October 2001-December 2001

For more information, contact Deputy Becky Herrin, Public Information Officer for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Her contact numbers are: office: (305)292-7116, FAX: (305)293-1734 and e-mail: beckyherrin@keysso.net.



Cash Reward for Information: Detectives need information about Stock Island woman’s attacker

Accreditation Assessment Team Invites Public Comment

Sheriff Awards Sheriff’s Medal to four outstanding officers

Employees of the Third Quarter honored

Hoaxes will be vigorously pursued and prosecuted

December 5, 2001

Islamorada Sheriff’s Officer promoted to Lieutenant

Islamorada – A long time Sheriff’s Office employee, working for the past year as a Sergeant for the Sheriff’s Islamorada Sector, was recently promoted to Lieutenant in that Sector. Lt. Tom Brazil is now serving as second in command of the Islamorada Sector, under Sheriff’s Captain Joe Leiter.

Brazil, a 20-year veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, transferred from the position of Detective Sergeant in Marathon to Road Patrol Sergeant in Islamorada in October of 2000. During his 20-year career, he has held a number of other positions including Detective Sergeant of Special Investigations.

Brazil, a graduate of the University of Louisville Southern Police Institute, holds a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice Administration and recently earned his Masters Degree in Organizational Management. Twice decorated with the Sheriff’s Medal for valor, Brazil has proven himself to be a highly capable member of the Sheriff’s Office.

Brazil has two children. His daughter, Jennifer, 18 years of age, is a recent graduate of Coral Shores High School. His son, Thomas Charles, is 14 years of age. Brazil’s wife, also an employee of the Sheriff’s Office, is the School Resource Officer at Plantation Key School. The Brazil’s have been homeowners and residents of Islamorada since 1985.

Lt. Brazil is one of the 13 original contract positions paid for by the Village of Islamorada as the first city in the Keys to contract for law enforcement services with the Sheriff’s Office. The city decided, this fiscal year, that it needed to upgrade one of it’s Sergeant’s positions to a Lieutenant and Brazil was the one chosen to make the upward move.


December 5, 2001

Trauma helicopter landing zone training

Monroe County – The Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with Monroe County Emergency Services, has been conducting training of County and City Paramedics, County and City Firefighters and Deputy Sheriff’s in Trauma Helicopter Landing Zone Operations in preparation for the startup of the Sheriff’s Office and County joint Trauma Helicopter Program.

The course is comprised of both classroom and hands-on training, and will be continuing for at least another month in various areas of the Keys. The hands-on training involves actually stopping traffic at designated landing zones, many of which are bridges on Highway U.S. One. The trainees learn to establish the landing zone by securing it from all surrounding foot and vehicle traffic. Then they learn to direct the helicopter, called “TraumaStar” as it lands, load the patient(s), and assist as the helicopter takes off from the landing zone.

Training at a particular landing zone takes no more than 5 or 10 minutes. Many of the designated landing zones in the Keys are on bridges because it is easier to restrict traffic in those locations, and because overhead wires are farther from the roadway on most bridges than on other portions of the highway.

Once a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the program is signed by the Board of County Commissioners, the program will begin operations within two weeks.

The purpose of the trauma helicopter program is to enable law enforcement and medical personnel to transport severely injured patients from an accident scene to area hospitals faster than the conventional method of ambulance transport. The faster a severely injured person is transported to a location where he or she can obtain medical treatment, the better the chances for the patient to survive the severe injury.


November 29, 2001

Cash Reward for Information

Detectives need information about Stock Island woman’s attacker

 Monroe County - A significant cash reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a man who severely beat a Stock Island woman in the early morning hours Sunday.

The incident occurred around 4 a.m. on Sunday, November 11 at a trailer located at 20F Cross Street, on Stock Island.  36-year-old Conchita Betancourt was attacked in her bedroom by a man who entered the trailer by breaking a window and climbing inside. She suffered facial injuries and broken teeth as a result of the attack.  Evidence and information gathered during the investigation led detectives to believe the suspect and the victim may be acquaintances, but they need more information in order to positively identify who he is. 

The victim's family is offering a one thousand dollar reward for the arrest and conviction of the attacker.  Crime Stoppers is also offering a reward of up to one thousand dollars for information leading to an arrest in the aggravated battery.  Both rewards will be paid through Crime Stoppers.  Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-346-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous.

November 26, 2001

Accreditation Assessment Team Invites Public Comment

Monroe County, Florida —-A team of assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), will arrive December 15, 2001  to examine all aspects of the Monroe County Sheriff Office policy and procedures, management, operations, and support services, Sheriff Richard D. Roth announced today.

Verification by the team that Monroe County Sheriff Office meets the Commission’s state-of-the-art standards is part of a voluntary process to gain accreditation—a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence, he said.

As part of the on-site assessment, agency employees and members of the community are invited to offer comments at a public information session Monday, December 17, 2001  at 7:00 p.m. The session will be conducted in the Harvey Government Center Commission Chamber’s located at 1200 Truman Ave., Key West.

If for some reason an individual cannot speak at the public information session but would still like to provide comments to the assessment team, he/she may do so by telephone. The public may call (305) 292-7032 on Tuesday, December 18, 2001  between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Telephone comments as well as appearances at the public information session are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency’s ability to comply with CALEA’s standards. A copy of the standards is available at any Sheriff’s Office. Local contact is Lt. Bruce T. Winegarden at 305-292-7032.

Persons wishing to offer written comments about the Monroe County Sheriff Office ability to meet the standards for accreditation are requested to write: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), 10306 Eaton Place, Suite 320, Fairfax, Virginia, 22030-2201.

The Monroe County Sheriff Office has to comply with 379 standards in order to gain accredited status, Sheriff Richard D. Roth said. “We have worked hard to show our compliance with CALEA standards, and we believe we have proven ourselves to be a truly professional law enforcement agency. We will be proud to say we are nationally accredited by CALEA.”

The Accreditation Program Manager for Monroe County Sheriff Office is Lt. Bruce T. Winegarden. He said the assessment team is composed of law enforcement practitioners from similar but out-of-state agencies. The assessors will review written materials, interview individuals, and visit offices and other places where compliance can be witnessed. The assessors are:

·       Captain William Munday, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, team leader,

·       Captain David C. Walcher, Jefferson Co. Sheriff’s Office, Golden, Colorado

·       Captain James Leonard, Columbia Co. Sheriff’s Office, Appling, Georgia


Once the Commission’s assessors complete their review of the agency, they report back to the full Commission, which will then decide if the agency is to be granted accredited status, Lt. Winegarden said.

Accreditation is for three years, during which the agency must submit annual reports attesting continued compliance with those standards under which it was initially accredited.

For more information regarding the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. please write the Commission at 10306 Eaton Place, Suite 320, Fairfax, Virginia, 22030-2201; or call (800) 368-3757 or (703)352-4225.


November 21, 2001

Sheriff Awards Sheriff’s Medal to four outstanding officers

Left to right: SWAT Team Leader Donald Catala, Det. Scott Robinson, Det. John McGee and Sheriff Rick Roth.

Left to right: KWPD Captain Bill Fortune, Officer Josh Laino,
Deputy Patrick Scribner and Sheriff Rick Roth.


Monroe County – Sheriff Rick Roth recently honored four outstanding law enforcement officers with the Sheriff’s Medal. The Sheriff’s Medal is awarded to officers involved in an incident where a meritorious act is performed, including a shooting incident, attempting to save another's life, or apprehending a felon with knowledge of serious risk to life or limb.

Sheriff’s Medals were given to Detectives John McGee and Scott Robinson, members of the Sheriff’s SWAT Team who serve in the position of Sniper and Sniper Observer. The two officers participated in the resolution of a hostage situation in July of this year during which the hostage taker, Alexis Quevedo, was shot and seriously injured. The victim, who was vesting the Keys for the two day Sport Lobster pre-season opening, was being held at gunpoint by Quevedo, and was saved from injury by the Sniper team’s actions.

Detective McGee has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 8 years and has been assigned as a detective in the lower Keys since December of 1998. He currently fills the position of Sniper on the Sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team. Detective Robinson has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 7 years and has been assigned as a detective in the lower Keys since April of 2000. He currently fills the position of Sniper observer on the Sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team, and also fills a position on the Sheriff’s Bomb Squad.

Sheriff’s Medals were also awarded to Deputy Patrick Scribner and Key West Police Officer Joshua Laino. The two officers were responsible for apprehending an armed robbery suspect on September 6th who had held someone up at knifepoint in the city of Key West. The suspect, still armed with the knife, was found hiding under the Boca Chica Bridge and was taken into custody without incident.

Deputy Scribner has worked for the Sheriff’s Office a total of 10 years, and is assigned to road patrol in the lower Keys. Officer Laino has been a police officer for nearly four years with all of his service with Key West Police. He is one of the department’s two K-9 teams.


November 21, 2001

Employees of the Third Quarter honored

Left to right: Sheriff Rick Roth, Explorer/Cadet Lt. Jionel Fernandez,
Det. Ron Sylvester, Computer Systems Technician Sandra Bartlett and
Reserve Deputy Barry Lentz.

Monroe County – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office recently honored its Employees of the Third Quarter at a special ceremony in Marathon. The following people were chosen for the award.


Detective Ronald Sylvester, Crime Scene Technician, Special Ops-Operations

On June 21, 2001 a white male later identified as Chris Alan Peak walked into the T.I.B. bank located at 11401 Overseas Highway in Marathon and robbed it at knifepoint. Peak was wearing a ball cap and sunglasses during the robbery and threatened the teller with violence compelling her cooperation. Peak left the bank with over a thousand dollars in cash and was not located by responding officers. Sylvester responded to the scene as the crime scene investigator and lead investigator. During a thorough search he located a knife handle and pair of sunglasses in the neighboring areas. Sylvester worked closely with the assigned F.B.I. task force members and was able to obtain two high quality photographs of the suspect. Sylvester decided that the public would be of great assistance in this case and immediately arranged for the photo’s release. Tips began pouring into our office, Sylvester began to systematically follow up on all leads. A tip led Sylvester to Denny’s restaurant where employees confirmed that Peak was employed however had not shown up for work. Sylvester located numerous sources of information that ultimately led to a photographic lineup wherein Peak was identified by the bank tellers and witnesses. Sylvester determined that Peak was released from prison a month before and currently on parole for robbery. Sylvester dug deeper and found Peak’s cellmate who confirmed the identity and gave inside information about Peak’s mental and physical status. He then put forth a warrant for Peak’s arrest and released a nationwide bolo for Peak as armed and dangerous. Just a month later Peak was arrested in Jacksonville and is slated to return to Monroe County to pay for his crime.

Detective Sylvester conducted himself professionally in a time of manpower shortage, and through sheer determination, organization, and concern for officer and community safety was able to shorten the career of a hardened criminal. This is just one demonstration of Ron’s abilities and his attitude towards his chosen profession. Ron has shown exemplary performance in his duties as a criminal investigator.


Sergeant Joseph Linares, Bureau of Corrections, Key West Facility

Sergeant Linares has a positive can do attitude and can be relied upon to carry out any and all assignments as given. Recently Sergeant Linares became the only supervisor on his watch as one Sergeant had to be moved to another watch for coverage and his Lieutenant had been ill for some two months. A watch in the main detention facility generally has three supervisors due to the span of control as well as the volume of work. During this period of time the facility was under a lot of pressure to get down the vacation time as well as to reduce overtime. While acting as the watch commander as well as the watch supervisor Sgt. Linares was able to use virtually no overtime during the crunch and has had the lowest overtime usage of the four existing watches. Sgt. Linares also has had the lowest sick time usage. Sgt. Linares has had a lot on his plate and has done an admirable job handling all of it.


Computer Systems Technician Sandra Bartlett, Information Systems

Sandy consistently works with agency members in using, configuring and fixing software applications and computer components. She does so with extreme enthusiasm and professionalism. When she is given a problem, she either knows the solution or uses every possible avenue to find the right solution. She is a thinker and a doer all with a great sense of humor. This type of effort, not being satisfied with ‘a fix’, but striving for ‘THE fix’ is just one example of her work ethic.


Reserve Deputy Barry Lentz, Bureau of Operations, Sector IV Reserve Unit

Reserve Deputy Barry Lentz has volunteered his time in assisting Special Operations Detective Nancy Reidelbach with entering computer data. Recently Detective Reidelbach was on vacation and Reserve Lentz continued coming to the office to assist in keeping files up to date and accurate. He has always been willing to assist in details, if needed, and any task that is asked of him from this division. It has been my experience that most Reserves prefer riding with patrol, however I commend Reserve Deputy Lentz for broadening his experience and exposure as a Reserve III and completing even the most mundane tasks as needed.


Explorer/Cadet Lt. Jionel Fernandez, Bureau of Operations, Explorer Cadet Section

Jionel Fernandez is a 10th grade student at Key West High School and is 15 years old. Jionel has been a member of the Monroe County Sheriff Office Explorer Post 904 for the past two years. Jionel was recently promoted to Explorer Lieutenant after serving as Explorer First Sergeant for one year. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty by helping younger Explorers and Cadets with procedure and protocol. Jionel has been a faithful member of the post and rarely misses meetings or activities . Jionel has a firm understanding of authority and the importance of chain of command. Jionel has taken his increasing responsibilities in the post seriously. Jionel desires to one day become a law enforcement officer and appears to be well on his way to reaching that goal.

November 5, 2001

Dangerous Car Chase Ends in Tavernier

Photo by The Reporter Newspaper

A lengthy and dangerous car chase originating in Dade County ended at the 88.5 mile marker at about 2:15 p.m. Monday when Monroe County Sheriff's deputies spiked the tires of the fleeing man's car, flattening them. He was taken into custody without further incident.

The man, 26 year old Gil Costello of Homestead (DOB 04/17/75), reportedly severely injured a person in Dade County and stole an SUV. He was eventually forced to pull the vehicle to the side of the road after driving on the rims of the flattened tires for quite a distance past the spikes, which were thrown in front of the vehicle at Tavernier Creek. A previous attempt to spike the vehicle was unsuccessful. He jumped out of the still rolling vehicle on to the grassy strip at the side of the road and, as he was lying on the grass, the back tire of the SUV rolled over his leg. After he was subdued and searched for weapons, he was treated at the scene by Monroe County Emergency Services, after which he was taken to Mariner's Hospital for further treatment.

Costello also received other injuries when people, standing by the side of the highway as he passed, threw rocks, bricks, a bicycle and other items at the car. At one point, the driver's side window shattered, and the brick and a number of rocks were recovered from inside the car. Deputy Becky Herrin, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said it was very lucky that nothing more serious occurred when the items were thrown. "People need to know that throwing items at the car was very dangerous. They could have hit another vehicle by accident, they could have hit a deputy, or they could have caused the fleeing vehicle to crash into another car. Someone could have been killed." In addition, Sheriff's dispatchers were deluged with phone calls from the public giving advice on how to stop the fleeing vehicle. "Our people are trained in how to handle incidents such as this. We know how to stop a fleeing car safely. For people to tie up emergency phone lines with calls such as these is not a good idea at all. Those lines are for emergency calls only," Herrin added.

Officers from Miami-Dade County followed the fleeing vehicle southbound on the 18 mile stretch as Costello ran a large number of cars off the road while passing in oncoming traffic. The Miami-Dade officers broke off when Costello reached Monroe County, and Sheriff's deputies from Monroe County picked up his tail shortly after that.

Monroe County Sheriff's Office policy dictates that deputies don't participate in "high-speed chases" due to the danger such chases cause to the public, but deputies kept the car in view while they readied Stinger Spike strips, used to stop fleeing cars slowly and safely. The car missed the first set of spikes thrown, but hit the second set at Tavernier Creek, puncturing at least one and maybe two of the tires. The SUV continued for some time after that, but was eventually forced to stop.

Costello will be charged with aggravated fleeing and eluding police and other charges may be brought in Monroe County as well. The most serious charges, however, will likely be brought by Miami-Dade Law Enforcement, who will be handling the actual incident which preceeded the flight to the Keys.

Costello is being evaluated at Mariner's Hospital in Tavernier. Depending on the extent of his injuries, he may face a judge in Monroe County Tuesday or Wednesday, where he will attend a First Appearance Hearing. At a First Appearance Hearing, arrestees have bond set and the judge determines if he or she is qualified for a Public Defender. It is unknown if he will face a judge in the upper Keys, or if he will be taken to Key West to the Main Detention facility and face a judge there.

Mug shots of Costello may be available tomorrow morning. After his first appearance, he will be returned to Dade County to face charges there.

Television helicopters followed the entire incident, filming the man as he fled south on U.S. One through Key Largo and into Tavernier. Commentators speculated that Monroe County Sheriff's Office might open one of the two drawbridges in the Keys to stop the man, however such action is against the policy of the agency, as is any type of stationary road block. Most law enforcement agencies have abandoned the use of such road blocks because of the dangers involved to members of the public and to law enforcement officers, and, in the case of a drawbridge, because of the danger of causing harm to the bridge itself.


November 1, 2001

Deputy Saves Kitten stuck in PVC Pipe

At 0730 this morning (Thursday), Dep. Terry Smith of Islamorada District responded to 405 South Coconut Palm Blvd. Plantation Key, for a kitten that was stuck in a PVC pipe. 

Lisa Figaredo came out of her residence and heard the kitten crying. She saw an adult cat standing guard by the pipe but it fled upon seeing her. Figaredo discoverd that a kitten was stuck inside the pipe. Figaredo could not get the kitten out so she called the Sheriff's Office.

Dep. Smith used a hacksaw provided by Figaredo to cut the pipe in half and then notched it out so he could get the kittens head released. Upper Keys Animal control responded and took to female kitten and will hopefully find a good home for her.


October 15, 2001

Hoaxes will be vigorously pursued and prosecuted

Monroe County - STATE ATTORNEY MARK KOHL and SHERIFF RICHARD ROTH announced today that given the growing trend of persons sending out fake 'white powdery substances' and other substances designed to appear as though they might be a biological or chemical threat (e.g. an innocuous powder) they would like to remind all persons that it is a SECOND DEGREE FELONY to utilize a hoax weapon of mass destruction.

"My office will be seeking the maximum penalty, including a prison term, for any person convicted of perpetrating such a hoax under the statute," said Kohl. The maximum penalty under the law is 15 years in Florida State Prison, plus $10,000.00 in fines, for such a hoax.

The significant penalty is imposed because law enforcement, first-responder, and health officials' responses to a hoax Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) has to be exactly the same as to a real WMD. All such incidents must be treated initially as real because of the time it takes to definitively determine, by lab analysis, whether the substance in question is real or fake.

The time, expense, public alarm, etc. generated by a hoax WMD is substantially the same as would be generated by a real WMD. It's only the actual injuries inflicted that distinguish a hoax from a real WMD.

"My office will also be seeking those costs of investigation and prosecution as an additional sanction upon anyone convicted of violating this law”, said Kohl.

"We take all reports of suspicious packages, suspicious material, or suspicious people very seriously," said Sheriff Rick Roth. We respond as if all such reports are real, credible reports. We will also do our utmost to chase down anyone making false reports. Making false reports such as these causes severe problems for law enforcement, firefighters, and other emergency workers as well as causing real concern and fear for the citizens of our county."

If a person does receive a letter or package they feel is suspicious, they can call the Sheriff's Office to respond. Everyone should stay calm, however, and use common sense when considering such a call. An unopened letter or package will be taken and destroyed, unopened. An opened package containing any suspicious substance will be treated as a biohazard incident and all appropriate procedures will be followed.