Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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

Follow us on Twitter @mcsonews and on Facebook at MCSO – Florida Keys. All of our press releases can be found on our blog at floridakeyssheriff.blogspot.com

March 28, 2015

Indiana man charged with burglary

A Little Torch Key woman woke up Friday to find a man in her house without her permission. He was arrested a short time later for burglary.

The victim, who lives on State Road 4A, told Deputy Linda Kohout she woke up to her dogs barking just after 10 a.m. and saw a white van in her driveway that she did not recognize. She began to walk around her house and found a man she did not know – later identified as 52 year old Michael Cozad – inside her house. He said “is that boat out front for sale?” She told him to get out of her house and she called the Sheriff’s Office for help.

She was able to give a description of the van, which was stopped a short distance away. She was able to identify Cozad as the man who had been in her house without her permission.

Cozad, who told detectives he was living in his van in the city of Key West, was arrested, charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, and he was booked into jail.

March 27, 2015

Arrest made in stabbing; woman airlifted

Just before 1 a.m. Deputy Aaron Coller and Sgt. Evan Calhoun responded to Banyan Grove apartments on Stock Island to reports of a stabbing. When they arrived they found the victim of the stabbing, 53 year old Aurora Hernandez, inside the apartment bleeding heavily from a stab wound in her left chest cavity. Also on the scene was her 34 year old daughter, Tabatha Young and a 10 year old boy, Hernandez’ grandson.

Detectives say subsequent investigations and interviews revealed Young had stabbed her mother. She was arrested, charged with aggravated battery, and was booked into jail.

Hernandez was airlifted to Miami’s Ryder Trauma Center. Major Crimes Detectives Patricia Garcia and Manuel Cuervo responded and are the investigators assigned to the case.

March 23, 2015

Snorkeling deaths in the Keys

Sheriff’s detectives responded to and are investigating the deaths of three people who died while snorkeling today.

Deputies and detectives responded to Lower Keys Medical Center where a man was brought in by ambulance, not breathing with CPR in progress.

71 year old Richard Gueringer of San Antonio, Texas was transported to the hospital after a snorkel trip on board the boat “Key West Fury”. Gueringer was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

According to witnesses, he left the boat with his domestic partner, both reportedly experienced scuba divers. His partner said they left the boat together, but he entered the water more quickly.  He reportedly became unconscious and had to be pulled onto the boat where CPR was performed until he could be brought to shore for medical attention.  He was pronounced dead and an autopsy will be performed.

A 72 year old man, Larry Coltrin from Schauwburg, Illinois was snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas when he reportedly became unconscious and later died.

An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death.

A Wood River, Illinois woman was snorkeling offshore of Key Largo on Molasses Reef.

64 year old Julia Thien was visiting with her husband and other family members. They were on board the vessel Keys Diver II. When she went into the water she reportedly began having trouble. She became unresponsive. They got her back on board the boat and began CPR. She was brought to shore where paramedics took over care. She was pronounced dead at Mariner’s Hospital. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of her death.

Motorcyclist with suspended license arrested for fleeing

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a Miami man who fled from them on his motorcycle.

Sgt. Eva n Calhoun heard a notice to be on the lookout over police radios. Key West police were pursuing a motorcycle out of the city, driving 120 miles per hour. Sgt. Calhoun spotted the vehicle as it traveled on MacDonald Avenue still at a high rate of speed. The motorcycle driver, later identified as Alex Mcentee of Miami, refused to stop. He turned onto 3rd Street and then onto U.S. One northbound.

Deputies followed the motorcycle, attempting to pull it over numerous times. Finally, it was spotted turning off the highway onto Blue Water Drive, which is a dead end. Sgt. Calhoun pulled in behind Mcentee who then tried to exit past Sgt. Evan Calhoun’s patrol vehicle. He was unable to. Mcentee laid the motorcycle down on its side and surrendered to the officers.

Mcentee was charged with 2 counts fleeing and eluding police, driving with license suspended (five times), not having a motorcycle endorsement on his license and possession of a suspended license, He was also charged with no motor vehicle registration, attaching a tag not assigned to the vehicle and reckless driving. His motorcycle was seized for possible forfeiture.

March 19, 2015

Teen charged with burglary

A 16 year old Plantation Key teen was arrested Wednesday for burglarizing a home. He was identified as the suspect after he left a computer in the burglarized home logged in to his Facebook account.

When Deputy Luis Gomez responded to the Gardenia Street home, he met with the victim who said someone had been in his home and moved things around. He said he and his wife left that morning and returned at 1 p.m. to find someone had entered the residence. He said he doesn’t ever lock the house and doesn’t even have a key to it.

He told Deputy Gomez he could tell someone had been on his computer. He said the computer’s browser history showed many visits to pornography sites and to YouTube while he had been gone from the house. An Ipad had been moved, and someone had charged it. The Ipad was still logged in to the Facebook page of a 16 year old boy.

Deputy Gomez called School Resource Deputy Larry O’Neill, who works at Coral Shores High School. He asked Deputy O’Neill if the boy from the Facebook page was a student at the school. Deputy O’Neill confirmed he was. The boy was interviewed and admitted to entering the house and accessing the computer equipment. He said he also ate a Pop Tart and drank a soda. He said he’d been inside the home before. He said he left school and walked around the neighborhood until he found a house with no cars in the driveway. When he found the door unlocked, he went inside.

The boy was arrested. He was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked at the Plantation Key Jail.

Search warrant in Marathon

A search warrant was served this morning at a Marathon residence.  Detectives from the Special Investigations Unit, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Marathon road patrol deputies served the warrant at 5:30 a.m. at 284 Orange Avenue on Grassy Key.  Inside the residence Detectives found 35 year old Charles E. Harrison.
 
The search turned up Morphine pills, Oxycodone pills and evidence he was selling the substances. They also found several boxes containing chemicals consistent with the growing of Marijuana, as well as several boxes containing the equipment necessary for a Marijuana grow operation including several water pumps, fans, bulbs, timers, and planting materials. Detectives also located Marijuana, a pill press valued at over sixteen hundred dollars, other drug paraphernalia and sixteen hundred dollars in suspected proceeds from drug sales. 

Harrison was charged with possession of Marijuana, Marijuana production, possession of controlled substances with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Harrison was booked into the Marathon jail.

March 18, 2018

Second suspect arrested in home invasion robbery

A second person has been arrested for a home invasion robbery that took place in Key Largo on February 26th.

The first suspect, 37 year old Brandon Rettich, was arrested by Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Homestead just days after the crime occurred. The second suspect, 33 year old Benjamin Douglas, was booked into the Plantation Key Jail today charged with false imprisonment, armed burglary and grand theft.

The two men are accused of tying up a Key Largo man in his home, pointing a gun at him and threatening to kill him. They then stole cash and guns and fled the scene. The victim was able to recognize and identify Rettich, even though both men used hoods and masks to hide their faces.

The victim said he was sleeping on his couch at his Drury Drive apartment at 3 a.m. Thursday when the two suspects entered through an unlocked door. He said they pointed a pistol at him and one suspect tied his hands behind his back using zip ties.

The victim said they took him from the apartment to his parent’s house nearby and they all entered the home through a window. Once inside, he said the two suspects used a Taser on him and ransacked the home. He said at one point, one of the suspects told the other to “pop” him, which he took to mean “kill” him. He said he was afraid he was going to die.

The suspects found cash hidden in his parent’s house. They also found four rifles and two shotguns. They took the cash and the guns and left the house. The victim said he heard them leave in a vehicle. He said after he heard them leave, he ran to a neighbor’s house for help.

Information developed during the investigation by Detective Bob Dosh led to the identification of Douglas and a subsequent warrant for his arrest.

Tennessee man charged with stealing local man’s identity

A Tennessee man faces identity theft charges after an extensive investigation revealed he’d stolen a local man’s identity.

The victim, who lives in Tavernier, called the Sheriff’s Office in February of 2014 to report his identity had been compromised. He said someone obtained access to his personal email account and obtained sensitive personal information from that account, including access to his financial accounts, his social security number and other identifying information. Shortly after his email account was breached, the victim received a call from his investment company. They told him someone had tried to charge $50,000 to his account. The charge was stopped by their fraud department before it was posted. The company told him someone had tried to open a new account using his name, social security number and birthdate. The application gave an address in Memphis Tennessee, a Tennessee driver’s license number and a phone number that did not belong to the victim.

Detective Ian Barnett was assigned to investigate. When he checked the address given on the application, it returned to a man named Melvin Griggs; the driver’s license number also belonged to Griggs. Further investigation revealed Griggs had attempted to change the victim’s information with other financial companies as well, including Citibank and Capital Bank. Griggs had a new debit card for Capital Bank mailed to his Memphis address. Shortly afterward, he used the card to withdraw money from numerous ATM machines.

Detective Barnett obtained video from several of those ATM machines; the videos showed a man later identified as Griggs withdrawing cash from the machines.

Griggs attempted to make a number of on-line purchases which were billed to the victim, but the shipping address was the one in Tennessee. Griggs also applied for a number of credit cards in the victim’s name, and tried to open an account in his name with Wells Fargo. With most of these transactions, the company fraud departments caught the activity as possibly fraudulent and called the victim, who confirmed his identity had been stolen.

During the course of the investigation, Detective Barnett worked with the U.S Secret Service; that agency was conducting fraud investigations with connections to Griggs; he also received assistance from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and from many fraud investigators working for financial institutions.

A warrant was obtained for Griggs for criminal use of personal identification information. Today, he was booked into the Plantation Key Jail on those charges.

March 15, 2015

Bar fight leads to injuries, arrest

A fight at a Marathon bar sent one man to jail and a second man was airlifted to a Miami hospital with multiple facial injuries.

Deputies Ben Elmore and Rosary Ponce responded to JJ’s Doghouse just before 1 a.m. today to a report of a fight. The 25 year old victim, a Marathon resident, was found inside the bar and had multiple injuries to his face. The suspect – 26 year old James Pearson of Pennsylvania – was outside the bar. He had blood all over his hands and clothing, but had no visible injuries.

Stories from the suspect, victim and witnesses indicated the suspect and victim were both in the bar with their girlfriends. Pearson and his girlfriend were playing pool. The victim reportedly approached him and told him he and his girlfriend wanted to play pool as well. Stories differ at this point, but for some reason the suspect, his girlfriend and the victim went outside.

Once outside, the suspect – who told Deputy Elmore he “loves to fight” – beat the victim. The victim’s girlfriend told Deputy Elmore she went outside to check on her boyfriend and found him curled up on the ground with Pearson standing over him.

Pearson was arrested, charged with felony battery and was taken to jail. Friends took the victim to Fisherman’s Hospital; he was later airlifted to Miami for treatment of numerous facial fractures and possible internal injuries.

March 13, 2015

Man scammed out of thousands

An Ocean Reef man was scammed out of thousands of dollars by a caller who claimed his grandson was in jail.

The victim, who lives in the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, told Deputy Michael Claudy he received the first call earlier in the week from someone he believed was his grandson. The caller said he was in jail in Atlanta, Georgia.

He then talked with a woman who identified herself as his grandson’s lawyer. She told him his grandson’s bond was $3,300, but they would take $1,300 for it. He was told to send a money gram to an offshore account in the Dominican Republic. He complied with the instructions.

The following day, the woman called back and told him she needed the full amount of the bond or his grandson would not be released. He sent another money gram for $2,000 more.

In a third phone call, she told him her son had injured someone and the injured person wanted medical bills paid. At this point, he realized he had been scammed.

This is a typical scam, which is reported to law enforcement agencies across the country on a regular basis. Someone calls to say a loved one is in jail, or hurt in an accident, or in trouble of some kind and needs money. The callers can be extremely persuasive and they generally insist that time is of the essence, pushing the victim to send the money now without taking the time to call anyone about it.

If you receive such a call, either hang up immediately or take the time to check on the claims being made. In this situation, a call to a family member or even to authorities in Atlanta would have revealed the scam for what it was.

March 12, 2015

Man charged with taking check from employer, cashing it

A Marathon man stole a checkbook from his employer, forged his signature on a check and cashed it at the bank. He was arrested Wednesday for the crime.

36 year old John Lawrence worked for a floor cleaning business based on Big Pine Key. According to Detective Diane Mimosa, in January he entered his employers work truck and took a checkbook from inside. He then wrote a check to himself for $700 and cashed it at the bank. He also took his employer’s work van without permission and failed to return it.

The van was later recovered from a location in Marathon where the suspect left it. Inside the van, deputies found the stolen checkbook. The van had damage from an accident on the side of it. In the van was a copy of an accident report form from Key West Police with Lawrence’s name on it listed as the driver of the van.

A warrant was issued for his arrest and on Wednesday he was booked into jail. He was charged with burglary of a vehicle, grand theft and uttering a forged document.

Stock Island man charged with burglary, dealing in stolen property

A Stock Island man was arrested Tuesday for breaking into a car in July of 2014. He stole sunglasses, which he later pawned. He also left something behind: his blood on the backseat which was later used to make a case against him.

On July 18th, Sgt. Ken Fricke responded to a report of a burglary of a 2012 GMC Truck parked overnight on 12th Avenue, Stock Island. The suspect forced entry, causing an estimated $2,000 damage to the truck. Once inside, he stole a $200 pair of Costa Del Mar “special edition” sunglasses. Crime Scene Detective John Underwood developed information the crime may have been committed by someone known on the streets as “White Boy” or “White Boy Ricky”. A description of the suspect led the detective to identify 24 year old Richard Petrick, Jr. as the person who may have broken into the truck.

Further investigation revealed Petrick had pawned a similar pair of sunglasses at the Liquid 8 Pawn Shop. Detective Underwood went to the shop and, while he was inside, Petrick came in to pawn something else. The detective noticed fresh scrapes and cuts on Petrick’s hands and forearms. As he talked with Petrick about the vehicle burglary, Petrick began to sweat and appeared to be nervous.

Based on the evidence developed in the case, a court order was obtained to take a sample of Petrick’s DNA which was then compared to the blood found in the burglarized truck. In February of this year, a report from Florida Department of Law Enforcement revealed the blood found in the truck was Petrick’s. A warrant was obtained for his arrest and on Tuesday, he was booked into jail on charges of burglary of a vehicle, criminal mischief, grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Detectives seek information on stolen bobcat

Detectives need information about a Bobcat stolen earlier this month from a construction site at the Bahia Honda Bridge.

The Bobcat, valued at $24,500, was reported stolen March 2nd from inside a fenced area where it was stored with other construction equipment. Evidence indicated suspects cut the wire ties on a fence, drove the Bobcat out of the fenced area and then loaded it onto a truck.

Detective Sheila Seago is assigned to investigate. She says the Bobcat has one unusual feature that someone might recall if they saw it, or that may help to identify it. It has a U-shaped piece of channel iron welded to the back end, on the right hand side.

Anyone with information about this crime should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 305-292-7060. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at www.tipsubmit.com or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

March 11, 2015

Marathon man charged with injuring cat

A Marathon man was arrested Tuesday night, charged with hitting his mother’s boyfriend and injuring her cat.

The mother of 29 year old Timothy Kummer returned home at 11:30 p.m. with her live-in boyfriend. They found Kummer, who lives there with them, passed out on the couch. He had blood all over him and the family cat was lying on his chest, also bloody and badly injured.

The boyfriend confronted Kummer who became angry and wanted to fight. Kummer began grabbing and swinging at the boyfriend in an attempt to fight with him.

Kummer’s mother said she picked up the cat and it cried in pain and could not walk. The cat was bleeding from its mouth and had swelling over both of its eyes and a cut on the nose.

Deputy Garrett Bragg asked Kummer what he did to the cat and he denied injuring it, saying he had only fed the cat. Kummer had scratches on his face, chest and abdomen with clumps of what looked like cat hair in the dried blood on his body.

Kummer was arrested. He was charged with domestic battery and animal cruelty. The mother took the cat to the veterinarian to be treated for its injuries.

March 5, 2015

Man arrested for battery with bat

A Big Coppitt Key man who hit another man with a bat was arrested Wednesday afternoon.

The 43 year old victim told deputies he had been hired to mow the lawn at a residence on Barcelona Drive when the suspect, 62 year old Donald Perry, drove by and saw him. The victim said Perry stopped and began yelling at him about issues between the victim and Perry’s daughter.

During the confrontation, the victim said Perry pulled a 12 inch long bat out of the waistband of his pants and hit him with it on the back of his head and neck. The victim said he refused to fight and walked away. He said another man with Perry tried to stop Perry as he was hitting the victim.

Deputy Spencer Curry found Perry a short distance away. The bat was found on the front seat of Perry’s truck. Perry said the property the victim was on belongs to him. He said the victim is not allowed on his properties. He said when he confronted the victim about it, the victim was holding a weed whacker in his hands and he said he felt threatened.

A check in Sheriff’s Office computers showed no trespass warning against the victim for the property. A tenant on Perry’s property said she hired the victim to mow her lawn.

Perry was arrested. He was charged with aggravated battery and he was booked into jail.

March 2, 2015

Couple charged with burglary

A man and a woman were arrested Sunday on Little Torch Key after they were found living on the enclosed porch of an unoccupied home without the permission of the owner.

A neighbor called the Sheriff’s Office to report seeing someone at the house across the street who did not belong there, He said he saw a couple washing clothes at the house and confronted them.

Deputy Josh Gordon and Sgt. Trevor Wirth responded to the home on Candice Avenue at 11:20 p.m. They found 31 year old Juvenal Alfonso and 26 year old Megan Burrell on the back enclosed porch of the unoccupied home. The screen on the porch had been cut to allow them to gain entrance to it. They had food and personal items on the porch and had plugged a lamp in to an electrical outlet.

The couple said they are homeless. They said their truck had broken down and was parked down the street at a friend’s house. They said they were not allowed to stay at their friend’s house and didn’t want to stay in the truck so they walked along the street until they found a house that appeared unoccupied and decided to stay there. They admitted to doing laundry at the house as well.

They were arrested, charged with burglary and criminal mischief and they were booked into jail.

Stock Island man arrested for burglary

A Stock Island man was arrested Sunday, charged with forcing his way in to a residence and threatening the woman who lives there.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, 39 year old Jesus Paoli-Rios went to the apartment on 5th Street. He had a previous trespass warning for the property, but he entered onto the property anyway. He forced open the door and demanded the woman who lives there – his ex-girlfriend – give him his daughter. She refused and managed to force him back outside. He forced his way back inside and made several threatening statements, indicating he would harm her. He grabbed her and continued to threaten her with harm until the victim’s mother shouted at him, saying she was calling police.

He fled the property, but Sgt. Ken Fricke and Deputy Matt Dowling were responding and saw him as he was leaving. He was detained. Paoli-Rios was charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, battery, assault, trespassing and, after a controlled substance was found in his pocket, he was also charged with possession of a controlled substance. He was taken to jail.