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 30, 2008

Cape Coral man arrested for discharging a firearm into the air

Key Largo - A Cape Coral, Florida man is in jail after he fired his handgun into the air from the balcony of a room at Gilbert's Resort in Key Largo Sunday night.

Deputies Michael Sielicki and Darnell Durham arrived at the resort after a security guard called to say he'd heard gunshots and people arguing in room 112. The guard told the deputies a man from the room wearing an orange shirt had walked toward the bar on the south side of the resort.

When the deputies confronted 45 year old Michael Burtchell, he said he was upset because he and his girlfriend were staying at the resort longer than he wanted to. According to his girlfriend, she was arguing with him by phone. He wanted her to return to the room and she didn't want to. She said she heard a gun shot over the phone. Burtchell said because he was upset, he'd gotten his handgun from the bedside table, taken it out on the balcony and had fired it into the air.

Burtchell was arrested, charged with discharging a firearm in public and he was booked into jail.

June 29, 2008

Miami man charged with attempting to steal PWC faces more charges

Islamorada - A Miami man originally charged with attempting to steal a personal water craft and trailer at Holiday Isle Resort faces more charges.

In addition to unhitching a PWC and trailer from the back of a truck, 21 year old Julian Serret also reportedly went onto a boat docked at holiday isle, attempting to hot wire it, then taking a VHS radio and some flares from it. He additionally took a license plate from a vehicle in the resort's parking lot. There were signs he attempted to take the license plates from three other cars in the lot as well.

Deputies first responded after witnesses saw Serret unhitching the trailer from a truck in the parking lot. Serret was arrested and charged with grand theft and possession of burglary tools after scissors, a hammer and a flashlight were found.

Deputies discovered the other crimes after visiting the room Serret was staying in at the resort. Four women also staying in the room told deputies Serret was gone most of the night, but returned once carrying "weird stuff" which he put in the bathroom. That is where deputies found the flares, radio and license plate.

Serret was further charged with two counts of burglary and one more count of grand theft.

Sunrise man charged with fleeing from deputies

Key West - A man from Sunrise, Florida is in jail charged with fleeing from deputies on a moped Saturday in the early morning hours.

At 3 a.m., Deputy Kevin McCracken spotted the moped southbound over the Cow Key Channel Bridge. It was swerving back and forth and, when the deputy turned on his lights and siren, the driver looked backward as he slowed approaching the parking lot of the Holiday Inn.

At first, 27 year old Robert Montalvo looked like he was stopping, but he suddenly sped up and drove the moped around the back of the hotel. He hit a speed bump, lost control and was thrown off the moped flipping it and rolling across the pavement. He jumped to his feet and fled into the pool area and the Deputy lost him. The moped was a rental, so it was determined there would be a follow up investigation later that day.

During business hours Saturday, Deputy Liisa Thibideau went to Two Oceans Moped Rentals and learned the moped had been rented by Steven Schultz of Deerfield Beach. Schultz was registered as staying at the Holiday Inn. When confronted, Schultz told Deputy Thibideau Montalvo had been driving the moped.

Montalvo was in the hotel room the two were sharing. He had injuries consistent with the moped accident, and admitted to fleeing from Deputy McCracken. He said he fled because he knew his license was suspended. Montalvo was arrested. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police, resisting arrest and driving with his license suspended. he was booked into jail.

Sobriety Checkpoint results:

A sobriety checkpoint held at the 99.5 mile marker between Saturday night and Sunday morning resulted in two drunk drivers being arrested.

In addition, one person was arrested on drug charges, five criminal citations were issued for various violations and 28 other citations were written. A total of 394 vehicles were pulled to the side of the road and checked.

49 year old Manny Gonzalez of Miami was pulled over for the checkpoint at 1:30 a.m. Deputies immediately noticed he smelled of alcohol and fish. He said he'd had a few beers while fishing. He failed field sobriety exercises. Two empty bottles of Sky Vodka were found in the center console of his vehicle. He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Information on the second DUI arrest was not available as of the time of this report.

June 28, 2008

Miami man arrested for trying to steal PWC

Islamorada - A Miami man is in jail after being caught in the process of stealing a personal watercraft at the Holiday Isle Resort.

Deputies were called to the Resort at 1:50 a.m. by witnesses who saw 21 year old Julian Serret disconnecting the trailer the PWC was on from a truck in a parking area of the resort. When Deputies Daniel Mehler, Yunier Galvez and Lee Cowart arrived, the witness and suspect were still on the scene. the witness pointed out Serret, saying he was the one disconnecting the trailer from the truck.

Serret was arrested. A flashlight and a pair of scissors were found in his pocket, and a hammer was found on the bumper of the truck. He was charged with grand theft of the PWC and the trailer and possession of burglary tools. He claimed he was only trying to show the owner how easy it was for someone to steal the PWC and trailer.

Sugarloaf man arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography

Sheriff's detectives arrested a Sugarloaf Key man who they say possessed and distributed child pornography.

Detective Natalie Mashburn with the Sheriff's Crimes Against Women and Children's Unit arrested ***name expunged*** Friday after an extensive investigation. The investigation began after she received information from a detective with the Martin County Sheriff's Office who had received three computer files containing child pornography from a computer residing in Monroe County.

The computer was traced to a home on Shore Drive, Sugarloaf Key. It belongs to ***name expunged*** . On the computer, detectives found the files that had been shared with the detective in Martin County.***name expunged*** was arrested and charged with three counts of possession of child pornography and three counts of promoting the sexual performance of a child. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center. His bond is set at $250,000.00.

June 24, 2008

Couple arrested for burglary, dealing in stolen property

Lower Keys - A Sugarloaf Key couple was arrested, charged with burglarizing a storage shed, then trying to sell the fishing rods and reels they stole from it.

Deputies responded June 19th to a trespassing call at a Stock Island fish house. When they arrived, they found 48 year old James McDorman trying to sell fishing poles. He was accompanied by his wife, Stacey McDorman. McDorman could not, however, give a satisfactory explanation of where he got the poles, so the deputy took the poles for further investigation.
A follow-up investigation revealed the poles came from a house on Wahoo Lane on Sugarloaf Key. The owner was out of town and when he returned home on the afternoon of the 19th, he discovered someone broke into his storage shed and took them.

Detective Juan Llera spotted McDorman driving his wife's truck near the 17 mile marker later that afternoon and pulled him over. McDorman, who has suspended driver's licenses in Florida and Delaware, was arrested for driving with his license suspended. He continued to deny knowing anything about the burglary, or where the poles came from.

McDorman was further charged with dealing in stolen property, possession of stolen property, burglary and criminal mischief. Today (June 24th) his wife Stacey was picked up for participating in the same crimes. Both are now staying at the Monroe County Detention Center.

June 20, 2008

Update: West Palm man charged with more crimes

Key Largo - A West Palm Beach man arrested June 2nd for multiple crimes committed between Marathon and Key Largo continues to be charged with more crimes as detectives process the property found in his car, his motel room and at Travel Trailer Town in Key Largo.

31 year old Frank Echemendia was caught after he was spotted driving recklessly in Islamorada. He initially got away, but his red Ford Expedition was found in the parking lot of a Key Largo restaurant. He was nabbed as he exited the restaurant with his girlfriend, 29 year old Jeanna Applewhite of Tampa. He had an outstanding warrant from Manatee County for violation of probation on charges of two counts of grand theft auto, three counts of grand theft, burglary, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and escape.

His vehicle was full of property and, when deputies accompanied Applewhite back to their room at the Sea Trail Motel they found still more property. Lead Detective Jason Madnick, assisted by others in the Sheriff’s Office, began slowly to unravel the details of a crime spree which had taken place over the previous week in various locations in the middle and upper Keys.

Among those crimes:

Echemendia has so far been charged with seven counts of burglary, ten counts of grand theft, five counts of criminal mischief, retail theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and two counts vehicle theft. More charges are pending in other cases. The total bond on all those charges is $366,000.00. Detective Madnick is still  investigating the case.

Applewhite was not originally arrested, but after investigations revealed she took an active part in some of the crimes - particularly in the theft of the jet skis - detectives issued a warrant for her arrest for grand theft of a vehicle. She is also wanted for possessing marijuana. 42 grams of the illegal substance were found in an organizer belonging  to her found in the hotel room where she and Echemendia were staying.

Anyone with any information about other crimes which Echemendia may have committed should contact Detective Madnick at 853-3211. Likewise, anyone with information about where Applewhite can be found should also call. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If information leads to an arrest, the caller will be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

June 19, 2008

Package of cocaine washes up in Islamorada

Islamorada - A suspicious package washed up at Whale Harbor Marina Wednesday. Further investigation revealed it contained a large amount of powdered cocaine.

An employee who works renting jet skis found the package near the area where he works. It was wrapped in plastic and gray colored duct tape. He used his knife to cut it open and found white powder inside. He immediately called the Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Winifred Higgins responded and took the package into custody, after testing the powder - which was positive for cocaine - he turned the package into the Sheriff's Office property division for destruction. The cocaine is estimated to be worth $15,000.00.

Observant witness helps apprehend car burglars

Marathon - A observant witness helped identify the suspects of a vehicle burglary which took place at the park on Little Duck Key Wednesday afternoon.

Three women from out of town parked their rental car at the south end of the Seven Mile Bridge at Veteran's Park. As they walked away, one of the women noticed a black van with red or orange stripes pull up next to it. They weren't gone from the car long, but when they returned, the van was gone and the side window of their car was broken. A purse had been stolen from the front seat. They called the Sheriff's Office immediately to report the burglary, giving dispatchers a description of the van.

A notice to be on the lookout for the vehicle was issued immediately and Deputy Ken Fricke, who was on the other end of the bridge, saw it as it drove off the bridge northbound. The van was speeding, so Fricke followed it for a distance, then he pulled it over. Deputy Fricke was backed up by Deputy Adam Rabinowitz on the traffic stop.

The driver, 39 year old Juan Carlos Gonzalez had a suspended driver's license. His passenger, 37 year old Dalia Ortega of Homestead also had a suspended license. As the deputies were questioning the two, Deputy Rabinowitz spotted a weapon behind the driver's seat. It was a large knife with brass knuckles for a handle and a window punch on the butt of it. The weapon was seized as possible evidence. An inventory search of the van turned up a number of items which are still under investigation, including a GPS and several cell phones. The search also turned up a business card with the name of the victim whose purse was stolen. The card had been in the stolen purse.

Gonzalez and Ortega were both arrested and charged with burglary, theft, criminal mischief and carrying a concealed weapon. They were booked into jail.

June 18, 2008

Three arrested for theft from storage unit

Big Pine Key - An alert homeless man sleeping on a bench called the Sheriff’s Office after he saw three men loading items into the back of a truck near a Big Pine Key storage business.

When Deputy Danielle Malone arrived on the scene just after 5 a.m., she found someone had broken in to A1A Storage on Big Pine Key by cutting locks and had taken a large amount of property. The witness gave a vehicle description: he said the three men were in a white truck with what looked like red lights near the license tag on the back. A notice to be on the lookout for such a truck was issued and Deputy Evan Calhoun spotted it as it passed him at the 17 mile marker. The truck was traveling 60 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone.

When he pulled the truck over, he asked the driver,34 year old Jorge Garmas of Stock Island, where all the items in the back of his truck came from. Garmas told him  he got it from a friend named “Mike”. The deputy then asked one of the two passengers in the truck where the stuff came from. He said it came from a guy named “John”, who has a house on Big Pine Key. When confronted with the inconsistency, Garmas changed his story and said he was fishing and found it.

Items in the truck included fishing poles, an air compressor and a scooter. On top of it all rested a pair of bolt cutters and a sawzall power tool, items which may have been used to break into the storage facility.

Detectives Juan Llera and Henry DelValle were called to investigate. After further questioning of the witness and the three suspects, all three were arrested. Garmas, 54 year old Cesar Davila and 36 year old Luis Garcia all of Stock Island were charged with two counts of burglary and one count of theft and they were booked into jail.

June 15, 2008

Another arrest in May robbery

Marathon - Another Marathon man has been picked up on charges he participated in the beating and robbery of another man in May.

The victim called the Sheriff's Office just after midnight to say he'd been beaten and robbed in an alley in the vicinity of the Brass Monkey Lounge in Marathon May 25th. He told Deputy Bradford Colen his ex girlfriend called him and asked him to meet her there. When he arrived, he was attacked by three men. As they beat him, he could hear his ex-girlfriend over a cell phone speaker egging them on.

Afterward, they took his money and left. Later that morning, 23 year old Marvin Bryant was arrested and charged with battery and robbery after he was positively identified by the victim as one of the men who beat and robbed him. A warrant was then issued for 25 year old Charlie Hayes, identified as one of the other two suspects. Hayes was picked up Saturday and charged with battery and robbery. Investigation into the identity of the third suspect is continuing.

Warrant sweep in the upper Keys

Key Largo / Islamorada - On Friday the 13th, eight unlucky people were arrested on nine outstanding warrants in the area of Islamorada to Key Largo.

Detectives and road patrol officers conducted the sweep and arrested the following people:

June 13, 2008

Operation TINT MY RIDE

The Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division and Traffic Enforcement Unit conducted an undercover operation to target illegal window tinting Thursday.

Illegally dark window tinting is a particular danger to law enforcement officers performing traffic stops. If the officer cannot see inside a person’s vehicle, the officer cannot see if the driver or passengers in the vehicle are armed with weapons. Sixteen Florida law enforcement officers were killed in 2007; seven of those officers were killed by gunfire, making it one of the deadliest years for Florida Police Officers.

Local law enforcement officers have recently been noticing more vehicles in the area of the lower Keys with illegally dark tinting, which prompted this investigation. Information obtained by officers was that two lower Keys window tinting businesses in particular may have been providing the illegal tinting.

Prior to conducting the sting, Traffic Enforcement Sgt. Kevin Mimosa visited the two window tinting businesses in question, informing them of the specifics of the law regarding window tint. He warned them local law enforcement was concerned about this law, and would be paying close attention to it in the future. Owners of the two businesses signed a form acknowledging they were aware of the regulations regarding window tint.

On Thursday, undercover detectives solicited the two lower Keys window tinting businesses and inquired about getting ‘limo-style tint’ installed on their vehicle.  While one business on Stock Island refused to install the illegal tint, Xtreme Audio & Cellular located on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West agreed to install the illegal tint and tint the front windshield halfway down for an extra $100.00.

The owner, 27 year old Dwayne Liversedge of Key West and another employee, 40 year old Michael Cisneros of Key West were both issued notices to appear for violation of the law regarding window tint. Violation of statute 316.2956(3) is a second degree misdemeanor. The applicable state law governing window tinting can be found on line at, under ss. 316.2951 – 316.2954.

June 12, 2008

Homeless man arrested for burglary

Marathon - A homeless man who says he arrived in Marathon by bus a few days ago admitted to breaking in to an unoccupied house because he needed a place to stay.

36 year old Robert Zagula was found in the house on 126th Street after deputies responded to a call of a suicide threat there. Zagula was sitting on the couch watching television when Deputies Trevor Wirth and Juan Martin-Reyes arrived. He told them he'd broken a window to gain entry and had been staying in the house for three days.

He had sandals on that belonged to the home's owner, and had eaten food from the house and had taken showers while he was there. Zagula was arrested, charged with burglary and theft and he was taken to jail.

June 11, 2008

Dead man identified; autopsy findings released

Stock Island - The homeless man who died sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning after swimming into a culvert that runs under Highway U.S. One appears to have died of drowning.

The Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on 50 year old William Cross and the preliminary results show he died of salt water drowning. Detectives say they have not been successful in finding Cross's family members for notification, but are hoping by releasing his name perhaps someone who knows where they are might come forward.

Cross, who lived in a homeless encampment at the Key Haven Boat Ramp, was last seen by friends Thursday night as he swam into a culvert in the vicinity of the Boat Ramp Thursday night. After searching for him at both ends of the culvert, they friends reported him missing. The following morning, as divers from the Sheriff's Office were preparing to search for Cross, his body surfaced on the bayside of the highway.

June 10, 2008

Tavernier man arrested for burglary, theft

Key Largo - A Tavernier man who stole a generator from a Key Largo home was arrested by deputies and charged with burglary and theft.

Deputy Edwin Grove responded to Mockingbird Road at 11 a.m. Monday. The victim told the deputy her husband's generator had just been stolen. She said she'd seen it just minutes before on the front porch of their home and now it was missing.

An alert neighbor said he'd seen a gray pickup truck with a white box shaped trailer on the back of it at the house about the time the generator was taken. A notice to be on the lookout for a truck fitting that description was issued over police radios.

Deputy Todd Wyatt stopped the truck at the 88 mile marker of the highway. The driver, 53 year old Charles Leck, Jr. told the deputy the owner of the generator had asked him to pick it up and get it ready for storm season. The owner, however, denied asking Leck to work on his generator. He said Leck had done some work for him the previous year, but he had let him go.

Leck was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked into jail.

Man arrested for yelling at woman, threatening deputy

Key West - While on routine patrol at Higg's Beach in Key West, a Sheriff's deputy arrested a man she saw yelling at a woman after the woman asked to be left alone.

Deputy Liisa Thibideau was on patrol when she saw 40 year old Terry Heird, who gives the Safe Zone on Stock Island as his address, out of control, yelling at a woman. He was calling her obscene names, and she was telling him to leave her alone. The deputy approached and asked Heird what was going on. He said he was yelling because he wanted to sit by her and she didn't want him to.

When Deputy Thibideau told Heird to leave the woman alone, he turned his attentions to her and began yelling and screaming obscenities at her. As she checked his identification, he became threatening telling her he was going to "kill her" and raising his hand as if to hit her with it. Finally, when a back up officer arrived on scene, Heird was arrested. He was charged with disorderly intoxication and assault on a law enforcement officer and he was booked into jail.

June 8, 2008

Vehicle submerged at boat ramp

A 2006 Ford Explorer became submerged at a Key Largo boat ramp Saturday while the owner, who is from Miami, tried to launch her boat.

The 56 year old woman was backing her boat at the Morris Lane boat ramp at 11:20 a.m. She said she got out of her vehicle, thinking she'd put it in park. As she was standing on the ramp, the vehicle went down the ramp and into the water, becoming completely submerged in about 10 feet of water.

The vehicle was later removed from the water. No one was injured.

Fire destroys home on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key - Fire destroyed a home on Joyce Road, Big Pine Key Saturday evening.

Deputies and firefighters responded to reports of a fire at 3853 Joyce Road at 8:30 p.m.. When Deputy Deborah Ryan arrived, the entire structure was on fire. She said it appeared the fire was concentrated on the northwest corner of the house.

The owner of the house was on the scene. He said he and his girlfriend were fishing in Pine Channel when someone from the neighborhood alerted him from shore that his house was on fire. He said they returned to their dock behind the house immediately.

The fire was extinguished and fire officials on the scene told Deputy Ryan the fire may have started in a clothes dryer in the northwest corner of the house.

June 6, 2008

Man's body found floating near Key Haven Boat Ramp

Stock Island - The body of a 50 year old homeless man was found this morning floating just off shore, across the highway from the Key Haven Boat Ramp.

Detectives say they have spoken to friends who say the man was swimming last night when he disappeared. He and the friends he was swimming with live in homeless encampments around the boat ramp. The witnesses said he swam into one of the culverts that go under the highway from the vicinity of the boat ramp and he never came out. His friends searched for him on both sides of the highway, then reported him missing last night at 8:45 p.m. At that point, it was too dark for a search of the culvert. An offense report was taken, and it was determined a search would take place in the morning.

Before the search could begin, his body floated up on the bayside of the highway, at 8:22 a.m. There are no obvious signs of foul play, but an autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death. His name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin.

Traffic stop leads to large amount of marijuana

Marathon - A traffic stop for speeding in Marathon resulted in three arrests for possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana.

Deputy Sydney Whitehouse stopped the 2000 Cadillac Deville on Knight's Key at 10:30 p.m. As he was writing a citation for speeding, he called for assistance from Deputy Ken Fricke and his dog, Tracer. Tracer alerted on several areas of the car. A subsequent search turned up 10 pounds of marijuana in a cooler in the trunk, along with smaller amounts inside the car.

22 year old Michael McDonald of Key West, 19 year old Alexi Mendez of Big Coppitt Key were both charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. They were also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor because 16 year old Christian Rodriguez was in the car with them. Rodriguez was also charged for possessing the marijuana with intent to distribute.

June 4, 2008

Marathon fire destroys house

Marathon - A structure fire on Calle Ensandada tonight (Wednesday) destroyed a home.

Reports on the fire are preliminary at this time. Sheriff's dispatchers first received a call at 7:27 p.m. that flames were visible at a home at 1130 Calle Ensandada on Flamingo Island in Marathon. Dispatchers advised everyone to get out of the home and they sent deputies and firefighters to the location.

By 7:36 p.m. reports were that everyone was evacuated and the structure was fully engulfed. By 8:45 p.m. firefighters reported having the fire under control.

The Fire Marshall's Office was notified. The American Red Cross was also notified to assist the victim family.

June 2, 2008

Autopsy indicates no foul play in man's death

Stock Island - According to detectives, an autopsy performed Sunday on the man found dead Saturday at the Key Haven boat ramp indicates there was no foul play in his death.

Although the autopsy results are preliminary and more tests remain to be performed, the Medical Examiner says natural causes are suspected in the death of 48 year old James Felix. He was found lying on an embankment in a mangrove area near the boat ramp at 7 a.m. Saturday by a female friend.

He was last seen alive Friday night around 10:30 p.m.

Reckless driver's car stopped by spiked tires

Marathon/Big Pine Key - A Big Pine Key woman who was intoxicated and driving recklessly Sunday was stopped with spikes which deflated her tires.

Deputy Paul Bean was on patrol in Marathon when a man reported to him that an intoxicated woman was leaving the Brass Monkey lounge and was going to drive home. The deputy drove up just as 26 year old Ann Ard was stumbling into her car. He was not in time to stop her from driving away, however, so he followed her as she drove toward Sombrero Beach.

Deputy Bean turned on his lights and siren, but she accelerated rapidly, weaving all over the road. She finally turned into Marathon High School. As Deputy Bean exited his car to approach her, she took off, almost hitting him. She sped back down Sombrero Beach Road, turning southbound on U.S. One. As Deputy Bean followed, he clocked her driving at in excess of 100 miles per hour to the Seven Mile Bridge. At that point, deputies backed off, turning off their lights and sirens in hopes she would slow down and not drive so dangerously.

They continued to follow her and radioed ahead for spikes to be set up on Big Pine Key. When she reached that vicinity, the spikes were deployed successfully and her car came to a stop near the intersection of Key Deer Boulevard and U.S. One. Ard fled from the car, running into a wooded area. A search ensued and Deputy Ken Fricke and his K-9 Tracer were called out. They successfully located Ard, who was taken into custody. A pill bottle was found in her car. The original prescription was for 100 Xanax pills, but only five were left. Ard had pieces of the pills on her lips when she was taken into custody so she was taken to the hospital for treatment of possible ingestion of pills.

After treatment, she was booked into jail on charges of reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing and eluding police and assault on a law enforcement officer.

Teen charged with burglary

Stock Island - A Stock Island teen was arrested today (Monday), charged with attempting to burglarize a vehicle on May 29th.

17 year old Jose Ocampo was caught on video tape as he attempted to break in to a car at G-31 Miriam Street on Stock Island. While attempting the break in, he looked up and saw the cameras. The cameras captured him as he approached, reached up and pushed them down so they were just taking pictures of the ground.

It was, however, too late to escape detection. The owner of the cameras viewed the tapes and recognized Ocampo as a boy he knew lived nearby. The victim called the Sheriff's Office.

Detective Juan Llera was assigned the case. He identified the boy as Ocampo. Ocampo was interviewed and admitted to the attempted break in and to tampering with the cameras. He was charged with burglary and criminal mischief and he was turned over to the custody of his father.

One man crime spree leads to jail

Monroe County - A West Palm Beach man is in jail after committing numerous crimes between Marathon and Key Largo over a span of three days.

The downfall of 31 year old Frank Echemendia was when he was spotted driving recklessly in Islamorada at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Callers described a red colored Sport Utility Vehicle northbound from the 83 mile marker of the highway. They gave Sheriff's dispatchers the license tag which came back to a Ford Expetition in Echemendia's name. Dispatchers ran his name and found an outstanding warrant from Manatee County for violation of probation on charges of two counts of grand theft auto, three counts of grand theft, burglary, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and escape.

Deputies searched for the vehicle but couldn't find it. Sgt. Michael DiGiovanni was in the vicinity of the 100 mile marker at 2 a.m. when he spotted the vehicle parked at the Waffle House restaurant. He waited outside until Echemendia walked up the the car with his girlfriend. He confirmed the man's identity and placed him under arrest for the outstanding warrants.

The girlfriend didn't have a driver's license and needed a ride back to the Sea Trail Motel at the 98.6 mile marker of the highway. The car was impounded incident to his arrest. Inside, deputies began going through the contents of the car. They found a large amount of property which, upon further investigation, they traced to a number of crimes which had taken place between May 29th and May 31st.

When the girlfriend was transported to her motel, she gave permission for deputies to search the room In the room they found more evidence of crimes Echemendia had committed. Among those crimes:

On 5/29 a car was burglarized, parked in the parking lot of Ocean Divers in Key Largo. The victim first called to report he'd left the car unlocked and the windows down and someone had removed numerous items inclduing his wallet with credit cards and idenfication, along with dive gear, clothing and cash. He called back about three hours later to report his car had been stolen. It was recovered the following day in a parking lot at the 99 mile marker.

The credit card of the victim of the Ocean Diver's burglary was used on 5/31 at 10:25 p.m. Someone matching Echemendia's description walked in and gave the clerk a credit card. Because he didn't match the photo on the card, the clerk questioned his use of it. He said the card belonged to a friend who was in the car and would come in and sign it. He then took a dozen roses, a box of tobacco and two boxes of cigars, told her they would be charged to the card as well, and he left the store, ostensibly to pump gas in his car. The clerk got distracted and, when she looked for his car at the gas pump, it was gone. He'd left the card in the store with her. The card belonged to the victim of the auto burglary at Ocean Divers. The roses, tobacco and cigars were found in Echemendia's vehicle, along with more credit cards and identification from the Ocean Diver's burglary.

On 5/31 at 9 a.m., a woman walked out of the Marriot Resort in Key Largo an found someone had broken the rear left window of his car and had taken clothing and identification. The ID and some of the clothing was later recovered at the Sea Trail Motel, where Echemendia was staying with his girlfriend.

On 5/31 at 6:10 p.m., employees of West Marine in Key Largo noticed a locked case with sunglasses in it had been broken open sometime in the previous couple of hours. Forty pairs of sunglasses were taken from the case. Some of the missing sunglasses were found in Echemendia's SUV.

On 5/31, two vehicles were burglarized at the Casa del Sol Motel on Grassy Key. One of the victim's heard his car alarm going off. He found his rear window shattered and fishing poles and a tackle box taken from inside. Deputies responded and found another car with the window broken. The victim said someone took a GPS, an Ipod, a Sony Playstation and games to go with it, fishing poles, a tackle box and a cooler filled with drinks. All of the items in these two burglaries were found in Echemendia's SUV.

So far, Echemendia has been charged with two counts of theft, shoplifting, illegal use of credit cards, grand theft, criminal mischeif, burglary. More charges are pending. He is currently being held in the Monroe County Detention Center.



 Labelled with ICRA