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

June 28, 2007

Body found in waters off Duck Key

Family members searching for 58-year old Christopher Hawkes Smith of Aspen, Colorado found  a body floating in waters off Duck Key this afternoon.  Hawkes was reported missing Tuesday after his 20-foot Boston Whaler was found near the Long Key Bridge.  The Coast Guard and Sheriff’s marine units have been searching and were joined by family members today.  The body located this afternoon is believed to be that of Hawkes.  The county medical examiner will conduct an autopsy and assist in efforts to make a positive identification.

Consent search leads to drug arrest

Members of the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division knocked on the door of 19-yea old Brian J. Wilson at his residence on Seagate Boulevard in Key Largo Wednesday afternoon after receiving a tip that he was allegedly growing marijuana.  Wilson consented to a search and admitted to the detectives that he kept a personal “stash” of marijuana.  Wilson went to his bedroom closet where he retrieved a pizza pie box that contained a large plastic bag stuffed with marijuana and a blue smoking pipe.  Several other bags of marijuana were found in the bedroom.  In all, detectives confiscated 292 grams of marijuana valued at over five thousand dollars.  Detectives also confiscated 426 dollars in currency that was placed into evidence for possible seizure. Wilson was booked into the Plantation Key jail on charges of possession with intent to distribute.

Construction worker at Key Largo school arrested on weapons charges

Sheriff’s deputies, acting on a tip about a worker with a gun at the Key Largo School construction site, confronted 20-year old Jonathan Pena, of Live Oak, Fla., Wednesday morning.  A check of his driver’s license revealed that it was suspended.  Pena was taken into custody for that offense.  A subsequent search of his truck turned up a Colt 45 automatic pistol and three loaded magazines.  A further check of Pena’s background showed that he was a convicted felon.  Pena was taken to the Plantation Key jail and booked on charges of possession of s a suspended driver’s license, possession of a weapon on school property and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

June 25, 2007

Capt. Simpson’s funeral service schedule changed

Funeral services for Captain George Simpson are scheduled for Saturday, June 30th at one p.m. at San Pablo Church in Marathon.  Viewings are scheduled at Castillo and Thurston Mortuary in Key West at 328 Truman Avenue from 4 –6 p.m., Friday, June 29 and from noon Saturday until the one p.m. service at San Pablo Church.  A reception at Stanley Switlik School in Marathon will follow the funeral services.

Suspect delivers drugs to cops

The Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit arrested 25-year old Milo L. Whitehead Friday evening as he delivered drugs to a trailer on Key Largo.  Detectives earlier that day received information that Whitehead was trying to sell crack cocaine in the Key Largo area.  Whitehead was contacted and asked to deliver cocaine to the trailer where detectives set up surveillance.  Whitehead showed up shortly after five p.m. and was detained.  A search of a blue towel he was carrying revealed one thousand dollars worth of crack cocaine and a small amount of marijuana.  Detectives arrested Whitehead on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of marijuana.

Fugitive apprehended while carrying illegal drugs

Sheriff’s detectives apprehended 28-year old Jose V. Cordova on Stock Island near Bernstein Park on Fifth Avenue Saturday evening because he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for drug charges, including the sale of cocaine to undercover officers on Stock Island last March. The arrest warrant set bond at 250 thousand dollars.  While searching Cordova following the arrest, detectives located twenty crack cocaine rocks in his right pocket.  Cordova was booked into county jail for the warrant and for possession of cocaine within 200 feet of a public park. 

Trauma Star responds to three emergencies over the weekend

On Friday, the Sheriff’s Trauma Star helicopter and crew flew to the Dry Tortugas to transport a patient who nearly drowned while having a seizure in the water.  The patient was transported to Lower Keys Medical Center.
On Sunday, Trauma Star flew a motor vehicle accident victim to Jackson Memorial Hospital and also flew a pregnant woman to Jackson Memorial’s OB unit. 

June 22, 2007

Drug runner intercepted

Acting on an anonymous tip, Sheriff’s detectives with the Special Investigations Unit arrested two suspects and seized crack cocaine in the upper Keys Thursday afternoon.  Detectives set up surveillance on the 18-mile stretch and spotted a vehicle matching the tipster’s description turning into a marina on Key Largo shortly after five p.m.  The vehicle had a broken windshield and very dark tinting, giving detectives probable cause to stop and question the driver.  When the detectives approached the vehicle, they noticed a passenger stuffing an object into the air conditioning vent.  A subsequent search of the car turned up a three-gram crack cocaine rock in the vent and a plastic bag containing a small amount of marijuana in the center console.  The suspects, identified as 32-year old Andrew A. Johnson and 39-year old Carl E. Waters, both of Homestead, were taken into custody and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of marijuana.  Johnson was also cited for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.

Road rage arrest

Sheriff’s deputies arrested 22-year old Brian P. Gallagher, of Key Largo, on charges of improper exhibition of a firearm during an apparent road rage incident Thursday afternoon on U.S. Highway One in Key Largo.  Deputies initially stopped Gallagher near the 100-mile marker because his vehicle matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle in the road rage incident called in to dispatch by the victim.  Deputies questioned Gallagher, who admitted that he brandished a weapon because the other driver had followed him after they almost collided at the 92-mile marker. Deputies confiscated a pistol found in Gallagher’s car.  Gallagher was arrested and booked into the Plantation Key jail.

Burglary, grand theft arrest

Sheriff’s detectives today (Friday, June 22, 2007) arrested 48-year old Morgan J. Pyles on burglary, grand theft and possession of altered check charges.  The investigation started when a Marathon resident filed a burglary report naming Pyles as a suspect in the June 19th theft of fishing rods valued at over 35 hundred dollars and several blank checks from a business check book.  Pyles tried to cash two forged checks at a Marathon bank the day after the burglary, but the bank refused because the signature did not match the one on file.  Sheriff’s detectives confirmed the incident through surveillance video at the bank and statements from bank employees.  The victim told detectives that Pyles had worked for him at the house and knew where the checks were kept.  Pyles is now in the county jail under a fifteen thousand dollar bond.  Detectives say that the investigation of Pyles is continuing and that more charges are anticipated.

Marathon search warrant

Members of the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit served a search warrant at the Trailer Rama mobile home park at 1571 Overseas Highway in Marathon today, resulting in one arrest and the seizure of cocaine and over 37-hundred dollars cash.  52-year old Mario Tapanes was charged with possession of cocaine.  He told officers that the cocaine was for his personal use and that he was going to use the cash to travel to Cuba.

June 15, 2007

Anonymous tip leads to drug arrest

Key Largo - An anonymous tip that someone would be bringing drugs into the Keys led to the arrest of a Key Largo man Thursday.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division received an anonymous call Thursday. The caller said 23 year old Isaiah Klopp was on his way to Florida City to pick up drugs. The caller said he would be returning to the Keys and would be driving a white four door Lexus with dark tinted windows. Detectives set up surveillance at the 106 mile marker of the highway and spotted him traveling southbound just before 4 p.m. With the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol, the Lexus was pulled over for speeding.

The trooper asked for permission to search the car and Klopp agreed. On the driver's side floorboard, he found a crack rock. More crack was found in Klopp's pockets and a crack rock was found on the driver's side door handle. A plastic bag with cocaine residue was found in the trunk.

Klopp was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and he was booked into jail.

Stock Island man arrested for exposing himself

Stock Island - A Stock Island man was arrested Thursday night for exposing himself to two young girls.

The two girls, 12 and 13 years old, said they were walking together in the vicinity of 9th Avenue at 11:15 p.m. when they saw 44 year old Keith Kowalski. They said he was wearing only a white button down shirt and no pants or underwear. They said when he saw them, he lifted up the shirt, exposing his genitals to them. The girls, who were planning to stay the night together at the 13 year old's house on 9th Avenue, ran and told her father. The father walked outside to check on it and also saw Kowalski walking around with his genitals exposed. He called the Sheriff's Office to report it.

Deputies Caridad Bellon and Evan Calhoun responded. They knocked on the door of the apartment where Kowalski was living, but got no answer. Kowalski suddenly appeared from around the corner. He'd changed his clothes and was now wearing a different shirt, shorts and, underneath, a green one piece women's bathing suit.

While the deputies were there, the father confronted Kowalski, asking him why was walking in the street with no pants on. Kowalski denied exposing himself, and said he was in the street waiting for a pizza delivery. He then admitted lying about the pizza after the father asked why the pizza had not arrived yet. He then said he was in the street because he'd heard something in the woods that sounded like an animal.

Kowalski was arrested, charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

June 14, 2007

Drugs seized Wednesday evening in Key Largo

Three arrested on drug related charges

Key Largo - Three people were arrested Wednesday in Key Largo on drug related charges.

Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Investigations Division received a tip that 46 year old Isaac Mason of Homestead would be traveling southbound into the Keys in a white van. Mason was wanted on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court. The detectives set up surveillance and spotted the van passing the 106 mile marker at about 7:15 p.m. They radioed ahead and another team of detectives followed the van until it stopped in front of a home on Pigeon Drive in Key Largo.

When he got out of the car, Mason was arrested. A search of his pockets turned up crack cocaine, marijuana and powdered cocaine, along with $300 in cash.. Detectives ran a check on the van's registration and called the registered owner, obtaining permission to search it. More crack cocaine and three crack pipes were found in the van. The two other people in the van with Mason were also arrested. 50 year old John Lynch of Key Largo was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia; 45 year old Shirley Patterson of Homestead was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and in addition to the failure to appear in court warrant, Mason was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana. They were all booked into jail.

Dead man identified, autopsy completed

Marquesas Keys - Detectives say they have positively identified a man found dead on a sailboat in the Marquesas Keys Monday.

According to the Medical Examiner's Office, preliminary autopsy results show 60 year old Russell Winko of Big Coppitt Key most likely died of natural causes. According to his brother, he'd been on a sailing excursion for just over 30 days and was expected back any day. He said Winko loved to sail alone, and would many times return just to re-provision before going back out again. Winko was a retired law enforcement officer from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

June 13, 2007

Click here to see photos of this case

Marine Enforcement deputy charges two with over limit grouper

Marathon - A deputy on jet ski patrol stopped a boat for a safety inspection and wound up arresting the two men on board for being over their limit on Black Grouper.

Deputy Willie Guerra was on patrol Thursday when he stopped the 15 foot skiff near the Vaca Cut Bridge in Marathon to do a safety inspection. Once on board, he checked one of the vessel's coolers, finding seven Black Grouper inside. The limit for the two men on board was four, so they were three over the limit. Deputy Guerra then escorted the vessel to a nearby marina where he was met by two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers. A further check of the boat turned up ten more Black Grouper in a hidden compartment.

Deputy Guerra was given permission to look at the GPS on the vessel, and noticed several trips back and forth to a boat ramp in Marathon. When he asked the men about it, they said they had more fish in a cooler in their vehicle at the boat ramp. In that cooler, the officers found six more Black Grouper, two Mutton Snappers and two out of season Snook.

27 year old Jeremy Kobosko of Lake Worth, Florida and 28 year old Cyrus Oatway of Lantana, Florida were both booked into the Monroe County Detention Center, charged with over the limit Black Grouper, possessing Snook out of season and resisting arrest without violence. The Black Grouper were donated to the Boy Scouts of America Camp on Lower Matacumbe Key.

Baby left alone at day care center

Stock Island - A baby was left alone at his day care center after the center closed for the day Tuesday.

Deputies Liisa Thibideau and Tom Walker responded to the Wesley House Day Care facility on Stock Island Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. after the child's mother arrived to pick up her two and a half month old son and found the facility closed. She said she'd called the center earlier in the day to let them know she'd be late picking him up. The deputies finally found the day care facility's director. She responded to the facility and found the child in a crib. He was just waking up and had, apparently, been left alone there for approximately an hour.

The employees responsible for closing the facility that evening were interviewed. From the interviews, it appears no one did a final check of the infant area of the facility before locking the doors. Detectives from the Sheriff's Office will be working together with the Department of Children and Families to investigate the case.

June 12, 2007

Man found dead on sailboat in the Marquesas

Marquesas Keys - Sheriff's detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was found on a sailboat, located in mangroves in the Marquesas Keys Monday evening.

Detective Sgt. Trish Dally and Detective Geni Hernandez made the trip to the Marquesas with officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after a boater contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at 5:30 p.m. Monday. The reporting person said there was a sailboat in the mangroves that appeared to be unattended. He said he'd seen a man on board the boat about three days before. He said now, when he approached the sailboat, he smelled a strong, foul odor and noticed a lot of insect activity around the boat.

When the officers arrived, they found a man's body inside the boat. He appeared to have been dead for several days. The 29 foot vessel, with the body still intact, was towed to the Coast Guard station in Key West. The body was extracted from the sailboat and taken by the Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy. Detectives are now in the process of identifying who the dead man is.

June 11, 2007

Two charged with robbery

Marathon - Two people were arrested in Marathon for robbing a 15 year old of his cell phone and cash.

The victim told Deputies Bobby Burkett and Derek Paul he was sleeping at a friend's house at 11 a.m. Sunday when he was attacked. He said 28 year old Kenneth Anderson of Miami - who he knew as "Chris" - and 21 year old Alana Williams of Homestead hit him with a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka, held him down and took his cell phone and cash from his pockets.

The deputies went to 2111 Overseas Highway, where the victim said the attack took place. They found Anderson and Williams still there. They admitted to taking the items by force from the victim, but said they were just taking back what he'd taken from them. Anderson and Williams were arrested, charged with robbery and booked into the Monroe County Detention Center. The victim was treated by paramedics for his injuries, which included bruising on his face, head and shoulder, and a cut over his eye.

June 4, 2007

Mother charged with leaving 15 month old alone

Big Coppitt Key - An 18 year old mother has been arrested for leaving her 15 month old child alone in her Big Coppitt Home Sunday afternoon.

The child's grandmother showed up at her daughter's house at noon and found her 15 month old grandson sleeping in his crib. No one else was in the house. She told Deputy Lisa Thibideau her daughter called her earlier in the day to ask her to babysit. The grandmother told her she could not babysit. The grandmother then called her daughter back later and the daughter told her she had a babysitter, and was going bridge jumping with her boyfriend.

The grandmother went to her daughter's house to check on the situation and found the child alone. She then called the Sheriff's Office. The mother showed up at the house while the grandmother and the deputy were there. She began screaming at the grandmother, blaming the situation on her. She was placed under arrest and the Department of Children and Families responded and took custody of the child. The 18 year old mother was charged with neglect of her child and was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Man returned to the Keys to face grand theft charges

Big Coppitt Key - A man wanted in the Keys for stealing a large number of tools and then pawning them was arrested in California and returned here to face the charges.

In February, Deputy Tom Walker responded to a grand theft call on Boca Chica Road on Big Coppitt Key. The victim said 47 year old Wayne Williamson, who rented from him, was stealing his tools from a shed on his property. He gave the deputy a list of tools, including hammer drills, a compressor, an impact wrench, a framing gun, a digital camera and a multi-meter. Total value of stolen items was approximately $2,500.00.

Detective Henry DelValle was assigned to investigate. He and the victim visited local pawn shops, recovering most of the stolen items. The Detective was able to confirm, from pawn shop records, that Williamson was the one who pawned the stolen items. A warrant was issued for Williamson's arrest.

On May 4th, Detective DelValle received a call from Orange County, California. They had Williamson in custody on the outstanding Monroe County warrant and wanted to confirm his identity. Williamson was returned to Monroe County on Friday to face charges of providing false ownership information to pawn shops and for dealing in stolen property.

Man arrested on Crime Stoppers Tip

Stock Island - A Key West man was arrested Sunday afternoon on an outstanding warrant after a Crime Stoppers tipster told deputies where to find him.

Deputies went to a Stock Island bar after a Crime Stoppers tipster called to say 44 year old Brett Allen Sullivan would be there. They did, indeed, find him there and they placed him under arrest. Sullivan was wanted on a warrant issued in December for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Three more arrested at Higgs Beach

Key West - Three men were arrested at Higgs Beach Saturday by Sheriff's deputies.

Deputies Lisa Thibideau and Tom Walker responded to reports of people drinking alcohol at the beach. They found 30 year old Dennis Zierler passed out at a picnic table with a 16 ounce can of Natural Ice beside him. They found 34 year old Frederick Elkins passed out in a stall in the bathroom area and they found 37 year old Alfred Copeland arguing loudly with another man.

Zierler was arrested for violation of the County's open container ordinance. They arrested Elkins and Copeland after a check on their names through computers revealed they had been issued a trespass warning for Higgs Beach in May. They were both charged with Trespass after Warning. All three were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

June 1, 2007

Ten arrested in sweep at Higgs Beach

Acting on complaints about public intoxication at Higgs Beach in Key West, Sheriff’s deputies made eight arrests at the county beach today.  Arrested on charges of possession of open containers and consumption of alcoholic beverages were:

Deputies also charged Coleman with disorderly conduct and Komenda with trespassing.  All of those arrested listed their address as general delivery or streets of Key West.

Also at Higgs Beach today, members of the Sheriff’s Special Operations Division arrested 40-year old Richard P. Williams of Key West for sale of marijuana.  Detectives made a controlled buy of marijuana from Williams and then made traffic stop as he drove away.  Detectives also found a small bag of marijuana inside the vehicle after a K-9 from the Key West Police Department alerted them to the presence of drugs.  Detectives also recovered marked money from the controlled sale.  Richardson was booked into county jail on charges of sale of drugs within 200 feet of a public park, misdemeanor possession of marijuana and operating a motor vehicle without a license.  A passenger in his car identified as 53-year old Donna Gayle Kelly, of Marathon, was also arrested when a background checked revealed she was wanted for failure to appear in court on a marine safety violation charge.

Burglary suspect arrested

Sheriff’s detectives arrested 45-year old Scott G. Pemberton early today while investigating a series of burglaries near the Sugarloaf Marina on Sugarloaf Key.  Detectives spotted Pemberton and questioned him because he fit the description of a man seen near the marina following the burglaries.  A deputy had noted that Pemberton, dressed in a diving wet suit, was in the area when he responded to an alarm sounding at the marina last night.  However, Pemberton was released after a check of the marina did not turn up any sign of a crime.  The break-in was discovered this morning along with a burglary of a boat and a theft in the same area.  The stolen items were found in a wooden shed near a campsite where Pemberton was located.  A wet suit was also found at the campsite.  Two people at the campsite stated that Pemberton had returned last night and showed them the stolen items, including cash and cigarettes. Detectives charged Pemberton with burglary, criminal mischief and theft.

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