alcohol on his breath and gave him field sobriety exercises. He was subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and he was booked into the Monroe County jail.

Thompson initially denied any involvement in the robbery. Further questioning by Detective DiGiovanni led to Thompson admitting that he committed the crime. On Friday he was further charged with a warrant for robbery. Bond on the warrant was set at $75,000.00.

Cudjoe Key man charged with fleeing from law enforcement officers while drunk

Cudjoe Key - A Cudjoe Key man fled from deputies Friday evening, traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood.

Deputy Greg Korzen was southbound on the highway at the 22 mile marker on Cudjoe Key when he spotted a motorcycle northbound, driving recklessly. He saw the driver pass several times in  no passing zones in heavy traffic. He clocked the motorcycle traveling 70 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. He attempted to pull the bike over, but the driver refused to stop. Instead, 28 year old Nathan Welder turned onto Cutthroat Drive, then onto Privateer Road traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour in the residential neighborhood. He ran a stop sign, turning onto Spanish Main and then onto Cudjoe Drive, almost losing control. He turned down Cutthroat Drive again, speeding through children playing in the area. He finally turned onto Buccaneer Lane and pulled into his own driveway.

Welder was taken into custody. His breath reportedly smelled strongly of alcohol. He had a valid driver's license, but no motorcycle endorsement. He failed field sobriety exercises and, when he took breath tests at the Monroe County Detention Center, he registered .361 and .365, more than four times the impairment level in Florida Statutes.

A check on his record revealed two prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol and one prior conviction for reckless driving. He also told Deputy Korzen he is currently under house arrest on federal charges and he was wearing a leg bracelet to monitor his house arrest.

Welder was charged with improper passing, unlawful speed, reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police, having no valid motorcycle endorsement and driving under the influence of alcohol. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Woman critical after dive accident
Employee of dive operation in custody for refusing to comply with deputy's orders

Update on dive incident:

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, the Ohio woman involved in the dive incident with Horizon Divers is still at Mariner's Hospital and is still in critical condition. She was not transported to Ryder Trauma Center as initially reported.

Key Largo - A Canton Ohio woman was last reported to be in critical condition at Mariner's Hospital, a victim of a dive incident Saturday morning.

40 year old Kendra Motter was on board a dive charter operated by Horizon Divers. Witnesses say she became unconscious toward the end of her dive. She was reportedly diving with her husband at the time of the incident. She was brought on board the boat and returned to shore immediately, arriving at 10:45 a.m. She was transported to Mariner's Hospital. As of 12:45 a.m. Saturday, Deputy Lee Cowart reported that hospital staff gave her condition as critical. She was breathing with assistance and they were attempting to stabilize her so she could be transported to a trauma center. She was subsequently transported to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami. At the time of this report, her condition is not known.

As deputies were investigating the dive incident, Deputy Julie Smith was attempting to take Motter's dive equipment into custody - a standard procedure in the investigation of such incidents. 53 year old Michael Ryan, an employee of Horizon Divers, offered to help her by removing the equipment from the boat. Instead of giving the equipment to Deputy Smith, he walked with it to a hose and began to hose it off. Deputy Smith ordered him to stop immediately, telling him the equipment was part of an investigation and could not be tampered with. Ryan reportedly ignored her orders and continued to rinse the equipment. He told her he was an ex-law enforcement officer and a diver and "knew what he was doing."

He then picked up Motter's dive computer, attached to the equipment, and reportedly appeared to be attempting to alter it in some way. Deputy Smith tried to remove it from his hands, but he pushed her away. She called for back up and, when other deputies arrived, they took Ryan into custody. Ryan was charged with obstruction of a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, destruction of evidence and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 12, 2007

Juveniles arrested for drag racing

Tavernier - Two 17 year olds were arrested Thursday evening for drag racing.

Deputy Ryan Cowart was stopped at the stop light at Plantation Boulevard and U.S. Highway One at 9 p.m. Directly in front of him was a white 2005 Cadillac. In the right hand lane, next to the Cadillac was a red 1996 Chevy Camaro. As the deputy watched, the two drivers exchanged words and, as they were sitting at the light, they both began to rev their engines. Then, when the light turned green, both cars accelerated rapidly, squealing their tires, racing northbound. As he traveled behind them, Deputy Cowart clocked both vehicles at 90 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. He pulled both cars over.

Both drivers, a juvenile male from Tavernier and a juvenile female from Key Largo, were arrested for participating in an unlawful race and they were booked at the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 11, 2007

Robbery at Key Largo convenience store

Key Largo - The clerk at the Tom Thumb convenience store at the 98 mile marker of the highway reported being robbed early today.

The victim said she was working at the store when a man wearing a black ski mask walked in at about 1 a.m. She told responding deputies the robber held one hand inside the black jacket he was wearing, as if he had a gun. He demanded she hand over money from the cash register, which she did. He then told her to get down on the floor and she wouldn't get hurt. She complied and, while she was on the floor, she heard him leave through the door. At that point, she called 911 for help.

She was able to describe the suspect as a white male, approximately six foot three weighing 230 pounds. In addition to the mask, he was wearing a dark colored long sleeve T-shirt and a black vest-style jacket, gray fingerless wool gloves, blue jeans and dirty white tennis shoes. She said he does have facial hair, which she could see through the mask. Detectives are investigating the case.

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

January 9, 2007

Woman charged with aggravated manslaughter in death of one year old

Key Largo - A 26 year old Key Largo woman is in jail today charged with aggravated manslaughter in the September death of her 1 year old daughter.

On September 8th at 6:30 p.m. deputies and paramedics responded to an emergency call to #11 Old State Road in Key Largo. They found one year old Jasmine Thomas unresponsive and not breathing. Resuscitation attempts failed and she was pronounced dead at Mariner's Hospital a short time later. Her mother, 26 year old Amy Stephenson, said she was preparing to go out to dinner and when she went into the bedroom to get Jasmine, she found her not breathing and had vomit on her chest. She sent her 6 year old son to their neighbor's house - the neighbor is a reserve deputy with the Sheriff's Office - and she called 911 for help. Reserve Deputy Dave Bickford responded and began Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation immediately, continuing until paramedics arrived.

According to a probable cause affidavit written by Detective Mark Coleman, Amy Stephenson failed to provide her child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child's physical and mental health, including food, nutrition, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child. Detective Coleman said he received a Monroe County Medical Examiner's autopsy report in December about Jasmine's death. In that report, Dr. Michael Hunter reportedly established the cause of the victim's death as Chronic Malnutrition due to Neglect, and that the manner of death was Homicide.

During the course of the extensive investigation into the death, detectives found that Jasmine was born three months premature and had numerous medical problems during the course of her short life. She spent the first six months of her life in the hospital, and underwent eight eye surgeries, according to her pediatrician who was interviewed during the course of the investigation. He said after she was discharged from the hospital into her mother's care, he saw Jasmine in February and again in March. At the time of her last visit, he told detectives she weighed 9 pounds 3 ounces. He said he instructed her mother to bring her back in April, but she failed to do so. The doctor said he did not see Jasmine again until after her death. At the time of her death, her weight was recorded at 6 pounds 9 ounces by the office of the Medical Examiner.

On Monday afternoon, Detectives arrested Stephenson, charging her with aggravated manslaughter. Aggravated manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years. She was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center where she is being held on a $75,000.00 bond.

January 8, 2007

Crack dealer arrested after making theft complaint

Stock Island - A crack dealer who reported being ripped off on a drug sale was arrested for possessing illegal drugs.

Deputy Evan Calhoun was on patrol on Stock Island Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. when he was flagged down by 41 year old Michelle Long on 10th Avenue. She was visibly upset. She said she'd just gotten into a car to complete a drug sale. She said she handed over $100 worth of crack cocaine to the occupants of the car and they handed her a wadded up bill she thought was $100.00. The bill turned out to be a dollar bill and, when she complained, she said they handed over some bits and pieces of crack. She showed the deputy the crack cocaine pieces they gave her, which were still in her hand.

Long was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine. When Deputy Calhoun asked if she had any more illegal substances, she handed over more crack, a crack pipe and several pills she identified as Valium. Long was further charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia and she was booked into jail.

Georgia man charged with fraud

Key Largo - A Georgia man is in jail charged with signing a contract with a Key Largo woman for construction services, accepting her money and failing to perform the services he was paid for.

The victim contracted with 36 year old Mark Berta in 2005 to construct a wooden dock and a deck on her home in Key Largo. She gave him two checks as deposits for the jobs for a total of $13,000.00. He cashed her checks but never started work. After repeated attempts to contact Berta, the victim finally called the Sheriff's Office in August of 2006 to report the fraud.

Investigations by Detective Ken Baker revealed Berta is not licensed, registered or certified to work in the state of Florida; he also never pulled any permits for the work. The State Department of Business Professional Regulations told Detective Baker they have numerous complaints registered against Berta.

A warrant was issued in October for Berta for Fraud and Grand Theft. On Friday, Berta was charged with the warrant. He was also charged with another outstanding warrant issued by the Monroe County State Attorney's Office for two counts of worthless checks. In that case he is accused of writing two checks on a bank account at a local bank for almost $1,800.00 which he did not have sufficient funds to cover.

Berta is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center with a total bond set at $28,000.00.

January 6, 2007 

Means arrested

Key West - The man wanted for shooting at another man on Stock Island has been arrested.
Key West Police arrested 21 year old Alex Means on charges of Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault Friday night. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

January 3, 2006

Big Pine man wanted for shooting at another man

Stock Island - Law enforcement officers are looking for a 21 year old Big Pine Key man who shot at another man after an argument Tuesday afternoon.

The victim told Deputy Kim Trullender and Detective Henry Hamilton he and 21 year old Alex Means argued about drugs at 4:10 p.m. Tuesday. They were reportedly sitting in the victim's car, which was parked in the victim's yard on 9th Avenue, Stock Island at 4:10 p.m. He said Means got out of the car and into his own, a white Crown Victoria, and was sitting in the driver's seat. He said Means suddenly pulled out a handgun and shot at him, missing him but hitting his car. Means then left the scene.

A witness who was driving by at the time of the shooting corroborated the victim's story about the shooting. He was able to get the tag number from the Crown Victoria as it left the scene. He was also able to pick the suspect out of a photo line-up, identifying him as Means.

Means' car was found parked at Stadium Trailer Park in Key West a short time later. Detective Hamilton obtained a warrant for the arrest of Means for Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault. A notice to be on the lookout for him has been issued and law enforcement officers are looking for him. He is believed to be armed and possibly dangerous. Bond on the warrant is set at $250,000.00.

Anyone with information about Means' location should contact the Sheriff's Office immediately. He is described as a white male, 5 foot six inches tall, 130 pounds with blond hair styled in dreadlocks. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Escapee apprehended

Key Largo - A man who escaped from trusty duty while incarcerated at the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island has been apprehended.

33 year old Thomas Thilo escaped while working at the Safe Zone as a trusty on December 9th. Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Francisco Gaete was dispatched to a trespassing complaint at a residence at the 106 mile marker. When he and Detective Ken Baker arrived, they found Thilo on the scene. He gave them a false name, but after further investigation and questioning, Thilo admitted to being an escapee. A check on his name through computers revealed the warrant for escape. He was arrested and booked into jail on the charges.

January 2, 2007

Note: updated DUI totals for the holiday weekend: 23 total DUI arrests county wide between Friday and Monday. MCSO made 16 of the arrests, with KWPD making 6 and FHP making 1.

Routine traffic stop leads to drug arrest

Key Largo - A faulty tail light led to the arrest of a Key Largo man on drug charges.

When Deputy Ryan Cowart pulled the 2001 Jeep over for a faulty tail light at 8:30 p.m. Monday, he discovered the driver, 35 year old Joseph Capello, had a suspended driver's license. Capello told the deputy he'd just been released from a Federal half-way house. He said he'd been released from Federal prison recently where he'd done time for trafficking in ecstasy. He said he had not yet taken the time to renew his driver's license since his release. At that point, Capello was arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Deputy Cowart searched the Jeep after arresting Capello. He found two short pieces of a straw, like those used to ingest illegal drugs. A test of one of the straws was positive for cocaine. Capello was further charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cocaine and he was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center.

Graffiti incident reported in Key Largo

Key Largo - Vandals spray painted extensive graffiti in the vicinity of the 101.4 mile marker in Key Largo between Friday night and Saturday.

Sgt. David Carey responded to the vicinity of Key Largo Trailer Village Saturday morning to reports of damage done with spray paint. When he arrived, he found the initials H.B.C. had been spray painted on equipment belonging to Monroe County Public Works and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. He also found the initials spray painted on a Schwartz Real Estate sign, on power poles, trees and on a portable toilet. The letters were painted in white, black and blue. Damage was estimated to be in excess of $6,000.00.

Sgt. Carey is asking for the public's help to discover who committed this vandalism. Anyone with information about this crime should call the Sheriff's Office or call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward if their information leads to an arrest. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

January 1, 2007

Accident and DUI wrap up

A total of 18 accidents were reported to the Sheriff's Office between Friday, December 29th and Monday January 1st. I'm happy to report that only one out of the 18 involved injuries, and those were minor: On 12/29 at 1:30 p.m. 3 vehicles were involved in an accident at 63rd Street in Marathon. There were two minor injuries and the patients were transported to Fishermen's Hospital.

A total of 20 people were booked into jail for driving under the influence of alcohol between Friday and Monday. Of those, the Sheriff's Office arrested 13; KWPD arrested 6 and FHP arrested 1.

Summerland Key man charged with fighting, making threats

Summerland Key - A Summerland Key man faces a list of charges after he fought with family members and threatened them with a gun.

The victim, who is a family friend, and family members of 19 year old Nicholas Merkey called the Sheriff's Office at 5:30 a.m. Sunday for help. When Deputy John Underwood arrived, he found the suspect unconscious on the floor of the residence. The victim along with Merkey's mother and brother said Merkey showed up around 3 a.m. and tried to get into the house. They convinced him to leave, but he returned at 5 a.m. Merkey reportedly broke into a car in front of the residence and tried to hot wire it. They caught him and pulled him from the car.

A struggle began, and continued inside the house. Merkey reportedly pulled a gun and pointed it at the victim, then began hitting him with it. The gun turned out to be a BB gun. Merkey's brother pulled him off the victim. Merkey fell to the ground and hit his head, knocking himself out.

As Deputy Underwood was investigating, Merkey woke up and began mumbling about taking a Xanax bar and drinking a gallon of alcohol. He was transported to Fishermen's Hospital for treatment. Once the hospital cleared him, deputies charged him with aggravated assault, battery, criminal mischief, burglary of an auto, burglary of a dwelling and trespassing. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Marathon man charged with burglarizing sisters house

Marathon - A Homeless Marathon man who broke into his sister's house and stole her jewelry is in jail.

32 year old Kenyatta Scott is accused of entering his sister's house on 41st street while she was out of town. A family member saw him inside and confronted him. He told her he was hungry and she should fix him some food, which she did. She told Deputy Ken Fricke she didn't realize he'd taken the jewelry while he was in the house.

When his sister returned home Sunday morning, she found her jewelry missing. As she was reporting the burglary to Deputy Fricke, another man walked by and asked what was happening. After she explained it to him, he told her to wait. He left, then returned a few minutes later with her missing jewelry and gave it to her. He would not give a statement about it, he just said "you know where I got it."

When Deputy Fricke confronted Scott about the burglary he admitted to it. He was arrested and charged with burglary, theft and trespassing. At the time of his arrest, a crack pipe was found in his shoe with drug residue on it so he was further charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Marathon woman arrested on drug charges

Marathon - A Marathon woman is in jail charged with possessing several different kinds of drugs.

Deputy Wilfredo Guerra was on patrol Sunday at 7:30 p.m. when he spotted a Mercedes Benz driven by 36 year old Michelle Ardolino parked at the Fairway Market in Marathon. Deputy Guerra recalled that Ardolino had a suspended driver's license. As he was checking to make sure of the current status of Ardolino's license, she took several bags from inside her car and put them in her trunk. She then got into the car and began driving away. He confirmed her license was suspended, and he pulled her over.

As he was checking her registration another deputy on the scene saw her put something between the console and the passenger seat. Deputy Guerra asked permission to search the car and Ardolino agreed. The search turned up crack cocaine and a pipe used to smoke it. Ardolino was arrested, charged with driving with her license suspended and possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

At the Marathon detention center, as the deputies were processing Ardolino's car, a man identifying himself as her boyfriend approached and asked to get paperwork out of the car. When they refused, he became agitated and angry. He called a friend, who also showed up. The deputies decided to move the car to the Marathon substation for safety reasons. Once there, they found a number of different types of drugs in various places in the car, including 7.8 grams of powdered cocaine, 2.8 grams of crack cocaine, 142 grams of marijuana, valium, dilaudid, oxycontin and xanax, along with five crack pipes. Ardolino was charged with another count of cocaine possession and four counts possession of a controlled substance.