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

April 30, 2007

Traffic stop leads to foot pursuit

Rockland Key - A traffic stop led to a foot pursuit on Rockland Key Friday night.

Deputy Greg Korzen was on patrol just before midnight, northbound at the 8 mile marker of the highway. He spotted a green Mazda in front of him. When the driver of the Mazda saw the deputy, he abruptly slowed down, changed lanes and turned on his turn signal even though the nearest turn was a half mile away. Deputy Korzen ran the car's license tag and it came back "no record found" so he followed the car as it turned onto Rockland Drive.

The car traveled a short distance and then did a U-turn, heading back toward the highway. The deputy followed, turning on his lights and siren. The car refused to stop, then abruptly stopped and the driver jumped out of the car and began to run. He jumped into a mangrove area and Deputy Korzen called for backup so he could isolate the area the suspect was hiding in.

As more officers arrived, they were able to find the suspect's location by the noise he was making in the mangroves. He finally exited the mangroves, giving himself up. 18 year old Alberto Barcenas of Key West said he ran from Deputy Korzen because he has no driver's license and has outstanding warrants. He said he bought the car in Miami and never registered it. A small amount of marijuana was found in the car, and in Barcenas front pants pocket.

The three outstanding warrants for Barcenas were for two counts of resisting arrest without violence and for failure to appear in court. He was further charged with fleeing from police, having no valid drivers license, failure to register the vehicle and attaching a tag not assigned to the vehicle. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Business burglaries in Marathon may be connected

Marathon - Sheriff's detectives say they are investigating three business burglaries in the Marathon area which may have been committed by the same suspect or suspects.

The Citgo Gas and Convenience Store, the Burger King and Pizza Hut have all been burglarized within a week's period of time. The Citgo was hit on April 23rd and the Burger King and Pizza Hut were both hit in the early morning hours today. In all three cases, the unknown suspects used a large piece of cement to break a window and remove cash registers or cash drawers from inside.

Anyone with information about these crimes 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.

April 27, 2007

Minor Fire at Plantation Key School

Students and staff were evacuated this morning at Plantation Key Elementary School after a small fire was reported in one of the classrooms. No injuries were reported. Fire and rescue personnel were on scene within minutes. The Deputy School Resource Officer at the school reported that the fire apparently started when paper artwork touched a hot light bulb. Fire Department personnel are investigating the cause. The fire reportedly damaged one classroom and resulted in smoke drifting throughout the school building. School officials have cancelled classes for the remainder of the day.

Revenge attempt gets the wrong man

Investigation by Sheriff’s detectives has led to the arrest of 42-year old Jeffrey T. Browning, of Marathon, in connection with a battery of a Big Pine Key man earlier this month. The victim called the Sheriff’s Office on April 7 to report that two men burst into his residence while he was sleeping and attacked him. The 34-year old victim suffered cuts and bruises. He reported that the two suspects, who he could not identify, left in a white pickup truck. A neighbor of the victim recognized the truck as belonging to Browning, whom he had a heated altercation with a few days earlier. Sheriff’s detectives interviewed Browning, who admitted that he asked a co-worker and another man to take revenge. Browning stated that he wanted them to beat up the man he had the altercation with. However, the two men went to the wrong residence on Big Pine Key, resulting in the attack on the victim in this case. Browning denied participating in the battery. Detective Paul Shultz, who is in charge of the investigation, said that he has identified the other suspect in the battery and is seeking an arrest warrant. After completing his investigation, detective Shultz obtained an arrest warrant for Browning, charging him with criminal conspiracy, solicitation and burglary with battery. Browning turned himself in to authorities Thursday. He was booked on the charges with a bond of thirty thousand dollars.

Shots fired report causes temporary U.S. One highway closure

U.S. Highway One was closed for about 45 minutes this evening at the 95-mile marker following reports of shots being fired in the area. The Sheriff’s Office closed the four lane in that area as a precaution after residents reported that a man with a rifle was firing shots. The report turned out to be partially inaccurate. The suspect only had an air rifle. There are no reports of injuries. Deputies cordoned off the immediate area near the house where the shots were reportedly fired. Deputies made contact with the suspect and entered the house without incident. The weapon, turned out to be only an air rifle (B-B gun) that was being fired on private property. No charges will be filed. Highway One in the area was closed only as a precaution from around 7:15 p.m. until 8 p.m., when it was reopened to traffic.

April 26, 2007

Corrections Officer Trainee arrested

A corrections officer trainee was arrested by Sheriff’s detectives Wednesday after she tried to smuggle cigarettes to an inmate at the Stock Island Detention Center. 41-year old Shanetta Oliphant was taken into custody after detectives confronted her when she entered a jail dorm carrying cigarettes and a lighter wrapped in a paper towel. During interrogation, Oliphant admitted that she was smuggling the contraband. Oliphant has been attending a Corrections Officer Training Academy at Florida Keys Community College and was employed at the Sheriff’s Office while undergoing the training. Oliphant was booked on charges of introduction of contraband into a corrections facility and criminal conspiracy. Both charges are third degree felonies. Detectives also arrested 19-year old Andras Winn in connection with the case. Winn, an inmate at the detention center on robbery, battery and drug charges, is also charged with criminal conspiracy and introduction of contraband into a detention facility.

Key Largo stabbing

An altercation between two Key Largo men Wednesday night resulted in one man being airlifted to a Miami area hospital for treatment of stab wounds. Sheriff’s deputies were called to a residence on Harry Harris Drive in Key Largo shortly before 11 p.m. Deputies found the 25-year old victim bleeding from a wound to his right side. The victim said he was visiting the Harry Harris Drive house when he was attacked and stabbed by one of the residents, identified as 23-year old Nathan J. Knight. A female witness at the scene backed up the victim’s version of the incident. Deputies also interviewed Knight, who said that the victim attacked him and that he used his pocketknife in self-defense. Knight said he initially fled the scene and ran into a wooded area where he discarded the knife. A search of the area failed to turn up the weapon. Deputies arrested Knight and booked him at the Plantation Key jail on charges of aggravated battery. The victim was initially taken by rescue personnel to Mariner’s Hospital and subsequently airlifted to a hospital in the Miami area. April 24, 2007

Marathon business burglary under investigation

Sheriff’s detectives are seeking help in their investigation of a burglary early Monday at the Citgo Convenience Store at 110th Street in Marathon. The store’s front window was smashed with a concrete block and a cash register containing one hundred dollars was carted away. Deputies responded to the burglary call around 11:30 a.m. Monday. A search of the area failed to turn up any sign of the suspect. The store’s video surveillance system recorded the incident. The suspect, a thin African American male, was wearing oversized jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and used a pair of black socks to cover his hands. If anyone has information, call Sheriff’s Detective Ron Sylvester at 289-2430. Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. Callers may remain anonymous. The Crime Stoppers hotline is 800-346-TIPS (8477).

April 23, 2007

Keys Plane crash victims identified

The victims of Saturday night’s plane crash in the Lower Florida Keys have been identified as 56-year old Mark A. Chase, his wife 53-year old Margaret T. Chase and 47-year old Denise E. Darcey. The Chases are from Eustis Florida. Darcey is from Virginia and is Mrs. Chase’s cousin. Their aircraft, a Cessna 182Q, departed Key West International Airport at 11:15 p.m. Saturday night and a short time later crashed after hitting a steel cable tethering an aerostat blimp on Cudjoe Key. They were visiting relatives in Key West and were returning to Eustis. The main fuselage of the downed plane has been located and recovery efforts are underway. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Deputies arrest man exposing himself to children

Key Largo. A Monroe County school bus driver called the Sheriff’s Office shortly after 8 a.m. today when she spotted the driver of a car exposing himself to the children when he pulled alongside their bus on the four-lane highway in Key Largo. The driver said the suspect was naked from the waist down. The School Resource Officer at Key Largo School, Deputy Laura Migala, was dispatched. Deputy Migala spotted the suspect’s vehicle following the school bus near the 104-mile marker. After making a traffic stop, Deputy Migala observed that the suspect was wearing a tank top that only covered half of his chest and a pair of white shorts. When the suspect got out of his vehicle, Deputy Migala observed that he had obviously just pulled up his shorts since they were not on straight and the waistband area was twisted to the inside. The bus driver, an assistant bus driver and several of the children, ages nine to thirteen, confirmed that the suspect was following the bus and that he was naked from the waist down when he drove alongside the bus several times as they traveled north on their way to morning classes at Key Largo School. Deputy Migala arrested the suspect, identified as 56-year old Joseph L. Murdzak Jr., of Homestead, Florida, on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age. Murdzak told deputies that he was sunburned and was only applying suntan lotion while driving. Following his arrest, a search of Murdzak’s vehicle also turned up a small amount of marijuana and a pipe containing marijuana residue. He was also charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of narcotics paraphernalia when he was booked into the jail at Plantation Key.


April 20, 2007

Homeless man arrested after tense standoff with deputies

Key Largo - A tense stand off with Sheriff's deputies ended with a homeless man going to jail in the early morning hours today (Friday).

Deputies Patricia Garcia and Keith Albert were on patrol at the 106 mile marker of the highway at 2 a.m. when they spotted a door open on a house they knew to be vacant. The lights were on and they could see someone inside, so they approached the house cautiously. They yelled for the man to come outside. He refused, instead closing the door and turning off the lights.

A few minutes later, he opened the front door and pointed what the deputies said looked like a handgun at them. At that point, they retreated, taking up a safe position behind their patrol car. Deputies Robert Dosh, Ryan Cowart and William Guerra arrived as back up and they blocked traffic on the highway for safety reasons.

While the deputies were setting up perimeter cover, the man in side the house, later identified as 36 year old Joel Seppanan, snuck out the back door of the house. A short time later, the deputies heard him as he moved through the bushes beside the house. At gunpoint, the deputies ordered him out of the bushes with his hands up.

Suddenly, they heard eight loud "pops" which sounded like small arms fire. The continued to order Seppanan out of the bushes with his hands up. Seppanan began walking towards them, refusing to raise his hands. The deputies at that point were able to see he had nothing in his hands, however, so they swarmed him, taking him to the ground. During the struggle, Seppanan tried to grab Deputy Albert's gun from his holster, and swung his arms and kicked his feet at the deputies.

During the struggle, Seppanan was tased several times and was finally subdued and taken into custody. He was found to have a pill bottle full of firecrackers in his possession. A gun was not found. He was transported to the Monroe County Detention Center.

During the transport, he continued his combative attitude so, once at the jail, he was placed in a restraint chair in order to keep him from injuring himself or others. A check of his fingerprints revealed he is designated as a career criminal. A further check revealed he is not registered as such, as Florida law requires.

Seppanan was charged with failure to register as a felon, battery on a law enforcement officer, four counts aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, burglary and resisting arrest with violence.

April 9, 2007

Sheriff's Office receives to refugee landing calls

Monroe County - The Sheriff's Office assisted with two refugee landings early today.

At  5:30 a.m. a caller reported a large group of people walking near the 37.5 mile marker of Highway U.S. One. The caller said the group might be Cuban migrants. When deputies arrived, the found a total of 28 migrants - two children, 11 adult females and 15 adult males. The migrants were turned over to Border Patrol.

A second group was reported to have arrived at the 114 mile marker of the highway in north Key Largo. Border Patrol was notified. No more information is available about this landing.

Ramrod man dies in car fire

Ramrod Key - A 21 year old Ramrod Key man died Sunday morning, apparently the victim of a car fire.

Deputies were dispatched at 7 a.m. to reports of a car fire at A-1 Auto Clinic on Ramrod Key. The burning car was inside of a fence at the business. Firefighters and paramedics also responded. When the fire was extinguished, the body of 21 year old Scott Kavanaugh was found in the driver's seat of the 1992 Buick Roadmaster. The ignition was on, so it appears the car was running prior to catching fire. Four empty and six unopened Bud Lights were found beside him.

Kavanaugh worked at A-1 Auto Clinic. A fellow employee who reported the fire told Deputy John Gabay Kavanaugh would, on occasion, sit in the car - which belonged to him - and drink due to what he described as "problems at home".

According to Detective Manny Cuervo, there was no sign of foul play found at the scene and the death appears to be accidental, possibly due to smoke inhalation. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of Kavanaugh's death.

Five more high end GPS Units stolen

Key Largo - Five more high end GPS units were stolen at a Key Largo marina.

The general manager of the Lighthouse Boat Center called Saturday morning to report a burglary to the marina. He said sometime between Thursday at midnight and Saturday at 10 a.m. five boats were burglarized with five high end GPS units stolen from them. Each GPS was valued at approximately $2,500.00.

Detectives are investigating these thefts, and the thefts of many more of these GPS units throughout the Keys over past months. Anyone with information about these crimes 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.

Convenience Store robbed at knife point

Plantation Key - A Plantation Key Convenience store was robbed at knife point Saturday night.

The clerk at the Marlin Food Store at the 88 mile marker of the highway said she was counting the money from the register prior to putting it in the safe at about 11:30 p.m. when a man walked in with a knife in his hand and demanded she hand over the money. After she gave it to him, he left running toward the highway. She described the robber as a dark skinned white male. He was about five foot eight inches tall with a medium build. She could not describe his clothing, but a surveillance video showed he was wearing long black shorts with a white stripe on the side, a black t-shirt and a red baseball cap.

Detective Mike DiGiovanni responded to investigate. 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.

April 6, 2007

Key Largo woman, wanted on federal warrant, flees deputies

Key Largo - A Key Largo woman fled from deputies in the early morning hours today (Friday) because she was wanted by the FBI on an outstanding federal warrant. She was stopped after deputies deployed the Stinger Spike System and flattened her vehicle's tires.

Shortly after 1 a.m., Deputy Keith Albert was on patrol when he received a notice to be on the lookout for a red Chevrolet Impala. The driver, Chantal Borguss, was reported to have a federal warrant for drug charges, and was alleged to possibly be carrying drugs in her car. Just minutes later, he saw the car southbound on highway U.S. One at the 103 mile marker. He turned around and activated his lights and siren and the car pulled over at the 102.5 mile marker. Deputy Albert got out of his car and, as he began giving instructions to Borguss, she took off.

Sgt. Lyle Agins joined the chase with Deputy Albert. Borguss refused to stop and began to drive erratically, speeding and weaving in traffic. She turned off the highway twice, traveling through residential areas, then back onto the highway. Deputy Robert Dosh also joined the chase, but his patrol car was hit by another vehicle in an intersection. He was taken to the hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and released. No one else was injured in the accident.

Due to the potential danger to others from Borguss' erratic driving, the chase was terminated and the deputies turned off their lights and sirens. They attempted to keep her in sight, however, and called for the Stinger Spikes to be set up. Sgt. Tom Kiffney set them up at the 90 mile marker. Borguss hit the spikes with her car. She was forced to stop a short time later due to flat tires.

Borguss said she had to flee because of the outstanding warrant. She was arrested, charged with aggravated fleeing and eluding police due to the accident she caused with her actions, and she received 12 citations for speeding, running stop signs and running a red light. Marijuana was found in her car, so she was also charged with possession of that illegal substance. She is also facing federal drug charges.

Key Largo man charged with repeated sexual abuse of young girl

Note: State law requires that victims of sexual crimes be protected from identification by law enforcement and by the media. In an effort to comply with this law, the victim's age, the exact statutes the suspect is charged with, and some details of the crime are not in the story below because they might serve to identify the victim.

Key Largo - A Key Largo man was arrested Thursday, charged with multiple counts of sodomizing and raping a young girl.

Sheriff's detectives with the Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit have been investigating the case with the Department of Children and Families since January, when a tip was received by DCF about possible abuse going on at the trailer, located at the 101.6 mile marker of Highway U.S. One. During interviews, the victim - who is now a teenager - said she has been repeatedly raped and sodomized by 32 year old Zachariah Delatorre since she was a small child. The abuse reportedly continued after she moved to Key Largo in August of 2006. The victim has been kept safe from Delatorre since the abuse was reported.

On April 5th, after extensive investigation, Delatorre was arrested by Detective Linda Mixon, charged with an outstanding warrant for multiple counts of sexual battery on a minor. Bond on the warrant was set at $1.2 million.

Teen charged with raping young girl

Marathon - A 17 year old Marathon boy was arrested Wednesday on an outstanding warrant for raping a 12 year old girl.

The girl told her mother in early January that 17 year old Tommy Alo had forced her to have sex with him at a party in August of 2006. The mother sent her daughter to stay with relatives out of state so she would be safe, then called the Sheriff's Office to report the crime.

Detective Natalie Mashburn was assigned to investigate. After conducting interviews with the victim, and other witnesses, a warrant was obtained for Alo. He was charged Wednesday with Lewd and Lascivious Battery on a Minor and he was booked at the Monroe County Detention Center after which he was turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

April 5, 2007

Cuban Migrants turn up at Key West Airport

Key West - A group of 22 Cuban Migrants showed up at the Key West Airport early this monring.

The group was in good health. It was comprised of men, women and children of varying ages, from very young to elderly, according to Airport Security Director Jerome Fain. He said they claimed to have traveled to the United States on a raft made of "buckets and bolts". But no such craft has been recovered.

The group was taken by bus to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island, and were turned over to Border Patrol.

Miami man charged with burglary, theft, dealing in stolen property

Key Largo - A Miami man was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center Wednesday, chargeed with burglarizing a Key Largo residence earlier this year.

18 year old Brian Gonzalez is accused of breaking in to a storage shed and two boats at a home on Central Avenue sometime between January 28th and February 2nd. The owner told Deputy Ian Barnet that fishing equipment, pe equipment and two GPS units were missing from the shed and the two boats. The estimated value of the stolen property was $6,000.00. A neighbor reported seeing a gold colored Cadillac at the house during the time the burglary took place.

Detective Mike DiGiovanni was assigned to investigate. He discovered that the stolen items were pawned at a Key Largo pawn shop by Gonzalez. Gonzalez was driving a gold colored Cadillac when he pawned them, and had two other men with him at the time. Detective DiGiovanni obtained a warrant for the arrest of Gonzalez. On Wednesday he was booked on the warrant, charged with three counts of burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property. More arrests may be pending.

Miami woman charged with vehicle theft, fleeing from deputies

Islamorada - A Miami woman is charged with driving a van stolen in Miami and fleeing from deputies in it.

The incident took place in January of 2006. According to deputies and detectives, they were called to a possible theft in progress at the Sunset Inn in Islamorada. A caller reported two people in a white van trying to break in to a Coke machine at the motel. Responding deputies saw the van fleeing as they drove up. The pursued it, but lost sight of it. They did manage to get the license tag number. Checks on the tag revealed it was stolen from Miami a couple of days earlier.The van was later recovered in a parking lot nearby.

A vehicle burglary was reported at the Sunset Inn the following day. A man reported a large number of tools taken from his truck. Investigators talked to the clerk at the motel who said just prior to the Coke Machine incident, a man calling himself "Andre" and a woman calling herself "Lexi" had come in looking for rooms. He'd told them there were none available.

Inside the abandoned van, investigators found a large number of tools, two televisions, a computer hard drive and a black bag. Sticking out of the black bag was a picture of a woman, sitting in the stolen van. She was later identified as 27 year old Jennifer Welkner by employees she worked with at Woody's Sports Bar, where she was a dancer. They also knew her by the nickname "Lexi". Employees at the bar also said they'd seen her on previous days driving the van, and riding in it with two men.

Investigations revealed the tools found in the van were the ones stolen from the truck at the Sunset Inn. The televisions and the computer hard drive were stolen from a Coral Gables Church January 17th. The van was stolen from a catering company in Miami. A warrant was issued for Welkner's arrest by Detective Mike DiGiovanni for two counts of grand theft, burglary and fleeing from police.

Detective DiGiovanni was notified in late February 2006 that the man with Welkner at the Sunset Inn, identified as Aundra Johnson, was arrested for a car jacking. Just a few days later, they picked up Welkner on other charges. She has been in Miami-Dade custody since February of 2006. On Wednesday, she was returned to Monore County, to face the outstanding charges in this jurisdiction. More arrests on this case may be pending.



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