Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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

Click here to read press releases on other Sheriff's Office events and occurrences


May 29, 2011 – 9:35 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating an accident involving a Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle and a small electric vehicle this morning on the Boca Chica four lane, just north of the Boca Chica bridge.

Deputy Scott Ward was southbound going to a special duty detail at Higg’s Beach in Key West when the accident took place at 7:45 a.m. He reportedly ran into the rear of the small electric vehicle. The driver and only occupant of that vehicle was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami by Monroe County’s Trauma Star helicopter.

Southbound lanes of the highway are still closed as the investigation continues. Officers on the scene are alternating traffic in the northbound lanes.

Florida Highway Patrol will be the investigating agency and will be the agency to release any further details about the accident.

May 29, 2011

House fire Plantation Key

Plantation Key – Firefighters and deputies are on the scene this morning of a house fire on Plantation Key.

The owner of the home called Sheriff’s dispatchers at 4:30 a.m. to report a fire in the garage area of the home, located at 186 Orchid Street. He told dispatchers everyone was out of the building. When deputies arrived just minutes later, they reported the home fully engulfed in flame.

By 5 a.m., firefighters reported having the fire under control. The State Fire Marshall’s Office was notified of the incident.

Electrical line knocked down; stops traffic

Rock Harbor – A power line was knocked down Saturday morning, possibly by a backhoe working in the area of the 95 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

Traffic was disrupted in both directions at 9 a.m. for about 45 minutes as crews from Florida Keys Electric Co-op responded to deal with the situation. The electrical line reportedly fell across two vehicles, a jeep and a recreational vehicle, both of which reportedly had occupants inside. No one was injured in the incident, and the roadway was cleared and open to traffic by 9:45 a.m.

May 25, 2011

Man arrested for battery, abuse of disabled daughter

Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested Tuesday, charged with hitting, and abusing his disabled adult daughter.

On May 19th, Sgt. Suzanne Morgan and Deputy Jon Barry Huff responded to the American Legion in Marathon where they spoke to the bartender. She told him she was concerned that 62 year old John Black was not caring properly for his adult daughter, who is disabled. She said most days, Black shows up with his 31 year old daughter at 9 a.m. and they stay until 11 p.m. She said the daughter wears disposable diapers and Black never brings extra, or changes them. She said  he sits her down in another room, and then sits at the bar and drinks.

She told the officers  the daughter appears to always be very hungry, is dirty, smells and is unkempt in general. She said on the 19th, Black made himself a sandwich. When he set it down and walked away for a minute, she started eating the sandwich. When he returned, he began yelling at her; he struck her in the head twice. After the bartender told him he needed to care for his daughter, he yelled at her, then grabbed his daughter by the arm, slapped her again in the back of the head and took her outside.

When the officers went to Black’s home on 37th Street, he walked outside. They went inside to check on the daughter, and she had abrasions all over her chin and both knees. She appeared to be very underweight, could not speak, and did not appear to have bathed for a long time. She was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital, after which she was turned over to the Department of Children and Families.

A warrant was issued for Black’s arrest. On Tuesday, he was picked up and charged with battery and abuse of a disabled adult. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Marathon man attacks another with a machete

Marathon – A Marathon man is under arrest, charged with attempting to murder another man with a machete Tuesday night.

The attack took place at Trailerama Trailer Park on 15th Street in Marathon, at lot 29. The victim, 45 year old Eduardo Gonzalez, lives in the trailer. He told Sgt. Joel Slough and Deputy Christian Galls he allowed the suspect, 52 year old Fidel Gonzalez Gutierrez, to move in with him a few day ago.

He said the two of them were sitting outside just before 8:15 p.m. He asked the suspect to move out of the trailer and the suspect became enraged. The suspect went into the kitchen and got a machete; he returned and began to swing it at the victim. The victim said he threw a couple of cinder blocks at the suspect to defend himself, but the suspect kept swinging the machete, hitting the victim in the left arm twice with it. The suspect fled the scene after cutting the victim.

When the officers arrived, they began to search the area for Gutierrez, who was eventually found hiding in a wooded area adjacent to 15th Street and Ocean Terrace. He was taken into custody.

Both men were taken to Fishermen’s Hospital for treatment of injuries. The victim suffered two deep lacerations to his arm; the suspect had an injury on his arm, and complained of pain on his side.  Gutierrez was then transported to jail, charged with attempted murder.

May 24, 2011

Tavernier man charged with sexual assault

Islamorada – A Tavernier man is under arrest, charged with sexually assaulting a woman in January in Islamorada.

The 27 year old victim called the Sheriff’s Office to report the incident January 9th. She said she’d been drinking with friends at Hog Heaven Sports Bar the night before. She said as she was leaving, a man who was with the group that she didn’t know was walking with her.  She said he took her into a wooded area and held her down by the neck. She said he told her to “shut up”. He then allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Afterward, she said he left and she went home. She later identified her attacker from a photo line-up as 23 year old Alexander Acs. A sexual assault examination was done on the victim and DNA from her attacker was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was positively matched to DNA obtained from Acs.

After receiving the positive DNA match back from FDLE, Detective Daniel Mehler obtained an arrest warrant for Acs. Today, he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center.

Silver Alert recovered in Monroe County

A Eustis, Florida man who’d been reported missing by family members on Sunday was recovered after he was spotted driving through Marathon Monday night.

The wife of 72 year old Kenneth Smith reported him missing to the Eustis Police Department Sunday. On Monday at 8:45 p.m. Deputy Monica Young spotted his black Chevrolet Corvette southbound at the 48 mile marker of the highway. She pulled him over on Sunshine Key, after confirming it was, indeed, his vehicle.

Deputy Young said Smith appeared t be calm, but disoriented. He said the last thing he remembered is being on Highway 441 and he wasn’t sure how he got to the Florida Keys.

Smith was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital and his family was notified he’d been found.

May 23, 2011

Man dies in the water offshore of Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key – A man’s body was pulled from the water just offshore of the Koehn Avenue Boat Ramp Sunday afternoon. No foul play is suspected in the death.

Witnesses told Deputy Kim Trullender 55 year old Terry Kettig of Big Pine Key walked into the water near the boat ramp shortly after 1 p.m. to go swimming. A short time later, his body was spotted floating.  

Both the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and members of Big Pine Fire-Rescue responded to assist with recovering the body. There were no obvious signs of foul play on the body, which was turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

The victim’s belongings, including  a chair, a blue T-shirt, a wallet, cell phone and a cooler with three Natural Ice beers inside were found at the boat ramp.

May 21, 2011

Teen steals gun from store, shoots himself

Big Pine Key – A 19 year old Summerland Key man stole a gun from Jig’s Bait and Tackle on Big Pine Key, then shot himself in the head with it.

Kenneth Jenison had a suicide note in his pocket when he was loaded on board an ambulance after the shooting incident. He died after being airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

Sheriff’s dispatchers received the shoplifting call at 6:50 p.m. The caller said a young man bought a box of ammunition, then asked to see a handgun. He reportedly grabbed the gun and ran out of the store to a waiting taxi. The maroon colored vehicle left southbound on the highway.

Deputy Spenser Bryan spotted  the taxi at the 28 mile marker northbound, but the driver told him he’d already dropped his passenger off near the 27 mile marker. The description he gave of his passenger matched the same description given by the clerk at the store where the gun was stolen.

Deputy Bryan, along with Deputies Todd Jones, Scott Ward and Sgt. Ken Fricke started in that direction. Deputy Jones spotted the young man – later identified as Jenison – near a red trailer in the front of Studio 27 Auto Upholstery. Jenison went behind the trailer. Deputy Jones then reported hearing a shot fired in that location.

The owner of the upholstery shop then came running up to the deputies. He said he’d just seen someone behind the trailer shoot himself.

Jenison was found on the ground behind the trailer, with a gunshot wound in his head. The .38 Smith and Wesson handgun he stole from Jig’s Bait and Tackle was found beside him. Deputies began CPR; during the course of CPR, Jenison regained a pulse. An American Ambulance passing by the scene stopped and assisted until Monroe County Fire Rescue could arrive and take over.

He was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, but was declared dead at that hospital a short while later.

A member of the ambulance crew that transported him found 12 bullets in his pocket and a suicide note.

Detectives arrest 18; wrap up 6 month drug operation

A six month long drug investigation targeting drug dealers in Marathon and Big Pine wrapped up Friday, with detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division rounding up 18 suspects. More arrests are expected.

Detectives worked a total of 68 investigations during the time period in question, including sale of prescription medications, trafficking in cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana. They were assisted in the Friday arrests by patrol deputies, investigators from the Sheriff’s HIDTA group, Sheriff’s Corrections staff and agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The following people were arrested:

Thomas Patrick Ward, 50, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Possession of drug paraphernalia
Bond total $31,000

Andre Kenvis Howard, 28, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
Two counts of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $120,000

Johnnie Leatherwood, 39, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $165,000

Timothy Holmes, 48, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond Total $25,000

Kizmet Yatz Qualla, 37, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $70,000

Clarence Michael Bryant, 49, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $62,000

Scott Jerome Baker, 47, of Big Pine Key
Sale of Marijuana
Bond $25,000

Manuel Antonio Artiles, 27, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond $10,000

Brett Alan Gipson, 54, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond $50,000

Dywane John Hardge, 34, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine and manufacturing
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $172,000

Irene Hester, 38, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $52,000

Michael Robert Gunderson, 24, of Big Pine Key
Trafficking of Opium
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
Bond $40,000

Edward Arthur Brusseau, 45,of Big Pine Key
Two count of Trafficking in cocaine
Bond $200,000

Vanessa Lynne Suarez, 30, of Big Pine Key
Two Counts of sale of Opium
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $102,000

David Ashley Harris, 39, of Big Pine Key
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $27,000

David Thomas Blanco, 26, of Big Pine Key
Sale of Opium
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $107,000

Julio Oscar Sosa, 19, of Big Pine Key
Sale of cocaine
Sale of Opium
Bond $155,000

Daniel Bruce Wiggington, 51, of Big Pine Key
Trafficking in Opium and sale schedule II
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $99,000

May 18, 2011

Suspect in knife threats cuts himself; is caught at the hospital

Key Largo – Two men got into an argument over a woman Tuesday evening. One pulled a knife and threatened the other one. The suspect ended up cutting himself and was caught when he sought treatment at the hospital.

The victim called the Sheriff’s Office at 8 p.m. He said he and some friends were at their camp in a wooded area near the 101.4 mile marker of the highway when the incident occurred. He told Deputy Mike Sielicki he and 42 year old Carlos Ponce were talking about Ponce’s girlfriend when Ponce got upset and attacked him. He said Ponce pulled a knife and tried to stab him, but the victim grabbed a piece of furniture and deflected the knife. At that point, Ponce cut himself on the hand.

The victim said he fled from the area with Ponce chasing him, this time with both a knife and a hammer. He said when he called 911 for help, Ponce finally stopped chasing him. The victim had some injuries to his face where Ponce had hit him, so he was taken to Mariner’s Hospital for treatment. Several of the victim’s friends gave statements which were consistent with his story.

Sgt. Tom Kiffney was at the hospital to check on the victim when the Emergency Room staff alerted him to a man who’d come in seeking help for a cut on his hand. Ponce saw Sgt. Kiffney and tried to leave the hospital. The sergeant tried to stop him and direct him back to a treatment room, but Ponce pushed the sergeant. Ponce continued to struggle, yelling that he was going to kill the officer, but was detained and arrested.

Ponce received stitches in his hand for a cut he said he got cleaning fish. He was charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault and battery on a law enforcement officer. He was booked into jail.

Woman reported as Silver Alert found on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key – An 89 year old woman from Naples, Florida reported missing by her son was found on Big Pine Key early today.

Deputy Spenser Bryan spotted the red Honda Accord  traveling north at high speed at the 30 mile marker at 1 a.m., so he pulled it over. The driver was identified as Evelyn Liedke. He asked her why she was in such a hurry and she said she was trying to get home.

He asked her where home was and she said Naples. He asked her where she thought she was and she said she thought she was in Naples and she was looking for highway 441.

When Deputy Bryan checked her identity with Sheriff’s dispatchers, they reported there was a Silver Alert issued for her. Her son Dick was notified she’d been found.

Her son said he’d be en route to meet her. She was taken to Lower Keys Hospital to wait for her son. Her vehicle was towed.

May 15, 2011

Auto theft, cocaine lands teen in jail

Key Largo –A 19 year old Tavernier teen is  in jail charged with stealing his mother’s car and possessing cocaine.

Dispatchers received reports at 1 a.m. Saturday of a white colored sport utility vehicle driving recklessly. Sgt. E.B. Askins spotted it southbound at the 106 mile marker of the highway and pulled in behind it. He pulled the SUV over when he saw it following another car too closely and identified the driver as 19 year old Zachary Aleksa. He had a male passenger and his two year old sister in the back seat, in a car seat.

Aleksa said he’d just picked up his passenger in Homestead; a check in Sheriff’s Office computers revealed he was on probation; a condition of his probation is he not leave the county without permission.

A short time later, Aleksa’s mother told Sheriff’s dispatchers she was looking for her daughter, and her son and had no idea he’d taken her car and driven to Homestead. She said Aleksa was supposed to be watching the child.

The mother responded to the scene of the traffic stop. When she took her daughter out of her car seat, a plastic bag containing three grams of cocaine fell out of the car seat. Aleksa later admitted to hiding it there because he thought police would not look in the car seat.

Aleksa was arrested. He was charged with grand theft auto, possession of cocaine and violation of his probation.

May 13, 2011

Islamorada woman charged with child cruelty

Islamorada – An Islamorada woman has been arrested, charged with child cruelty.

Sheriff’s Detective Deb Ryan with the Crimes Against Women and Children’s Unit responded to a day care center in Islamorada after being notified by the Department of Children and Families of a report of possible child abuse.

When she arrived, the detective spoke with teachers who had noticed the four year old child’s injuries after she was dropped off at the facility. Upon examination, Detective Ryan observed the child had a black eye, a bump on her head and  injuries consistent with the child being beaten with something like a belt. She had numerous lacerations and marks on her thighs and buttocks. The girl told the detective she sometimes throws up while eating. She said 22 year old Ariana Campuzano makes her eat her vomit, and punishes her by spanking her and hitting her with a belt.

Detective Ryan went to Campuzano’s home and placed her under arrest. Campuzano did not wish to make any statements. She was booked into jail on child cruelty charges.

Two teens charged with vehicle burglary

Key Largo – An alert resident on Kay Drive in Key Largo was instrumental in the arrest of two teens for auto burglary.

The reporting person called the Sheriff’s Office at 5:30 a.m. after he saw the teens looking into cars on his street with a flashlight. When Deputies  arrived, they found the two boys still in the area. When questioned, Daniel Singleton and Dalton York both admitted to burglarizing at least two vehicles, one on First Court and one on West Avenue C. They said they had tried to enter many more cars in the area with no success. When they were questioned later by detectives, they admitted to entering more cars. The investigation is ongoing.

The teens said they had stolen a flashlight from one vehicle and two packs of cigarettes from another. Deputies checked with the owners of the cars they boys said they entered. They confirmed those items were stolen. The flashlight was found in York’s pocket; the cigarettes were in Singleton’s pocket.

Both Singleton and York were booked on charges of burglary and theft.

Woman charged with “Doctor shopping”

Plantation Key – A Marathon woman was arrested Thursday, charged with obtaining similar prescriptions from two different doctors.

A pharmacist at Winn-Dixie alerted the two doctors after noticing that 34 year old Tiffany Palazzo was getting similar medications from both physicians. According to detectives from the Special Investigations Division, Palazzo was Amphetamines and Percocet from they both. She’d gotten a total of 594 pills of Amphetamines since December and  795 Percocet pills in the same time period.

A warrant was issued for her arrest and she was charged with doctor shopping. She was booked into jail.

May 12, 2011

Two charged with child neglect

Big Pine Key – Two Big Pine Key residents were arrested Wednesday evening, charged with child neglect.

Dispatchers received a report of a reckless driver. The caller said the male driver was doing “whippits”, the street name for inhaling gas from a whip cream can to get high. The caller also said there was a woman in the car with two children.

Deputy Dave Chavka spotted the car on Sands Road. He saw it turn onto Avenue D with no signal, so he pulled it over. 28 year old Jamie Bernard and 22 year old Francesca Fleming jumped out of the car. Both refused to listen when the deputy told them to stop; Bernard had cans of whipped cream in his hand and walked over to a garbage can and threw them in. They were later recovered; Deputy Chavka observed all three were empty of gas.

The deputy asked Bernard what he was doing with them and he said “doing whippits”. Deputy Scott Ward arrived as back up and he was detained. Fleming said she was just getting a ride to the store so she could buy food for the children, age 2 and 5, who in the car. She claimed to be the caregiver for the children. She admitted to buying the whipped cream for Bernard.

Upon further questioning, Fleming told the deputy she was three months pregnant. When the deputy found needles in her purse and what appeared to be drug residue, she told him she is an intravenous drug user.

Both Bernard and Fleming were arrested and taken to jail for child neglect. The children were turned over to a parent.

Two Miami men charged with burglary

Key Largo – An alert resident who called the Sheriff’s Office helped with the arrest of two Miami men stealing metal shutters from a home at the 99.2 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

When Deputies Michael Sielicki and Spenser Bryan arrived on the scene, they found a red pickup truck backed into the driveway and two men loading metal shutters into the back of it. The man who lives in the house, and who reported the crime, called the property manager to the scene. The manager said the two men did not have permission to remove the items. As a matter of fact, he said he’d had about $20,000 worth of metal shutters taken about two weeks before.

The two men were identified as 33 year old Juan De La Rosa and 44 year old Jesus Felipe. De La Rosa said Felipe called him and asked if he wanted to pick up some metal and sell it to make money. Felipe told the deputies a friend told him to pick up the metal so  he could make some extra money. He said he did not know the name of the friend. Both men admitted to stealing metal from the same house two weeks ago.

Both men were arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft. More charges may be pending.

May 10, 2011

Woman arrested for vehicle burglary; more charges expected

Key Largo – Detectives are investigating seven vehicle burglaries which took place between Sunday night and Monday morning in the neighborhoods of Lake Surprise and Sexton Cove, both near the 106 mile marker of the highway. A Key Largo woman is in custody in connection with one and is expected to be charged with more of them in days to come.

There were several incidents which led to the arrest of 51 year old Ofelia Lopez of Key Largo for burglary. The first one was when a man who lives on Largo Road heard his dog barking at 10 p.m. Sunday and went downstairs to check, finding her sitting in one of his cars. When he confronted her, she rode away on her bicycle. He called the Sheriff’s Office to report the crime. The following day, he identified her from a photo line up as the woman he caught inside his vehicle.

The second connection with Lopez and the burglaries took place in the early morning hours on Largo Road, when Deputy Spencer Bryan was taking a report of a vehicle burglary from a victim. He saw her in the vicinity of the burglary he was investigating. He took per picture at the scene as she walked by.

The third connection was when a victim on Big Pine Road discovered his car had been burglarized and someone had left a cell phone inside that didn’t belong to him. The phone rang and he answered it. It was Lopez’ father, looking for her. The victim called to report the crime and turned the phone over to Deputy Robert Dosh. While Dosh was on the scene, he saw Lopez in the area. He knew she’d been in the vicinity of another burglary on Largo Road, earlier in the morning. Both Deputy Dosh and Detective Ralph Williams confronted her and she finally admitted it was her phone. She said she didn’t know how it got there.

Lopez was arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft. More charges against her are expected.

Miami man charged with fleeing from deputies

Islamorada - A Miami man is under arrest for fleeing from deputies on his motorcycle Monday night.

Deputy Gregg Johnson spotted the motorcycle northbound at the 82 mile marker at a high rate of speed at 8 p.m. He issued a notice to be on the lookout for the vehicle over police radios after the motorcycle refused to stop for his lights and siren, and then passed several vehicles in the center turn lane.

Deputy Nelson Sanchez spotted the bike, seeing it turn around at Coral Shores High School, heading back southbound on the old highway. The motorcycle driver refused to stop for Deputy Sanchez, and also for Deputy Johnson when he caught up with it on the old highway as well.

The motorcycle was able to evade deputies, but Deputy Johnson got a detailed description of the vehicle, and the driver who was wearing a black, red and white helmet.

A short time later, someone called Sheriff’s dispatchers to report a motorcycle pulling in to Founder’s Park recklessly, at a high rate of speed. When deputies responded, the found the same motorcycle and driver who had eluded them earlier. Although the driver,*****name expunged*****   of Miami, at first denied fleeing from officers, he finally admitted it. He was booked into jail on charges of fleeing and eluding police. He also received a citation for speeding.

Two charged with business burglary

Grassy key – Two men arrested in the city of Key West for burglarizing Key West High School have also been charged with a burglary to a business on Grassy Key.

Deputy Leon Bourcier responded to the Grassy key Marina Sunday morning after the manager called to report the storage facility at the marina had been burglarized. He said as he was looking around and beginning to make a list of items that were stolen, he got a call from Key West Police. They told him they had two people in custody who had items in their possession which belonged to the Grassy Key marina.

Items stolen from the marina included a power washer, a paint sprayer, a radio and a laptop computer.

A warrant was issued for 33 year old Sir Lawrence Dixon of Davie, Florida and 41 year old Carl Crabtree of Hollywood, Florida. Both men, who were in jail on Key West Police burglary charges, were additionally charged with burglary and grand theft relating to the Grassy Key marina crime.

Man charged with domestic battery, fleeing police in a dinghy

Stock Island – A Bay Point man was arrested Monday for battering the mother of his child, then fleeing from deputies in a dinghy.

The incident took place on May 3rd at 3:30 p.m. near the entrance to the Key Haven neighborhood. Deputies Matt Dowling and John McGee responded. When they arrived, the suspect, 27 year old Andrew Jackson, ran into the water at the Key Haven boat ramp. He swam to a boat which had a dinghy tied to it. He managed to get the dinghy’s motor started and he fled the scene.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Johnson responded to assist. He picked up Deputy Dowling and they located Jackson in the dinghy a short distance away. Jackson refused to stop for the FWC boat, however and managed to elude capture in shallow water.

The victim told Deputy Martin Harbin Jackson is the father of her child. She said the child became sick at school and she picked him up. She said she and Jackson met at the Shell Station at the entrance to Key Haven, where they got into an argument about where to take the child for treatment. She said Jackson hit her across the face during the argument.

A warrant was issued for Jackson for battery, grand theft and fleeing from police. He was arrested Monday and booked into jail.

May 6, 2011

Surveillance video leads to burglary arrest

Ramrod key – A surveillance video from a private residence led to the arrest of a woman for burglary.

The victims live on West Indies Drive on Ramrod Key. On May 3rd, they discovered someone had entered their residence through an unlocked front door and had taken a purse from inside. They called the Sheriff’s Office to report the crime.

The victims have surveillance cameras which showed the suspect, 25 year old Jessica Calitri of Big Pine Key walk up to the front door at about 5:30 p.m. and knock. She then peered through the glass in the door, opened the door, walked in and took the purse from the kitchen table. She left the residence carrying the purse.

A neighbor told the victim a woman fitting Calitri’s description had been handing out flyers in the neighborhood for a car wash the same day as the burglary. He reported  the information to Deputy Scott Ward, who went to the car wash location, at the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key, on May 4th. He located Calitri, recognizing her from the video. Detective Dave Brummer also responded. He questioned Calitri about the crime and she admitted to stealing the purse, which was recovered from the end of Key Deer Boulevard, where she’d buried it in a wooded area.

Calitri was arrested and charged with theft and burglary. She was booked into jail.

Clever clerk, alert dispatcher instrumental in robbery arrest

Marathon – A clever store clerk and an alert Sheriff’s dispatcher were instrumental in the arrest of a would be robbery suspect today.

The clerk at the Tom Thumb store on 55th Street was outside sweeping at 2:30 a.m. when he saw 26 year old Phernando Hill of Orlando walk in the store. The clerk walked back in and stood behind the counter, watching as Hill walked around the store. Hill then approached the counter and asked the clerk for a single Black and Mild cigar, saying he’d pay 89 cents for it. The retail price of the cigar was $1.29 so the clerk refused the request. Hill became agitated and went outside the store, returning a few minutes later carrying a backpack which he put on the counter.

The clerk said he began to be afraid, because he didn’t know if there was a weapon in the bag. Hill took out a pair of broken sunglasses and asked the clerk to “plug them in”. When the clerk pointed out that the sunglasses couldn’t be “plugged in”, Hill got more agitated, demanding to speak with a manager. He threatened to hurt the clerk if he didn’t give him the manager’s phone number.

The clerk told him he’d call the manager, but instead, called 911 and asked for a manager. When Dispatcher Andrea Fricke heard the strange request, she knew something was wrong. As she listened on the phone line, she heard Hill making threats, then heard him yelling at the clerk to give him cigars and he would leave the store. She dispatched deputies to a suspicious situation, possibly a robbery, at the store.

When Deputies Nicholas Abroe, Thomas Hill (no relation to the suspect), David Minor and Monica Young arrived, Hill was still in the store. He was detained and the deputies began investigations into what had transpired.  As they questioned the clerk, Hill kept standing up and walking around, and yelling although he’d been ordered to sit quietly on the ground. Finally, deputies decided to put him in the back of a patrol car. At that point, he refused to walk outside and he had to be dragged from the store.

A search of his pockets turned up several items he had stolen from the store, including two cans of Red Bull, eight bottles of 5 Hour Energy drink and the cigars he’d demanded from the clerk.

Hill was charged with theft, attempted robbery and resisting arrest. He was booked into jail.

May 4, 2011

Murder – suicide on Little Torch Key

Update: 3 p.m. : Deceased are identified as 80 year old Glen Tucker and his wife, 77 year old Joan Tucker.

Little Torch Key – Deputies and detectives are on the scene of what appears to be the murder-suicide of an elderly couple on Little Torch Key.

Dispatchers received reports from a neighbor shortly after noon that he heard shots fired at the house on Tortuga Road. The neighbor reported seeing a woman in the downstairs of the house. She was in a wheelchair and the caller said it appeared she’d been shot. He also reported hearing several more gun shots after that.

Deputies responded. Because they suspected there might be  an armed subject inside, they kept a distance from the house and began calling for support, including the Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad which has a robot which can be used to send into a dwelling to safely assess the situation. Several Special Weapons and Tactics Team members were on duty at the time of the incident. Because they have specialized equipment which allows them to more safely deal with armed subjects, they responded in case they were needed as well.

Shortly after 1 p.m., the robot was sent inside followed shortly by the SWAT team members. They found the elderly man deceased in an upstairs bedroom along with a cat which had also been shot. It appears at this point that he shot his wife downstairs, went upstairs and shot his cat, then shot himself. At this point in time, the motive for the killings is unknown.

Detectives from the Special Operations Division are working to confirm the identity of the two deceased people and to notify family members. As those things are done, the names of the deceased will be released to the public.

May 4, 2011

Homestead man charged with third count of vehicle burglary

Islamorada – A Homestead man already in jail for two vehicle burglaries in the parking lot of  a Key Largo restaurant has been charged with a third vehicle burglary.

39 year old Fernando Ovalle is accused of burglarizing a vehicle in the parking lot of Robbie’s Marina on April 10th. The victims, a family from Pompano Beach, Florida, told Deputy Todd Wyatt they went out on a boat trip and returned to find a  number of items gone from their 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe. Some of those items – a cell phone, aluminum briefcase and laptop computer – were found at Ovalle’s residence in Homestead.

More charges against Ovalle are anticipated. Detectives say they believe he is linked to at least 19 vehicle burglaries in the upper Keys. They are continuing their investigations, tracing the ownership of property seized during a search of the Homestead residence.

Ovalle is currently charged with three counts each of burglary and grand theft. The total amount of his bond so far is $140,000.00.

Violent felon wanted in Virginia apprehended in Founders Park

Islamorada – A man wanted in the state of Virginia and who is registered as a violent sexual predator was caught in Founder’s Park in Islamorada Tuesday.

Deputy Todd Wyatt responded to the park shortly after 2 p.m. The park supervisor said he believed a man had been living in the park for a week. He said he’d warned the man  there was no camping there, but when he saw him again on Tuesday, he said the man ran from him, leaving his belongings behind, including a bicycle and several bags.

He also left identification behind. A Virginia driver’s license showing him to be 47 year old Ronald Calvin Conti. A check through the NCIC computer showed an active warrant from Virginia for violation of parole for aggravated sexual battery. NCIC listed him as a “violent sexual predator”.

Deputies searched the park for over an hour and finally found him hiding in some bushes in the park. He was taken into custody and will be returned to Virginia to face the charges.

May 3, 2011

Palm Beach man arrested for sexual assault on a minor

Marathon – Sheriff’s detectives from the Crimes Against Women and Children’s Unit charged a man with multiple counts of sexual assault on a young girl Monday.

Detectives traveled to Palm Beach Gardens where police there assisted them with taking 65 year old Jose Aristizabal into custody. He is charged with a total of nine felony counts related to the sexual assault of a 12 year old girl. The crime took place in May of 2009 while the young  victim was staying with her family at Hawk’s Cay, on Duck Key.

The girl, who is now 14, told her mother about the crimes recently and they then reported it to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives from that agency contacted the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on April 8th, and the two agencies worked the case together. Detective Deborah Ryan was the lead Monroe County investigator.

Aristizabal is charged with four counts each of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation and Sexual Battery; he is also charged with one count of lewd and Lascivious Exhibition.

Because he is Columbian by birth, detectives asked the court to seize his passport so he cannot flee the United States. The warrant carries a total bond of $550,000.00.

He will be returned to Monroe County to face those charges.

May 2, 2011

Two men charged with business burglary

Big Coppitt Key – An alert neighbor called the Sheriff’s Office after he saw someone stealing a mattress from a Big Coppitt furniture business.

The witness told Deputy Jaime Miranda he saw a white van at Fred’s Beds at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. He said a storage container at the business was wide open and a man was loading a mattress from it into the white van. The witness thought this was suspicious because the business is usually closed on Sundays and because the man loading the mattress looked like he was nervous.

A notice to be on the lookout for the van was issued over police radios and Deputy Lissette Zuelch spotted it southbound from Big Coppitt Key a short time later. When she pulled it over, the two men inside were reportedly acting very nervous. There was a brand new mattress in the back of the van, still wrapped in plastic. Deputy Miranda arrived as back up.

As the two deputies began questioning the two men, they told two different stories. They both said they’d found the mattress. The driver, 37 year old David Marzano of Big Coppitt Key said he was transporting the mattress for his friend, 37 year old Kenneth Morell of Stock Island, who was the passenger in the vehicle. Morell, however, said Marzano was paying him to help load the mattress into the van.

Both men were arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft.